Meta's Trust Test: Are Dangerous Content Alerts Falling on Deaf Digital Ears?

Hold on tight, because there's a digital storm brewing in Meta's world. You know, the business that owns Facebook and Instagram? According to a recent investigation by media charity Internews, their "Trusted Partner" program, which is supposed to protect users from harmful information, appears to be more akin to a digital doormat.

Consider this: Meta's Trusted Partner program is similar to the VIP area of a digital club, where special groups like civil society and human rights organizations can wave their digital flags and raise the alarm on hazardous content, such as death threats, hacked accounts, and appeals to violence. The promise is straightforward: when trusted partners warn Meta of potentially harmful situations, Meta leaps into action like a digital superhero, saving the day.

But here's where things become complicated. According to Internews, these valued partners may feel as though they are on a wait during a tech support contract. Some companies appear to be left dangling for months while waiting for a response to their notifications. Imagine telling Meta, "Hey, there's a serious threat here, people's lives are on the line," and then hearing nothing for months. That's like flashing a red flag and hoping someone sees while juggling emoticons.

Internews spoke with 23 of these trusted partners, gathering stories from around the world. What is the conclusion? Most of them believe their alarms are disintegrating into the digital abyss. But here's the catch: Ukraine appears to be an outlier. They get a response within 72 hours, while in places like Ethiopia, it's like sending messages into a black hole.

Now, this isn't the first time Meta's been in a hot seat. Remember the leaked documents that showed how Meta might not be playing its best game in certain parts of the world? Yeah, this report might just be another clue in that digital puzzle.
Earlier this year, nearly 50 human rights and tech accountability groups gave Meta a digital slap on the wrist. It was over a tragic incident – a Tigrayan professor who was doxed on Facebook and later murdered. His son tried to get the harmful posts taken down, but it was like yelling into the void. The groups accused Meta of not doing enough to protect users and claimed they were contributing to the flames of hatred and violence.

Rafiq Copeland, Internews' platform accountability advisor and report author, believes the entire problem requires a digital redesign. More investment, faster reaction times, and a deeper commitment to user safety, he says, are on the table.

But here's the kicker: Meta doesn't seem too delighted about the entire thing. They backed out of the Internews partnership, essentially saying, "Hey, the small sample in the report doesn't tell the whole story." They are not disclosing their response times or the number of full-time employees in the Trusted Partner program. So, if Meta takes these concerns seriously and improves its Trusted Partner program - well, there's a digital cliffhanger that has yet to be addressed. Until then, it's a waiting game for trusted partners and a digital dilemma for Meta.

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