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RightsCon civil society to Meta: protect the rights of Instagram’s Persian speakers

Instagram is one of the last avenues for online open dialogue in Iran, and parent company Meta must instil Persian content moderation practices that uphold and promote human rights in the country — especially freedom of expression.

“You can’t silence communities simply because you don’t understand them,” said Marwa Fatafta, MENA Policy Manager at Access Now. “That’s exactly what Meta’s ‘take down, ask questions later’ approach has been. For too long, people who don’t know the Persian language or its nuances have been deciding Instagram’s narrative in Iran. We’re calling on Meta to end its regime of censorship, and place human rights at the core of its content moderation.” 

According to polls, more than 50% of people who use the internet in Iran are on Instagram, but there have been major issues around the arbitrary and uninformed content moderation processes of Persian-language posts.

Building off a RightsCon summit discussion with Meta and regional experts from ARTICLE 19 and the BBC, Iran’s last unblocked social media: Instagram and all its discontents, Access Now, ARTICLE 19, and Center for Human Rights in Iran have laid out recommendations for Meta to better understand the complexities of Persian-language content, and ensure its content moderation practices uphold and protect human rights by:

  • Creating better rapid response systems to ensure that those without platforms or access to international human rights organisations can escalate the removal of erroneous locks and similar mistakes through more equitable processes;
  • Actively following campaigns on Instagram to understand their context and prevent takedown errors;
  • Clarifying the cases the company is making exceptions to allow for violent calls and why beyond the communications on leaders;
  • Encouraging the Oversight Board to deliberate on protest content removed because of the slogan “death to Khamenei” to ensure consistency when it comes to granting exceptions;
  • Working with the Oversight Board to ensure appeals can be made beyond the two week timeframe, as this has proven insufficient time for users who need to navigate the appeals applications in the midst of conflicts; and
  • Increasing transparency on automated processes, and clarifying what is contained in media banks used for automated takedowns within the Persian market.

Read the full statement.