An international human rights body has urged Facebook to revise its restrictive policies against user content following the permanent removal of the English-language Press TV news network’s page without prior warning.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Skyline International for Human Rights said, "Facebook suspended all the accounts of the ‘Press TV’ page's supervisors on March 26, then blocked the official page with over four million followers.”
The foundation, which aims to defend the rights to freedom of opinion and of expression on all social media, censured the decision, which is in violation of the recent corporate human rights policy and fund to support rights defenders.
Facebook's move raises doubts about its seriousness in applying its newly announced policy, it added.
Without any prior warning, Facebook informed Press TV on Friday that its account had been shut down for what it claimed to be the Iranian news channel’s failure to “follow our Community Standards.”
“We have already reviewed this decision and it can’t be reversed,” said Facebook in a note, without specifying the so-called violations of its rules.
The director of legal affairs and policy at Skyline International, Mohammed Imad, expressed concern over the continuation of Facebook's restrictive policies against news outlets, saying, “The platform promised to support human rights rules when it assesses the published content, but what we notice is that it’s still assessing the content on political standards.”
He added that Facebook is pursuing the policies of countries in which it has regional or main offices on restricting user accounts.
“This raises concerns since Facebook's content restrictive practices are in most cases compatible with the political stands of those countries, which means that it biases some countries politically at the expense of the applicable legal standards,” Imad said.
Skyline International affirmed that international law has guaranteed the freedom of opinion and expression “unconditionally” based on Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It quoted the Article as saying, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
Skyline International criticized Facebook for shutting down Press TV’s page, urging it to reactivate the page and abide by international legal rules for companies related to freedom of opinion, expression and publication.
In mid-January, Facebook temporarily shut down Press TV’s page. The news outlet, however, had its page restored after appealing the platform’s decision to remove it.
In June 2020, Facebook labeled Iran’s Press TV, Russia’s Sputnik, and China’s Xinhua news agency as “state-media,” saying it would block them from running advertisements in the United States, which views the three countries as its arch-adversaries.
Press TV has repeatedly fallen victim to censorship not just on Facebook but on multiple fronts, including Twitter and Instagram besides Google and its services.