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Commentary: After nearly two decades in the dark, Facebook releases human rights policy

Facebook today released a Corporate Human Rights Policy for the first time in its 17-year history, becoming the latest Big Tech company to publicly articulate its commitments to upholding human rights. While Access Now is encouraged by Facebook’s development of a comprehensive, cross-department policy, this display of accountability comes far too late considering the global power the company has wielded since the early 2000s. It also raises more questions than answers around how Facebook will more effectively integrate human rights considerations into its day-to-day operations and strategic decision making.

“We welcome Facebook’s new human rights policy, a necessary step for every company seeking to respect human rights. But 17 years is too long to wait for this basic declaration, especially from a huge and powerful firm like Facebook,” said Peter Micek, Access Now’s General Counsel. “The company’s many failures in safeguarding data, respecting free expression, and protecting vulnerable users show Facebook adrift, far downstream, and paddling against inertia. If Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg signed off on this policy, he must ensure its implementation, respecting calls from civil society while complying with rights-respecting regulation, to chart an entirely new direction at Facebook.”

... [I[ts ultimate success will depend greatly on the extent to which Facebook’s leadership prioritizes keeping human rights at the forefront of every area of the company’s work, and on the human rights team inside of Facebook — alongside external experts — being given additional resources, top-level support, and a more central role in everything from product development to safety and security to sales and beyond.

“Facebook’s recent actions in Australia — blocking the accounts of civil society organizations in response to a controversial law — is just one example of exactly why the tech giant needs a human rights policy,” said Isedua Oribhabor, Access Now’s U.S. Policy Analyst.

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