News Analysis |
29-year-old Mohammad Anas, who works as a freelance journalist claims that his Facebook account has been banned for 30 days after he posted “Kamal ka phool hamari bhool”(the flower has been our blunder) on his page. Anas had posted, “Vyapari apne cash memo par print karva kar janta se bata rahe hain ki BJP ko vote dekar galti ho gayi”, (Traders are writing on their cash memos that it has been a mistake to vote for the BJP) along with a picture of a receipt on Tuesday.
Pakistanis have become aware of such a controversy many times in the past. The latest episode was when famous actor and TV show host Hamza Ali Abbasi had his account deactivated for three days after he wrote a Facebook post on Kashmir.
Anas said that just hours after posting the picture, he received a Facebook notification stating that he did not follow their community standards and hence, his account has been blocked for 30 days. Anas claims that similar posts that criticise the BJP government have been blocked by Facebook. The blocking of Anas’s account has triggered strong reactions from fellow journalists and common people who have criticized Facebook for stomping down on the freedom of expression.
The incident has raised the specter of censorship by Facebook once again. Facebook has often been under attack by activists for stomping down on the freedom of expression and free speech. Many assert that Facebook does so in pursuit of an agenda.
Pakistanis have become aware of such a controversy many times in the past. The latest episode was when famous actor and TV show host Hamza Ali Abbasi had his account deactivated for three days after he wrote a Facebook post on Kashmir. Hamza had written that deceased armed self-determination fighter Burhan Wani was not an ISI agent but a Kashmiri who had joined the rebellion after his brother was killed by the Indian army.
Facebook’s community guidelines and their application have raised more questions than answering them. It appears to cater to the whims of those in power than by an equitable measure.
In a statement to The Guardian, Facebook acknowledged suspending his account and deleting his posts and that this was not a mistake by its overburdened reviewers, but was done because his posts contained private details of specific individuals. After media coverage of its actions, Facebook stated that it was looking into the matter and working with the journalist to allow him to restore his posts.
Facebook’s community guidelines and their application have raised more questions than answering them. The most famous controversy in Facebook was the Draw Mohammad Day which was seen as a bigotry campaign against Muslims. Facebook refused to do anything in that regard despite the pleas of millions around the world.
Facebook has recently started a campaign to root out Hate Speech and Fake Speech but now it seems that Facebook largely follows discrimination in its censorship. Many human rights activists specifically belonging to the Black Rights movement have complained of Facebook’s prejudice against them.
In the end, it can be recognized that Facebook is aware of two facts, its significance in everyday life and its existence as a corporate entity. The victims often have no chance but to wait to be logged back on. Also, Facebook was formed with no altruistic motive in mind but as a profit-making company. In order to achieve that aim, it is more important to cater to the whims of the powerful than to treat everyone with the same measure. Therefore, that is why Facebook is more on the side of the power such as the US, Maltese and Indian government than with powerless communities or individuals.
Jawad Falak is a Research Associate at Center for Strategic and Contemporary Research, Islamabad. He is an M.Phil scholar at National Defence University, Islamabad and writes on events taking shape in the South Asian region. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.