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Social (media) justice

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Shannon Raj Singh (JD 2011) aims to expand her impact as human rights counsel at Twitter

By Julie Riggott

Shannon Raj Singh’s  background in human  rights law positions her  to have a major impact  on Twitter’s policies.

Shannon Raj Singh’s (JD 2011) work in international human rights has led her everywhere from Rwanda to The Hague to Lebanon, and now, back to America and a position as Twitter’s human rights counsel.

For many people around the world, Raj Singh points out, Twitter is one of the only avenues for expressing dissent.

“In that regard, social media affords incredible opportunities to advance human rights,” she says. “These companies have immense power to shape and empower discourse around the world, and they’re seeing the positive way that their platforms can influence the course of events, such as during the Arab Spring and the #MeToo movements, as well as the dangers that can arise, through misinformation, disinformation and hate speech.

“Many tech companies have been roiled over the past few years by the devastating news about the role that technology — and particularly social media — has played in fueling atrocity crimes around the world, perhaps most notably in Myanmar,” she says.

Policies that social media companies adopt on dehumanizing speech, misinformation and incitement to violence have immediate ramifications not only for a particular country or region, but also worldwide, she adds. “Few, if any, bodies or organizations can claim their policies have as expansive a reach, so I consider advising on these issues to be both a privilege and an enormous responsibility.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I hope to do it justice,” she says.

Raj Singh’s role grew from her work in the International Human Rights Clinic; she worked with Professor Hannah Garry’s first team on the genocide trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and was invited to be a judicial intern after graduation. Most recently, she was based in The Hague as a legal officer for the judges of the Appeals Chamber at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, advising on the world’s first terrorism trial before an international court. And as a visiting fellow of practice with Oxford’s Programme on International Peace and Security, she worked to articulate the due diligence obligations of states from the moment they receive warnings of mass atrocities.

Raj Singh says her USC Gould experience provided the foundation to launch a career in human rights law.

“Due to Professor Garry’s remarkable reputation in the field and her close supervision of teams of law students, all of us in the program were offered internships at the Tribunal following graduation,” she says. “It was a dream job for a new lawyer wanting to enter this field.”

Garry sees the Twitter position as an important connection for the social media company to human rights issues.

“With her background experience and expertise, Shannon could have a hugely important impact as Twitter’s human rights counsel by providing a critical human rights perspective in one of the world’s largest tech companies,” Garry says. 

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