The Alleged Murder of Jamal Khashoggi: Why this case strikes such a nerve

Carla Ferstman

26087328517_995e8d0317_o (2)

Jamal Khashoggi. Photo credit: April Brady/Project on Middle East Democracy

On 2 October 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent exiled critic of the Saudi regime and journalist for the Washington Post attended the Saudi consulate in Turkey to retrieve paperwork needed for his impending marriage to Turkish national Hatice Cendiz. Ms Cendiz waited for him outside the consulate in vain; he never emerged. Weeks have now passed and Turkish authorities have drip-fed a stream of gruesome information about their investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance and apparent murder within the confines of the embassy.

Details which have emerged include the arrival in Turkey of a team of 15 special forces officers and intelligence officials, information about Khashoggi having been tortured, killed, beheaded and dismembered with a bone saw. Apparently, some areas at the Saudi consulate where Khashoggi was last seen alive had been repainted and toxic materials had been found by police. Turkish sources have apparently alleged that the body was transported to the consul general’s house nearby and disposed of.  On 15 October, CNN reported that it had been informed by sources that the Saudis are preparing a report that will say that Khashoggi died in a botched interrogation intended to lead to his abduction from Turkey. According to reports over the last 24 hours, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has travelled to Saudi Arabia for crisis talks regarding the unfolding situation and is on route to Turkey.

Saudi Arabia is clearly no beacon for human rights. While there is no pecking order for atrocious acts of violence, it is hard to ignore Saudi Arabia’s three-year campaign of indiscriminate bombing of Yemen, devastating the civilian population and leading to mass starvation. Nor should we ignore the spate of beheadings in the country.

So why does the Khashoggi case strike such a nerve?

Continue reading

How Does Content Moderation Affect Human Rights? Commentary on the Case of Infowars

By Vivian Ng and Sabrina Rau

On 6 August 2018, Apple, Facebook and Spotify removed content from Alex Jones’s Infowars pages and accounts on their platforms, which were seen to be spreading conspiracy theories and hate speech. YouTube also terminated Alex Jones’s channel. These recent actions followed the takedown of four of Infowars’ YouTube videos earlier last month. While Twitter did not immediately take any action, they later suspended Alex Jones’s account for seven days on 15 August, citing violation of their rules on abusive behaviour and inciting violence. These companies have removed content or terminated these accounts on grounds that they violated the terms of service.

Much of the reporting has been critical of companies who are perceived to have not done enough, or acted quickly enough, to remove content from Alex Jones and Infowars. The attention seems to centre on whether such platforms have acted appropriately and adequately to combat misinformation and disinformation spread by entities like Infowars. For example, while Twitter has since taken action regarding Alex Jones’s account, it had been criticised for not suspending the separate Infowars Twitter account as well. Google and Apple have also been criticised for not removing the Infowars app on their app stores. These issues are important but commentary has been lacking on the broader significance of the current news around the actions platforms are taking regarding the content and accounts of Infowars and Alex Jones. More fundamentally, what role do companies have in content moderation, and how should that role be carried out? This post will look at the role that social media platforms play in the realisation of the right to freedom of expression in particular, and consider if and how content moderation by private companies that own and control such platforms can be compliant with human rights standards and norms.

Continue reading