Engaging with civil society after Facebook revelations
On 8 December 2021, ICJ alongside 20 other civil society organisations sent a letter to Frances Haugen, the former Facebook employee who spoke out about the tech giant’s business model and the problems it raises for human rights, inviting her to speak and exchange ideas with us. We believe that engaging with civil society is crucial in order to find solutions that work for businesses and individuals alike.
To: Frances Haugen
8 December 2021
Dear Ms Haugen,
We greatly appreciate your courage and tenacity in exposing the wrongdoings of Facebook and helping to safeguard our democracies. Following your recent public interventions to policymakers and legislations, we are writing to invite you to open up a dialogue with civil society and human rights organisations.
Whistleblowers like you show the urgent need to set democratic rules and a human rights framework for digital platforms. Your revelations have laid bare some of the systemic risks deriving from the tech giant’s misbehaviour that we have been denouncing for years: social media companies like Facebook continue to resist changing their extractive and divisive business models, despite knowing that their products and commercial logics are harming users.
We are glad that you put your knowledge and experience at the disposal of legislators, governments and regulators around the world and that you shared with them the overwhelming evidence that you bravely collected and that constitutes an unparalleled source of information.
At the same time though, we also firmly believe that the discussion on these issues must not be limited to legislators and governments. We need the active participation of all stakeholders to ensure that we end up with solutions that work for business and people alike. A dialogue with civil society organisations is crucial in this process. We need to find synergies and build together a fairer, decentralised, more transparent and accountable digital environment.
As representatives of civil society, we are and want to remain a fundamental part of this debate. Yet, due to systemic power and information asymmetries, we often lack access to evidence and information for our activities and campaigns. This inevitably skews the political debates and lobbying activities that are taking place in Europe and worldwide.
So here is our proposal: We would kindly ask you for an opportunity to, first, speak to you and exchange our ideas, and to, second, have access to the Facebook dossiers that you have revealed. This would enormously benefit our common cause.
Discussing with you our proposals will help us better understand and assess their strengths and weaknesses. Your insights would be a unique opportunity for us to test and progress with our ideas. In addition, having access to the evidence you collected would not only support our evidence-based policy making and public calls for interventions, but also benefit our efforts to monitor, denounce and litigate cases of violations of users’ rights.
All in all, we would be delighted if we could meet and exchange our thoughts and ideas. We would be happy to schedule a dedicated meeting at your earliest convenience.
Many thanks in advance for your valuable time and contribution, and we are looking forward to hearing from you soon.
Undersigned civil society organisations
List of signatories
ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
International Commission of Jurists
Coletivo Brasil de Comunicação Social Derechos Digitales
Idec – Instituto Brasileiro de Defesa do Consumidor
Instituto Cultura e Democracia (Brasil)
Intervozes – Coletivo Digital São Paulo/Brazil
IPANDETEC – Centroamérica
Observatório da Ética Jornalística (objETHOS)
Rede Latino-americana de Estudos sobre Vigilância, Tecnologia e Sociedade (LAVITS)
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
Legal Initiatives for Vietnam
The 88 Project, Vietnam
Digitale Gesellschaft, Switzerland
Državljan D / Citizen D, Slovenia
noyb – European Center for Digital Rights, Austria
Open Rights Group, The United Kingdom
Panoptykon Foundation, Poland
Wikimedia France, France