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Facebook’s ‘supreme court’ is looking to expand its powers

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The administrative director of the Facebook Oversight Board has said that the outside group is expected to be given greater powers in the next few months to determine which content is allowed on the social media platform, amid an appeal on behalf of former President Donald Trump to reinstate his Facebook and Instagram accounts.

In an interview published Thursday with Digital Bridge, Politico‘s transatlantic tech newsletter, Hughes said the board is in talks with Facebook to receive more powers to review potentially harmful content that remains on the platform, as well as to adjudicate on accounts suspended for breaching the company’s community standards.

Right now, the outside group can only review content that has already been removed from Facebook, according to Politico, as well as when the company refers cases involving suspended accounts to the board.

“Facebook has clearly flagged that they intend to increase the board’s powers, and the board fully intends to take those powers,” said Hughes, adding that the changes will come “within the next few months.”

“They’ve flagged that this is coming, we’re actively building it,” he said. “There are multiple other types of pieces of content, like suspensions of accounts and things like that which are coming.”

The challenge of ensuring privacy is protected when data is shared on Facebook posts still on the platform need to be ironed out before the company can share such data with the outside group, according to the Oversight Board and Facebook.

Critics of the Oversight Board question its independence from Facebook because the company has provided $130 million for the group’s operating costs, according to Politico. Others have raised doubts over why the board must negotiate with Facebook to receive greater powers to review content that remains on the platform.

“The rules for the Oversight Board mean they can’t recommend changes to Facebook’s terms and conditions,” said Damian Collins, a British lawmaker and long-time critic of the company’s handling of online content. “What we’re seeing is limited in scope.”

Thus far, the body has ruled against the tech giant in five out of six initial cases, Politico notes.

“If the board says, ‘well, this particular type of content should be allowed,’ and Facebook disagrees, the board could then construct its selection committee to find every single piece of content of that nature and simply overturn all of the decisions that Facebook takes now,” he added.

He, however, declined to comment on the upcoming Trump case, which may be announced by late March. The Oversight Board has received thousands of outside comments on whether to reinstate the former U.S. president on Facebook. The social network removed Trump after his posts around the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill, and the case focuses on whether Trump, as a political leader, should be treated differently than other Facebook users when he posts online.

The board has “already gone out publicly and requested information” about the “applicable standard for political leaders” Hughes said, without reference specifically to the Trump’s case. “Existing in international human right standards is the acknowledgement that there are different types of public figures, and the panel that is looking at this case is going to take those into consideration,” he added.

Click here to read the full story.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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REPORT: China has vast network of covert police stations around the world

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China has a vast network of covert police stations abroad, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. These police stations serve consular functions, but are also used by China to crack down on what the CCP deems “illegal” activity of Chinese nationals abroad. The police stations include at least 38 run by the Fuzhou City police, and 22 run by the Qingtian City police. Cities housing these police stations include New York, Toronto (which has three stations), London (two), Paris (three), Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro, and Tokyo.

Key findings of the report are below.

“Persuaded to return”

According to China, China has “persuaded to return [to China]” 230,000 Chinese nationals living aboard from April 2021 to July 2022 alone to face charges of fraud and telecommunications fraud. A Yangxia police station set up in Mozambique, for example, persuaded a Chinese national to return to China after being accused of stealing money from his employer. Chinese authorities also put pressure on the accused family to convince the accused to surrender.

Roughly 54,000 Chinese nationals were persuaded to return from northern Myanmar alone, in the first nine months of 2021. In July 2022, the government of Wenchang City warned that its citizens living in northern Myanmar must check in with their local police stations or face multiple penalties including blocking their children from attending urban schools back in China. Similarly, in February 2022, the government of Liayang City stated that Chinese “illegally staying” in northern Myanmar must return or the bank accounts of their immediate family members could be frozen.

The Nine Forbidden Countries

China has claimed that nine countries contain serious levels of fraud and telecom fraud perpetrated by Chinese nationals. Since November 2021, China has declared that Chinese citizens living in these nine countries must return to China immediately unless they have an “emergency reason” or a “strict necessity” to travel or stay in those countries. Those countries are: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the UAE, and Turkey. However, the report questions whether these countries are truly awash in such fraud, as most of China’s oversees police stations are in the West, and only one of the nine countries (Cambodia) has such a police station. Chinese staying in the nine forbidden countries, as well as threats to family members as stated above, creates a “guilt-by-association” atmosphere intended to repatriate the Chinese nationals.

Conclusion

According to the report, Chinese police stations abroad serve to bypass “bilateral extradition treaties or other mechanisms of judicial cooperation” to cooperate with CCP-linked NGOs which effectively “[sets] up an alternative policing and judicial system within third countries.” Instead of using international judicial cooperation, which establishes due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial, China uses the above “persuade-to-return” methods and transnational police stations to circumvent international law and coerce Chinese nationals to return to China for trials. These policies show the power of China’s long-arm oppression over its own subjects.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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