Facebook threatens to cancel human rights activist’s account

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GENEVA, January 17, 2022 — An international human rights activist with 49,000 followers on Facebook has been threatened with the deletion of his account for having criticized the Taliban.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent Swiss-based human rights group, has received a severe warning from Facebook that his page was “at risk of being unpublished” due to “continued Community Standards violations.”

However, the social media company listed only one alleged violation: a post by Neuer from August 17, 2021, which showed a photo of Taliban gunmen sitting in the presidential palace in Kabul, with his caption, “Prediction: Ben and Jerry’s will never announce a boycott of the Taliban.”

The post, which was shared widely on Twitter without incident, was deleted by Facebook “for violating our Community Standards.”

No explanation was provided, nor did Facebook respond to attempts by Neuer to appeal the ruling.

“You could lose Hillel Neuer forever. Nobody wants that,” wrote Facebook in its warning.

In addition to threatening to delete his page, Facebook has already been demoting Neuer’s account as a penalty for his post criticizing the Taliban. “Your page has reduced distribution and other restrictions,” the social media company informed Neuer.

“They’re confirming that I’ve been shadow banned for for over six months,” said Neuer, “and am now facing the complete cancellation of my account.”

“For a while, I couldn’t understand why videos of my UN speeches which in the past were viewed and shared by hundreds of thousands of people, and in some cases by millions, were suddenly going ignored.”

“It turns out that, as I suspected, Facebook has been deliberately and unjustifiably hiding my posts from the public. Now they’re arbitrarily threatening to delete my account. It’s a Kafkaesque situation, and makes absolutely no sense.”

Neuer’s Facebook page has been existence since May 2009. “We rely on social media to share our vital information about human rights and the United Nations, yet Facebook is stifling our voice and now threatening to shut us down.”

“I am troubled by the lack of clarity in Facebook’s Community Standards, and the lack of transparency and arbitrariness in the application of those standards,” said Neuer. “It’s possible that this censorship was caused by individuals abusing those standards, acting in bad faith to harass me, but whatever the reason, it needs to stop.”

UN Watch’s legal advisor, Dina Rovner, has now filed an official letter of complaint with Meta, Facebook’s parent company. In a letter to Chief Legal Officer Jennifer Newstead, UN Watch formally requested that Facebook remove strikes against Hillel Neuer’s Facebook page, cease punitive measures, and take the necessary steps to ensure that bad faith actors can no longer trigger baseless actions against Neuer’s page.

About Hillel Neuer

Hillel Neuer, an international human rights lawyer, has directed UN Watch since 2004. He heads a 25-member coalition of human rights groups that organizes the annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights.

In 2018, McGill University awarded Neuer with an honorary doctorate of laws for his work to advance human rights, and for being “a voice for those without one.”

The university recognized Neuer as “an innovator in creating global platforms for courageous dissidents and champions of human rights from around the world,” and for being “a passionate advocate for human rights, fighting tirelessly against discrimination, torture, and injustice.”

On September 14, 2016, the City of Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel adopted a resolution declaring Hillel Neuer Day, citing his role “as one of the world’s foremost human rights advocates” and his contributions to “promote peace, justice and human rights around the world.”

The Tribune de Genève has described Neuer as a human rights activist who is “feared and dreaded” by the world’s dictatorships. The Journal de Montreal wrote that Neuer “makes the U.N. tremble.”

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