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17 Feb 2022

Maya Gebeily, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Yazidi activists want Big Tech held to account over Islamic State crimes

"FEATURE-Iraq's Yazidis want Big Tech held to account over Islamic State crimes", 17 February 2022

Wahhab Hassoo’s family had to pay $80,000 to buy the release of his niece from the Islamic State (IS) militants who abducted her ... and then offered her “for sale” in a WhatsApp group... Hassoo’s family and dozens of others from Iraq’s minority Yazidi community want social media companies to be held to account, accusing them of having facilitated the trafficking of Yazidi women and girls by the jihadists.

Hassoo and fellow Yazidi activists have worked with pro bono lawyers to compile a report that urges the United States and other nations to probe the role social media platforms including Facebook and YouTube played in crimes against the Yazidis.

The ... document says Big Tech companies did not act robustly enough against IS members using their platforms to trade women and girls kidnapped when the jihadists swept through the Yazidi heartland of Sinjar eight years ago.

It also accuses them of failing to stamp out hate speech against the Yazidis on their platforms, pointing to weaknesses in content moderation...

YouTube declined to comment on the report’s accusations, but a spokesperson said the site had removed “250,000 videos alone for violating our violent extremism policies from July to September 2021”.

Meta, formerly Facebook, which also owns the WhatsApp messaging platform, declined to comment after seeing a copy of the report.

A Twitter spokesperson said “threatening or promoting terrorism is against our rules”, but declined to comment on Yazidis specifically.