August 22, 2019

Defending and promoting freedom of expression in Myanmar

As a Satter Fellow, Jenny Domino LL.M. ’18 focused on how social media policy limits one’s right to speak in the midst of democratic transition

Domino returned to Harvard Law School in February 2019 for a talk about her Satter Fellowship research on Facebook community standards and hate speech.

By Elaine McArdle

After graduating from Harvard Law School, Jenny Domino LL.M. ’18 was awarded a Satter Human Rights Fellowship from the Human Rights Program for the 2018-2019 year. A lawyer from the Philippines, Domino spent her fellowship year with ARTICLE 19, a human rights organization focused on the defense and promotion of freedom of expression and information. Over the last year, she has worked to strengthen ARTICLE 19’s response to hate speech in Myanmar, specifically as it incites and provokes violence against the Rohingya community.

Among other things, Domino wrote a human rights-based report analyzing the sufficiency of Facebook’s responses to criticism that it had failed to moderate hate speech in a timely manner in Myanmar. Her report has significantly informed ARTICLE 19 Asia’s engagement with Facebook regarding its content moderation policies. She also organized a regional workshop in spring 2019 on hate speech on social media, bringing together human rights defenders from the ASEAN region to discuss common themes of disinformation, attacks on the press, and weak social media policy.

Facebook’s community standards are the same throughout the world, but a problem occurs when rules are enforced without sufficiently taking into account the geopolitical contexts in which such content is shared, said Domino. Throughout her career, Domino has dedicated herself to deepening the commitment to international human rights law in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. In her home country of the Philippines, she led the Commission on Human Rights’ accountability project on the persons most responsible for the extrajudicial killings arising from President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war. Her work proved useful in light of the International Criminal Court’s preliminary examination into whether these killings constitute crimes against humanity.

“When you enter a market and you don’t understand the political context of where you’re operating, that can be a problem,” she said. “The way certain speech is received or acted upon in one context—let’s say, the U.S. or the Netherlands—is different in a place like Myanmar or the Philippines. This distinction is more pronounced when the political context of a specific country involves atrocity crimes or systematic violence against civilians.”

The year has been “very meaningful for me,” said Domino, who will continue to specialize at the intersection of freedom of expression, corporate responsibility, and international human rights law, at the International Commission of Jurists, following her fellowship.

“I’ve learned a lot, not just in terms of substantive knowledge but the practical—and sometimes grim—aspects of working in the NGO scene. I am still trying to figure out through which capacity I can serve best, one where I can make the most impact as a lawyer. For now, I am content to have discovered a cause I deeply care about.”

The Satter Human Rights Fellowship is designed to support and promote human rights defense in response to mass atrocities. The fellowship is made possible by a generous gift from Muneer A. Satter J.D./M.B.A.’87. This profile is a preview of the 2018-2019 Human Rights Program Annual Report. This article was cross-posted to HLS Today’s website.

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