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[Media Lines] Cambodia: Cambodia: Meta Oversight Board’s call to suspend Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook and Instagram accounts can deter others from delivering  hate speech

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The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) applauds the recommendation of Meta’s Oversight Board to suspend Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook and Instagram accounts for six months for violating rules regarding violent threats and removal of the video.

The Oversight Board operates independently but is funded by Meta Platforms, which owns Facebook and Instagram.

The decision came on 29 June 2023, focusing on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook post featuring a video wherein he threatened his political opponents to choose between legal action and a beating stick.

The said political opponents alleged that Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party stole votes during the country’s local elections in 2022.

The video was reported for violating Meta’s Violence and Incitement Community Standards, but moderators decided to keep the video online, citing its ‘newsworthiness allowance’ which allows such content since its public interest value is said to outweigh risks of possible harm.

The Oversight Board, however, found that Hun Sen’s video contained unequivocal statements of intent to commit violence against his political opponents. It claimed that Meta was wrong to apply a ‘newsworthiness allowance’ in this case as the harm caused by keeping the video on the platform outweighs its public interest value.

Only hours after the oversight’s board’s decision, Hun Sen deleted his Facebook account, announcing his shift to Telegram.

FORUM-ASIA believes that the oversight board’s recommendation could set a precedential value and should be regarded as highly persuasive when the facts, applicable policies, or other factors are substantially similar, particularly in other authoritarian governments in Asia with upcoming elections, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Myanmar. This move could also assist Meta in reshaping its policies and guidelines to be more aligned with international human rights principles and standards.