Neriah Yue

Volume 71, Issue 3, 813-844

The advent of social media platforms in the mid-2000s increased global communication and encouraged innovative activism by ushering new, effective ways to organize and protest. News agencies have recently reported the misuse of these platforms by individual actors and authoritarian regimes. Autocrats, in particular, twist social media platforms into weapons to silence dissent and spread hate speech. The latter category, hate speech, has contributed to some of the gravest human rights abuses globally. The increased spotlight on the weaponization of social media has motivated scholars, states, and companies to revisit the theory of corporate responsibility.

This Note unpacks the potential criminal liability of social media companies for misuse on their platforms that result in grave human rights violations. Specifically, it explores Facebook’s corporate criminal liability in light of authoritarian regimes’ misuse of its platform to incite crimes against humanity. This Note will not cover jurisdictional issues regarding corporate criminal liability. Rather, it identifies on a theoretical level, which crimes, if any, social media corporations could be held accountable for under international criminal law. While there remain significant obstacles to prosecuting such cases, this Note identifies an accountability gap between Facebook’s actions and victims of human rights abuses that occur from its platform. Ultimately, this Note concludes that corporate criminal liability is an effective form of ensuring that social media companies remain responsible in doing their part to uphold human rights.