Rights groups ask Facebook to clarify the content removal policies

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Most medias use social media to spread the news to their readers. However, many worried that some of these accounts are being censored like more than 70 rights groups who asked Facebook in 1 November to clarify its policies for removing contents, especially at the behest of governments, alleging the company has repeatedly censored postings that document human rights violations.

The organisations criticise Facebook through a letter which was sent to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for cases in recent months where it has deleted content involving police violence, removed iconic imagery from the Vietnam war and briefly suspended accounts belonging to two Palestinian journalists.

The letter, whose signatories include the American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club, Center for Media Justice and SumOfUs reads, "News is not just getting shared on Facebook: it's getting broken there."

It added, "When the most vulnerable members of society turn to your platform to document and share experiences of injustice, Facebook is morally obligated to protect that speech."

However, Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter comes in the middle of growing international scrutiny of the company's content policies in which Facebook takedown several posts from its page.

The company and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg came into conflict only a month ago after Facebook deleted the photo of a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm attack, called "The Terror of War".

Solberg posted the photograph on her Facebook page after the company had deleted it from the sites of a Norwegian author and the newspaper Aftenposten. This mounted a front-page campaign urging Facebook to permit publication.

According to Reuters, an elite group of at least five senior executives, including chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, regularly directs content policy and makes editorial judgment calls, particularly in high-profile controversies on Friday (28 October).

The groups accuse Facebook of censoring content that depicts police brutality in the letter. It says that Facebook "sets a dangerous precedent that further hurts and silences marginalized communities, particularly communities of color."

The letter also questions the deactivation of an account on August which belongs to Korryn Gaines, an armed black woman who was fatally shot by Maryland police after a standoff.

A number of media organizations reported that when the Police issued an emergency request to the company through a "law enforcement portal", Facebook then deactivated Gaines' account.

The groups requested that Facebook make its policies for removing content clear and accessible to the public, especially with regard to live broadcasts and journalistic material and also to create a public appeals platform for users to protest removed content, undergo an external audit of its "content censorship and data sharing policies" and refuse to disclose customer information to third-party government agencies unless required by law.

Facebook earlier announced in a blog post in response to "continued feedback" on content removals that it would begin weighing news value more heavily when deciding whether to block content.

It is understood that Facebook relies on only a few administrators to monitor and screen through the billions of communication each day and have been relying on automated screening processes. It also depends on community screening and has been trying to improve transparency on managing its complaint process.