Oversight Board Announces New Case Related to Iran

Today, the Board is announcing a new case for consideration. As part of this, we are inviting people and organizations to submit public comments.

Case Selection

As we cannot hear every appeal, the Board prioritizes cases that have the potential to affect lots of users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse or raise important questions about Meta's policies.

The case that we are announcing today is:

Iran protest slogan (2022-013-FB-UA)

User appeal to restore content to Facebook

Submit public comment here.

In July 2022, a Facebook user posted content in a public group that describes itself as supporting freedom for Iran.

The post contains an image depicting a caricature of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In the image, Ayatollah Khamenei’s beard forms a fist, which grasps a woman wearing the hijab. The woman is blindfolded with a chain around her ankles. A text bubble in Farsi next to Ayatollah Khamenei says that being a woman is forbidden. Below the image is a caption in Farsi. This calls for death to the “anti-women Islamic government” and for death to its “filthy leader Khamenei.” It calls the Islamic Republic the worst dictatorship in history, in part due to restrictions on what people can wear. It calls on women in Iran not to collaborate in the oppression of women.

The group in which the post was shared has fewer than 1,000 members, who identified their locations to be in Iran, Afghanistan and the United States. On the day the content was posted, another user reported it under Meta’s Hate Speech Community Standard. As a result of human review, Meta removed the post under the Violence and Incitement Community Standard, which prohibits calls for death or high-severity violence against all people. Meta also applied a feature-limit against the user which restricted their ability to use Facebook, including preventing them from posting in groups. Hours after Meta removed their post, the user appealed the decision. However, due to what Meta describes as a temporary reduction in review capacity as a result of COVID-19, the appeal was not prioritized and was automatically closed without review after three days. In their appeal to the Oversight Board, the user states that the post criticizes the Iran “dictatorship” and human rights violations in Iran.

As a result of the Board selecting this case, Meta determined that its previous decision to remove the content was in error. It found that, although the post violated the Violence and Incitement policy, the newsworthiness allowance applied. Under the newsworthiness allowance, Meta allows violating content on its platforms "if keeping it visible is in the public interest." In August 2022, Meta restored the post, removed the feature limits, and reversed the strike against the user’s account.

The Board would appreciate public comments that address:

  • How Meta’s Violence and Incitement policy and the newsworthiness allowance should treat calls for violence against prominent government or religious figures, and how to assess when such expression is rhetorical and does not pose a risk of harm.
  • Meta’s moderation of content critical of the Iranian government and its senior officials, including whether and how the company uses policy exceptions during protests to allow calls for death against Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  • Meta’s moderation of content relating to anti-hijab protests in Iran, as well as other protests in Iran and the wider region.
  • Meta’s enforcement of its content moderation policies for Farsi-language expression related to the political situation in Iran, as well as the company’s use of automation to enforce its rules.
  • The fairness of Meta’s treatment of Farsi-speaking users of its platforms, both when their content is removed, and when they report content that they believe violates Meta’s policies.
  • The situation for free expression in Iran, including further contextual information about recent protests in the country, internet censorship and social media bans, and government responses to its critics in Iran and abroad.

In its decisions, the Board can issue policy recommendations to Meta. While recommendations are not binding, Meta must respond to them within 60 days. As such, the Board welcomes public comments proposing recommendations that are relevant to this case.

Public Comments

If you or your organization feel that you can contribute valuable perspectives that can help with reaching a decision on the case announced today, you can submit your contributions using the link above. The public comment window is open for 14 days, closing at 3pm UTC, Tuesday 18 October 2022.

What's Next

Over the next few weeks, Board members will be deliberating this case. Once they have reached their final decision, we will post it on the Oversight Board website.

To receive updates when the Board announces new cases or publishes decisions, sign up here.

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