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Meta's oversight board recommends strict anti doxing policies

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Meta's oversight board recommends strict anti doxing policies

  • Meta’s oversight board suggested Facebook and Instagram to make strict doxxing rules.
  • It urged Meta to consider doxxing as “severe,” that should prompt temporary account suspension.
  • It has also asked it to implement strict regulations on publishing and sharing personal information like an individual's residential address that can easily identify people and make them targets for those with malicious intent.

About Doxxing

  • Security firm, Heimdal security defines it as publishing and analysing others' personal information on the internet with a malicious intent that can reveal the person's real identity making them victims of harassments and cyber attacks
  • It is used to shame or punish people who would rather stay anonymous, because of their controversial beliefs or other types of non-mainstream activity.
  • It reckons that most of the users are careless with the information that they share on the Internet and cybercriminals can use it to find out their real identity and harass them .

Instances of doxxing

  • First instance: a journalist made critical comments about the content of a popular Instagram account. The admins of the account retaliated by posting the journalist’s private information including her name, her address, phone number, her partner’s phone number etc. She was incessantly harassed and bullied until she took legal action.
  • Second instance: a Facebook user suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after her secret photos were posted on an infamous website. By the time she realised what had happened, her pictures were seen by almost 24,000 people. Her Facebook inbox was filled with soliciting messages from unknown men and some of them even dropped by at her address posted by the doxxer on the website.

Concerns of Meta's oversight board

  • It has noted that publishing private or identifying information of an individual like their residential address and images on Meta's platforms with malicious intent can lead to harassment or stalking.
  • Doxxing can result in emotional distress, loss of employment and even physical harm or death according to the board.

Recommendations of board

  • Meta should remove the exception that allows the sharing of private residential information when it is considered “publicly available.”
  • It has asked the Facebook-parent to allow sharing of private residential addresses only when posted by the user to promote charitable causes, find missing people, animals, objects, or for contacting business service providers.
  • Meta must ensure that users have a quick and effective mechanism to request the removal of private information posted by others
  • It has also highlighted the need to create a specific communications channel for victims of doxxing, easily available to both people who use Meta's platforms and those who do not.
  • This should allow the victim to explain their situation and the risks the illegally posted content creates for them, and prompt swift action from the company.
  • Meta should prioritise action when the victim says they belong to a group facing heightened risk to their safety in the region where the private residence is located

International laws regarding personal data

  • US: It has laws to deal with matters of digital privacy such as the US Privacy Act, 1974, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act etc.
  • European Union: The primary aim of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is to give individuals control over their personal data.

Regulations in India

  • Information Technology Act, 2000: This act provides for safeguard against certain breaches in relation to data from computer systems.
  • It contains provisions to prevent the unauthorised use of computers, computer systems and data stored therein.
  • Personal Data Protection Bill 2019: Its purpose is to provide for protection of privacy of individuals relating to their Personal Data and to establish a Data Protection Authority of India for the said purposes and the matters concerning the personal data of an individual.

Way forward

  • Gig social media platforms like Meta should take the recommendations of the oversight board seriously as it is a matter of privacy and dignity of millions of people which use it globally.
  • In this digital age when much of our time is being spent on social media platforms, robust laws must be on place at international and local levels to ensure a safe online environment

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