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the beginning of a new stage in the struggle for freedom of the press


Cambodian Ruler Banned on Facebook*: Starting a New Stage in the Fight for Press Freedom

Meta* couldn’t ignore how the Cambodian prime minister threatened his political opponents on video.

The Meta* Oversight Board (Oversight Board) is an independent body created by the company to review decisions on content moderation – recommended block Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook* and Instagram* accounts for 6 months. The reason was the dissemination of materials inciting political violence, including threats addressed to political opponents.

In January 2023, Hun Sen posted a video on the Meta platforms in which he threatened political opponents with protests and beatings if they continued to run in elections in an attempt to eliminate other candidates. In addition, on the eve of the elections, the authorities refused to register the main rival of the ruling party of Cambodia, Hun Sen.

Although the video violates Meta’s community standard on violence and incitement, which prohibits death threats and threats of injury, the video was manually reviewed by company experts and moderated on the grounds that it has “news value.”

The Oversight Board considered that the video violated the rules of moderation and should be removed. The Council also noted Hun Sen’s curtailment of press freedom and harassment of independent media in Cambodia and believes that Meta should take this into account in its content moderation policy.

In its recommendations, the Board urged Meta to take press freedom into account more when evaluating the news value of content. In addition, it is proposed to amend the policy to exclude the possibility of recognizing content as “news” if it directly incites violence. The council also recommended blocking Hun Sen’s accounts on Facebook And Instagram for 6 months

The council also approached Meta with suggestions to improve the content review system:

  • Prioritize content from heads of state and senior government members for immediate manual review in the event of a potential violation of the anti-violence and incitement policy.
  • Make changes to the product and/or operating manuals to provide a more accurate treatment of long videos.
  • Make public the details of the decision taken to block Hun Sen’s account and any other accounts of heads of state and senior members of the government.

It is worth noting that the Council’s decisions are advisory in nature and are not binding on Meta. In turn, Hun Sen announced his departure from Facebook and the possibility of blocking this platform in Cambodia.

* The Meta company and its products (Instagram and Facebook) are recognized as extremist, their activities are prohibited on the territory of the Russian Federation.

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