Earlier this month, a day after the terroristic attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook and said he is committed to making sure his site is a place where people can “speak freely without fear of violence”.
Well, what about the fear of a court order and a country-wide ban?
A Turkish court has ordered Facebook to block various pages that it says are insulting to the Prophet Mohammad. According to Reuters, the request was made by a prosecutor. Apparently, Turkey is threatening to just block the whole site in the country if Facebook fails to comply with the order.
Let’s go back a couple of weeks and take a look at what Mark Zuckerberg had to say about free expression on Facebook.
A few years ago, an extremist in Pakistan fought to have me sentenced to death because Facebook refused to ban content about Mohammed that offended him.
We stood up for this because different voices — even if they’re sometimes offensive — can make the world a better and more interesting place.
Facebook has always been a place where people across the world share their views and ideas. We follow the laws in each country, but we never let one country or group of people dictate what people can share across the world.
Yet as I reflect on yesterday’s attack and my own experience with extremism, this is what we all need to reject — a group of extremists trying to silence the voices and opinions of everyone else around the world.
I won’t let that happen on Facebook. I’m committed to building a service where you can speak freely without fear of violence.
My thoughts are with the victims, their families, the people of France and the people all over the world who choose to share their views and ideas, even when that takes courage. #JeSuisCharlie
As Zuckerberg mentions, Facebook does have a history of refusing to ban content some see as “offensive”. In 2010, Pakistan wound up blacking access to Facebook entirely because the social network wouldn’t censor pages about Mohammed.
Then again, Facebook does comply with governments and removes content all the time.
“We restricted access to a number of pieces of content primarily reported by the Turkish Information and Communication Technologies Authority and Turkish law enforcement officials under local laws, especially law 5651, which covers a range of offenses including defamation of Ataturk and personal rights violation,” said Facebook in its latest Transparency Report.
In just six months, Facebook restricted 1,893 individual pieces of content in Turkey. It’s not just Facebook, as Turkey has been cracking down on social media freedoms for a while now.
It’ll be interesting to see how Facebook responds to this one. On one hand, Facebook has no problem regionally banning content to comply with government requests. On the other hand, this is a hot-button issue and the company’s CEO just made a sweeping statement about free speech.
To be continued …
UPDATE: Facebook has reportedly blocked a number of page.