Facebook’s ‘double standard’ on hate speech against Russians

[Produced with my colleague Rina Chandran and published here on March 17, 2022]

BANGKOK/BEIRUT, March 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Facebook’s decision to allow hate speech against Russians due to the war in Ukraine breaks its own rules on incitement, and shows a “double standard” that could hurt users caught in other conflicts, digital rights experts and activists said.

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Iraq Yazidis want Big Tech held to account for Islamic State crimes

[Published here on February 17, 2022]

BEIRUT, Feb 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – 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 in 2014, and then offered her “for sale” in a WhatsApp group.

Now, 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.

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Kenyan worker’s arrest shows power, and peril, of online advocacy

[Published here June 3, 2021]

BEIRUT, June 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – With perfect prose, sizzling sarcasm and a host of anonymous accounts, Malcolm Bidali has waged a one-man social media campaign to improve working conditions for migrant labourers in Qatar for nearly a year.

“It kind of makes me feel like Batman or Superman. You can say the things you want to say, with your own voice and your own style,” said Bidali, 28, speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Doha.

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LGBT+ conversion therapy: banned on Facebook, but thriving in Arabic

[Produced alongside Thomson Reuters Foundation’s digital correspondent Avi Asher-Schapiro and published here on June 3, 2021]

When he was growing up in a small Egyptian town outside Cairo, Omar began feeling sexually attracted to other men. Too afraid to talk to family or friends, he turned to Facebook for help, shielding his identity with a false name.

Scouring social media for information and advice is a common recourse for young men and women who think they may be gay and live in socially conservative Arab societies.

But it can lead them to therapists, spiritual leaders and influencers promising to “cure the affliction” of homosexuality through so-called conversion therapy – practices that aim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Content moderation in conflict zones: What role for big tech?

[Published here May 21, 2021]

May 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Conflict broke out this month between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip – and big tech has not been spared.

Instagram and Twitter have blamed technical errors for deleting posts mentioning the possible eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, but data rights groups fear “discriminatory” algorithms are at work and want greater transparency.

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