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14 Jul 2022

Kyle Wiggers, TechCrunch

Media outlet call Meta's first annual human rights report "largely self-congratulatory"

"Meta’s first human rights report is largely self-congratulatory", 14 July 2022

Meta ... released its first annual human rights report... The 83-page report, covering the years 2020 and 2021, strikes a largely self-congratulatory tone, defending Meta’s misinformation strategy while failing to touch on allegations of biased content moderation.

The human rights report, spearheaded by Meta human rights director Miranda Sissons... contains little in the way of revelations. Meta claims that it’s struck a “balance” between freedom of expression and security, with policies to fight health misinformation and emerging implicit threats.

But the report glosses over — among other topics — Meta’s efforts to date in India, where its products have often been overwhelmed with inflammatory content, reporting by The Wall Street Journal and others has shown. Meta commissioned an assessment of its India operations in 2020 from the law firm Foley Hoag LLP, but the report today contains only a summary of that assessment and Sissons has said that Meta doesn’t plan to release it in its entirety.

As Engadget points out, the report also avoids delving into the implications of the metaverse — an increasingly hairy space where it concerns human rights. Reports suggest that the metaverse as it exists today across Meta’s products — a mix of social virtual reality experiences — has a sexual assault and moderation problem. One corporate watchdog documented misogynistic and racist comments, insufficient protections for children and a reporting system that left the door open for repeat offenders.

Meta has commissioned various ad hoc assessments of its operations in recent years, including in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Myanmar. High-profile leaks and hearings have increased pressure on the company to show that it’s making progress on stemming the tide of harmful content. Sissons told CNBC that about 100 people are now working on human rights-related issues at Meta, and that the size of the team she directly oversees has grown to eight people.