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Erasure of War Crimes Evidence: Social Media Platforms’ Impact

2 Mins read

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Tech Companies’ Deletion of Evidence Raises Concerns

Evidence of potential human rights abuses is being lost as social media platforms delete graphic videos, leaving no archived records. This deletion of content raises concerns about the loss of crucial evidence for investigations and accountability purposes.

It highlights the challenges faced by tech companies in balancing their responsibilities as platforms for user-generated content while dealing with harmful or sensitive material.

Balancing Duties: Witnessing vs. User Protection

Social media platforms like Meta (formerly Facebook) and YouTube have implemented measures to remove harmful and illegal content using artificial intelligence algorithms.

However, critics argue that these algorithms lack the necessary nuance to accurately identify and assess human rights violations in the context of war. Striking the right balance between allowing users to bear witness to atrocities and protecting them from harmful content remains a complex challenge.

Challenges with AI Moderation in War Contexts

Artificial intelligence (AI) plays a crucial role in moderating content at scale, but its limitations become apparent when it comes to moderating violent images from wars.

Machines struggle to discern the nuances and complexities of human rights violations in these images, often leading to the removal of critical evidence that could contribute to investigations and justice processes.

The reliance on AI moderation underscores the need for human involvement and expertise to ensure a more accurate assessment of content related to war crimes.

Uploads of Evidence Removed Swiftly

The speed at which social media platforms remove graphic videos is concerning, as it can result in the swift deletion of evidence that could be crucial for documenting war crimes. The BBC’s attempt to upload footage documenting attacks on civilians in Ukraine serves as a stark example.

Despite the footage’s potential value in shedding light on atrocities and countering false narratives, it was promptly taken down by Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Urgent Need to Prevent Information Vanishing

Industry experts and human rights advocates emphasize the urgent need to prevent the disappearance of vital information related to war crimes. Preserving and safeguarding evidence is essential for accountability, truth-seeking, and preventing historical revisionism.

It requires a collective effort from social media platforms, human rights organizations, governments, and international accountability mechanisms to develop robust mechanisms that balance the removal of harmful content with the preservation of evidence.

Safeguarding Deleted Content and Establishing Mechanisms

To address the challenges posed by the deletion of war crimes evidence, there is a pressing need to establish formal systems for gathering, securely storing, and archiving deleted content. These systems should prioritize the preservation of metadata to aid in verifying the authenticity and integrity of the content.

Collaboration between social media platforms and accountability mechanisms, such as international criminal tribunals or human rights organizations, can help ensure that deleted content is appropriately safeguarded and made available for potential future accountability exercises.


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