In response to the heightening antagonism online due to the upcoming national elections, social media parent company Meta, owner of Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Whatsapp, announced its updated safety features for public figures and journalists across its platforms.
In a virtual briefing last March 2, the company said it is giving emphasis on protecting women as studies show that women in politics are disproportionately targeted for abuse and misinformation attacks on social media.
This pattern is holding true for Vice President Leni Robredo, the only woman running for the highest position in the country, this elections. Robredo is the worst-hit victim of online disinformation campaigns according to fact-checking group Tsek.ph.
Fittingly, Meta’s first update is the launch of its Women’s Safety Hub. Available in multiple languages including Filipino, this website has sections dedicated women public figures and journalists that offer resources tailored to these specific professions.
In terms of partnerships, Meta is working with the Commission on Elections to provide a series of trainings for women leaders and politicians that acquaints them with the controls they can enable to protect themselves from harmful comments and messages on Facebook and Instagram.
A number of Meta’s updates on its community guidelines will also disallow the sexualizing of public figures and attacks based on negative physical descriptions.
“We do believe that public figures should not be subjected or degraded through sexualized attacks so… we changed the policies and made them stronger,” Malina Enlund, Meta’s safety policy manager for Asia Pacific.
“We are always trying to strike the right balance between protecting from abuse but also allowing an open dialogue about public figures on our apps.”
Besides the updates targeted towards women, Meta has instituted other changes to create a safer and fairer online space for all public figures and journalists.
Understanding that the election cycle can intensify the risk of cyber-attacks for those in the public eye, Meta made Facebook Protect available in the Philippines.
This service offers candidates, elected officials, political parties, and their staff stronger account security protections. Some of these protections include two-factor authentication and monitoring for potential hacking threats.
For all journalists, Meta established the new Journalist Safety Hub with safety training and support resources including the Journalist Safety Guide.
Meta also partnered with several organizations all over the globe to launch StopNCII.org, a website that allows individuals to privately track, find, and report their nonconsensual intimate images (NCII, which is sometimes referred to as revenge porn) shared online.
Lastly, additional changes in the community guidelines prohibits coordinated mass harassment and state-linked and adversarial networks of accounts, pages, and groups that work together to harass and silence individuals.
“We are a service for more than 2 billion to freely express themselves across countries, cultures, and languages,” stated Cindy Southworth, Meta’s head of Women’s Safety.
“To ensure that everyone’s voice is valued and heard, we take great care to craft policies that are inclusive of different views and beliefs, including those of people that may be otherwise overlooked and marginalized.”