ARTICLE 19 has contributed to Access Now’s initiative, jointly with Mnemonic, the Center for Democracy and Technology, JustPeace Labs, Digital Security Lab Ukraine, the Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law (CEDEM) and the Myanmar Internet Project, to develop a Declaration of Principles for content and platform governance in times of crisis.
In situations of armed conflicts and other crises, people use social media and messaging platforms to document human rights abuses or war crimes, access information, mobilise for action, and crowdsource humanitarian assistance. At the same time, governments and other actors often leverage these same platforms to spread disinformation and hate speech, incite violence, and attack or surveil activists, journalists and dissidents.
Social media companies have a responsibility under the United Nations’ Guiding Principles for business and human rights to prevent and mitigate human rights harms stemming from the use of their services and to respect the standards of international humanitarian law. Historically, however, they have responded inadequately and inconsistently, as demonstrated by the failed response to conflict situations in Ethiopia, Syria, Israel/Palestine, and Myanmar. These failures have disproportionately impacted marginalised communities and facilitated serious human rights abuses.
The Declaration of Principles for content and platform governance in times of crisis is an effort to advance consistent and rights-respecting principles for companies to respond appropriately to crises and meet their obligations and responsibilities under international human rights law.