Oversight Board Tells FB, Insta to Protect Users From ‘doxing

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The independent Oversight Board has told Meta (formerly Facebook) to create a communications channel for victims of ‘doxing’, give users more control over how they consent to share their private residential information and provide data showing the amount of content removed following privacy-related government requests.

In ‘doxing,’ previously private information is made public in order to shame or harm the victim.

The Oversight Board, constituted by Facebook with 20 members from across the world, issued its first policy opinion late on Tuesday, asking Facebook and Instagram to improve their policies to protect users against doxing.

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Last year, Meta requested an advisory policy opinion from the Board on sharing private residential addresses and images and the contexts in which this information may be published on Facebook and Instagram.

Meta noted that doxing could have negative real-world consequences, such as harassment or stalking.

“The Board understands that the sharing of private residential addresses and images represents a potentially serious violation of the right to privacy both for people who use Facebook and Instagram, and those who do not,” it said in a statement.

Once this information is shared, the harms that can result, such as doxing, are difficult to remedy.

Harms resulting from doxing disproportionately affect groups such as women, children and LGBTQIA+ people, and can include emotional distress, loss of employment and even physical harm or death, – the Board stressed.

The Board believes that Meta’s Privacy Violations policy should be more protective of privacy.

“As such, the Board favours narrowing the exceptions to the Privacy Violations policy to help Meta better protect the private residential information of people both on and off its platforms”.

In its policy advisory opinion, the Board made 17 recommendations covering content policy, enforcement, and transparency.

“Create a specific communications channel for victims of doxing, available to both people who use its platforms and those who do not. This should be easily accessed, allow the victim to explain in detail their situation and risks the content creates for them, and prompt swift action from the company,” the Board elaborated.

It added that meta should prioritize action when the impacted person says they belong to a group facing heightened risk to their safety in the region where the private residence is located.

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