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Facebook Oversight Board set to hear the first ever case from an Ethiopian user

Avatar: Solomon Yimer
Solomon YimerSeptember 17, 2021
Current AffairsTech
Facebook Oversight Board set to hear the first ever case from an Ethiopian user

Following an appeal from an Ethiopian user, whose post was removed for violating Hate Speech policy, Facebook's Oversight Board announced yesterday it has selected the case for hearing.

The first ever case from an Ethiopian user would be presented for the hearing with a record no. 2021-014-FB-UA.

According to the board, Facebook has removed the post from the user claiming that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) killed and raped women and children, as well as looting the properties of civilians in Raya Kobo and other towns in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region.

The user also claimed in the alleged post that ethnic Tigrayan civilians assisted the TPLF in these crimes, the statement from the board reads.

However, the user submitted their appeal to the Board, saying that the post is intended to protect their community which is in danger and that Facebook must help communities in war zones. 

They state the post is not hate speech “but is the truth” that the TPLF targeted their community of one million people and left them without food, water, and other basic necessities, according to the Board.

The post was viewed more than 6,500 times, receiving fewer than 35 comments and more than 140 reactions. It was shared over 30 times. According to Facebook, the user’s account that posted the content is located in Ethiopia, but not in the Tigray or Amhara regions. 

Before the board assigns a panel to review the case, the board is asking for public comments which could help to understand the context of the issue.

The board is asking for public comments including whether Facebook’s initial decision to remove the post is consistent with the company’s Hate Speech Community Standard, the company's stated values, and human rights responsibilities and commitments.

Additional public comments are also expected to address whether Facebook’s Hate Speech policy adequately enables users to raise awareness of alleged human rights violations, including in conflict zones.

After gathering public comments on the case for the coming 14 days, till Thursday 30 September, The  Board said its members will be deliberating these cases. Once they have reached their final decisions, it will be posted on the Oversight Board website.

The Oversight Board is an independent body that makes consequential precedent-setting content moderation decisions.

The board officially began its work on October 22, 2020, and issued its first five decisions on January 28, 2021, with four out of the five overturning Facebook's actions with respect to the matters appealed.

Last month, the Information Network Security Agency announced that Ethiopia is developing its own social media platform to rival Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, though it does not plan to block the global services. The agency accused Facebook of deleting posts and user accounts he said were “disseminating the true reality about Ethiopia”.

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A PIECE BYSolomon Yimer

Solomon is a content editor at Addis Zeybe. He has worked in print and web journalism for six years.