Facebook urged to enhance content moderation initiatives ahead of 2022 polls
MANILA, Philippines — More than 21 groups and organizations urged social media platform giant Facebook to provide stronger content moderation initiatives in the upcoming 2022 national elections.
In an open letter addressed to Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, and other senior officers, the group underscored the need for the platform to address lapses in its algorithm, citing how much it has affected past elections and the present social climate in the country.
The groups noted that while Facebook has implemented several schemes to fight disinformation in the past years, none of the initiatives addressed its reliance on algorithms that “tend to amplify and reward the most inflammatory content, including disinformation.”
Even military and police officials, it said, used Facebook as a tool to red-tag activists, progressive groups, and even state universities.
“These malicious top-down attacks – which have resulted in physical harm and attacks on individuals – are certain to worsen during the campaign,” the groups said.
They even cited former Facebook public policy director Katie Harbath, who described the Philippines as the “patient zero” of election-related disinformation.
“The result of your algorithm is a people divided into echo chambers, impaired from distinguishing fact from fiction, truth from lies,” the groups said.
“It fuels hate speech and incites hatred, leaving people radicalized,” they added.
The group reminded that Facebook has the corporate responsibility to respect human rights under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other international human rights norms.
In light of this, the groups asked Facebook to do the following:
1. Disclose its comprehensive plans in ensuring that mistruths will not flourish disproportionately in its platform in the context of the upcoming 2022 Philippine national elections, including but not limited to: conducting a human rights impact assessment, transparency in the roll-out of election-related initiatives, and a more robust approach to moderating electoral disinformation.
2. Enforce Facebook policies to systematically identify and flag for moderation Pages or Groups that mimic and infringe upon the names and branding of legitimate news Organizations.
3. Ensure that efforts to address manipulation of election-related discourse in the Philippines “for electoral campaigning’ include violations from authentic accounts and are enforced consistently and transparently.
4. Adopt mandatory labeling for political personalities, both incumbent or aspiring, to guide the public about the nature of and motivation behind the parties.
5. Increase the weight that Facebook’s algorithm gives to news ecosystem quality (N.E.Q.) scores to ensure that authoritative news appears more prominently than sources that spread disinformation and incite anger and hate.
6. Consistently and transparently engage with actors from Philippine civil society, media, academia, and election-monitoring groups in creating, improving, and implementing moderation initiatives.
“We trust that Facebook knows the extent of its power and is, therefore, willing to take on the responsibility that such power entails. You have a significant role in ensuring clean and fair elections in the Philippines in 2022,” the groups said.
“Please do not allow Facebook to be used, exploited, and weaponized against our democracy again. The Filipino people – your most active users – deserve better,” it concluded.