Meta permits medicine appeal for Lanka despite violation of rulesView(s):
A decision by Meta to leave a Facebook post asking for donations of pharmaceutical drugs to Sri Lanka during the economic crisis last year has been upheld by an independent oversight body despite the violation of Meta’s community standard that prohibits content asking for medication.
The ‘Oversight Board’ makes content-moderation decisions related to Meta’s social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram. The Sri Lankan case was referred to it by Meta itself.
The Board found that the April 2022 post on the Facebook page of a Sri Lankan medical trade union had violated Meta’s “Restricted Goods and Services Community Standard” which encourages safety.
Still, it upheld Meta’s decision not to take it down on the basis of a scaled “spirit of the policy” allowance. This permits content where the policy rationale and Meta’s values demand a different outcome to a strict reading of the rules, a statement from the Oversight Board said.
But the Board did find that “secret, discretionary policy exemptions are incompatible with Meta’s human rights responsibilities”. It made recommendations to increase transparency and consistency of the allowance.
In April 2022, an image was posted on the Facebook Page of a medical trade union in Sri Lanka, asking for people to donate drugs and medical products to the country, and providing a link for them to do so.
“At the time, Sri Lanka was in the midst of a severe political and financial crisis, which emptied the country’s foreign currency reserves,” the Oversight Board statement said. “As a result, Sri Lanka, which imports 85% of its medical supplies, did not have the funds to import drugs. Doctors reported that hospitals were running out of medicine and essential supplies, and said they feared an imminent health catastrophe.”
“The Meta teams responsible for monitoring risk during the Sri Lanka crisis identified the content in this case,” it continued. “The company found that the post violated its Restricted Goods and Services Community Standard, which prohibits content that asks for pharmaceutical drugs but applied a scaled ‘spirit of the policy’ allowance.”
“Though allowing drug donations can present risks, the acute need in Sri Lanka justified Meta’s actions,” the Board held.
“However, the Board is concerned that Meta has said that the ‘spirit of the policy’ allowance ‘may’ apply to content posted in Sinhala outside Sri Lanka, in addition to the Sri Lanka market.,” it warned.
“Meta should be clear about where its allowances apply. It should also ensure that at-scale allowances are sensitive to the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the people they may affect in order to avoid inadvertent discrimination. Sri Lanka has two official languages, Sinhala and Tamil, the latter largely spoken by Tamil and Muslim minorities.”
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