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Human rights groups call on social media platforms to preserve evidence of potential human rights violations in Afghanistan – Amnesty International USA

The past 20 years have seen a fundamental shift in the way information about human rights violations comes to light – in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The increasing availability of cell phones and internet access – especially in urban centers – has provided a vital channel for activists, human rights defenders, civil society and journalists to monitor events, document violations rights and war crimes as they occur, and mobilize for justice and accountability.

Given the rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan, including the significant risk of serious human rights violations, it is essential that online platforms enabling the hosting and sharing of content, including platforms for social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, preserve evidence of any past or ongoing human rights abuses or violations of international criminal and humanitarian law by all actors in the conflict.

These platforms naturally restrict content that unlawfully incites or encourages violence. But it is essential that they preserve and archive deleted documents of potential evidentiary value and make them accessible to knowledgeable investigators, researchers and victims to help hold perpetrators on all sides accountable for serious crimes. Failure to do so could effectively conceal evidence of human rights violations.

Under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies, wherever they operate in the world, have a responsibility to respect all human rights. This corporate responsibility requires companies to take concrete measures to avoid causing or contributing to human rights violations and to address the human rights impacts with which they are involved, including by providing an effective remedy for any real impact.

Social media platforms and other content hosts that choose to actively remove such content should be careful not to destroy this digital memory or act to effectively conceal or destroy evidence of human rights violations, while also ensuring to store this content in a way that protects the privacy rights of persons who could be identified through this content.

We therefore call on online platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to preserve and archive deleted content that may have probative value of human rights abuses, including content identified by human rights organizations. humans, while ensuring the privacy and security of vulnerable people associated with such content.

We also call on these companies to provide public updates on the steps they are taking to manage the removal of Afghanistan-related content, with particular attention to the preservation of material that may constitute evidence of rights violations. human rights and serious international crimes.

Finally, we reiterate civil society’s continued call for these companies to work with internationally commissioned investigators, human rights organizations, civil society groups, journalists, academics and academics. representatives of national law enforcement agencies to launch a consultation process to establish a mechanism to ensure the preservation of – and access to – deleted content that may constitute evidence of human rights abuses, so that human rights organizations and other investigators can investigate, analyze and report human rights abuses in Afghanistan and other contexts.

Signatories:

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Amnesty International United States

Human Rights Watch

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