Meta Oversight Board Urges Cambodia Prime Minister’s Suspension from Facebook

Meta Platforms’ Oversight Board on Thursday called for the suspension of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for six months, saying a video posted on his Facebook page had violated Meta’s rules against violent threats.

The board, which is funded by Meta but operates independently, said the company erred in leaving up the video and ordered its removal from Facebook.

Meta, in a written statement, agreed to take down the video but said it would respond to the recommendation to suspend Hun Sen after a review.

A suspension would silence the prime minister’s Facebook page less than a month before an election in Cambodia, although critics say the poll will be a sham due to Hun Sen’s autocratic rule.

The decision is the latest in a series of rebukes by the Oversight Board over how the world’s biggest social media company handles rule-breaking political leaders and incitement to violence around elections.

The company’s election integrity efforts are in focus as the United States prepares for presidential elections next year.

The board endorsed Meta’s 2021 banishment of former U.S. President Donald Trump – the current front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination – after the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot, but criticized the indefinite nature of his suspension and urged more careful preparation for volatile political situations overall.

Meta reinstated the former U.S. president earlier this year.  

Last week, the board said Meta’s handling of calls for violence after the 2022 Brazilian election continued to raise concerns about the effectiveness of its election efforts.

Hun Sen’s video, broadcast on his official Facebook page in January, showed the prime minister threatening to beat up political rivals and send “gangsters” to their homes, according to the board’s ruling.

Meta determined at the time that the video fell afoul of its rules, but opted to leave it up under a “newsworthiness” exemption, reasoning that the public had an interest in hearing warnings of violence by their government, the ruling said.

The board held that the video’s harms outweighed its news value.

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