Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on Facebook’s takedown of pages of progressive groups

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on Facebook’s takedown of pages of progressive groups

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) expresses grave concern over the takedown of the pages belonging to some progressive groups, namely Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), and Anakbayan, on social media platform Facebook.

KMU, in a statement, shares that its page was permanently shut down, while personal accounts of page administrators and editors were also locked citing alleged unauthorised access.

According to the observations of the abovementioned groups, Facebook’s recent action targeted pages that shared posts regarding the passing of Jose Maria Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The social media platform allegedly flagged posts related to Sison as violations against its Community Guidelines on ‘dangerous individuals and organizations.’

While CHR believes that keeping the platform safe is valid value to uphold, we similarly stress the importance of the delicate balance in upholding, instead of diminishing, enjoyment of rights, including rights to free speech, expression, and association as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

With Facebook being a private business, we likewise place emphasis on the foundational principles of corporate responsibility under the United Nations Guiding Principles (UNGP) on Business and Human Rights [1] which states that businesses should ‘avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved.’

The cited UNGP further explains that the responsibility of businesses to respect human rights ‘exists independently of State’s abilities and/or willingness to fulfil their own human rights obligations’ and that business enterprises are similarly required to ‘avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur.’

As such, we urge Facebook to review their decision to takedown the pages of progressive groups based on their business and human rights obligation to protect, respect, and remedy.

CHR similarly calls on the government, as primary duty-bearer for the human rights of all, to ensure that it takes a more proactive role in protecting against human rights abuses by private businesses, as well as human rights violations being committed by the government itself, as well as its agents.

Censorship on social media platforms, in any form and degree, can have serious consequences, as it can prevent people from speaking out about important issues and even suppress criticism or dissent. Freedom of speech is essential for the functioning of a healthy democracy, as it allows for the exchange of ideas and promote the dignity of all.

The growing role of social media in societies necessitates a more nuanced approach and appreciation on how platforms can improve or impair human rights and democracy.

CHR is ready and able to fulfil its role as an independent national human rights institution to guide government and private businesses alike on how they can better navigate and satisfy their obligations in contributing to building a fair and equitable society where the rights of all are upheld and respected. ###

[1] UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,