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Meta Rejects Recommendation to Suspend Former Cambodia PM from Facebook

This collage image shows Cambodia's former prime minister Hun Sen speaks at the National Assembly on August 22, 2023, and the logo of Meta company. (REUTERS)

Facebook's parent Meta Platforms META.O has rejected a recommendation from its oversight board that it suspend the account of Cambodia's former Prime Minister Hun Sen over allegations he used it to threaten opponents.

Meta on Monday said it had determined that "suspending accounts outside our regular enforcement framework would not be consistent with our policies, including our protocol on restricting accounts of public figures during civil unrest."

The board, which is funded by Meta but operates independently, had advised in June that the company suspend Hun Sen's account for six months over a video that it said violated rules on violent threats.

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

Cambodia barred the 22-member oversight board from the country, declaring the recommendation was "political" in nature.

The Meta case came after several users reported a January video where Hun Sen, 71, said those who accused his Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of buying votes in a 2022 local election should file a legal case, or face a beating from CPP's supporters.

The self-styled strongman, who led Cambodia for nearly four decades until being replaced by his son Hun Manet last week, has been accused by human rights groups of using Facebook to intimidate political opponents and discourage criticism of his governments, which his administration denies.

Hun Sen remains influential in Cambodia and after stepping aside vowed to stay in politics for at least another decade.

His Facebook page, which he temporarily stopped using, had a following of 14 million, a figure close to the size of Cambodia's population. New content started to appear again just a few days ahead of a lopsided election in July, operated by a member of Hun Sen's media team.

Meta's oversight board on Tuesday said it stood by its decision and called for Meta to "do everything in its power to deter public figures who exploit its platforms to incite violence".

"Elections are a crucial part of democracy and social media companies must ensure their platforms are not misused in ways which threaten to undermine them," it said.

Cambodia's Ministry of Post and Telecommunications on its Facebook page on Tuesday "congratulated" Facebook for its decision and reiterated that the Meta oversight board was still unwelcome.

"They made bad recommendations, which were political in nature, and interfered with Cambodia's internal affairs," it said.