Who Has the Widest Censorship Reach in Human History?

Aerial view of Silicon Valley at dusk, with a portion of the San Mateo/Hayward Bridge visible, as well as Foster City, including the California headquarters of Gilead Sciences, Visa, and Conversica, California, July, 2016. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).

Clarion Project, by Shireen Qudosi, October 17, 2018:

When tech companies take measures to crush the very dialogue they once needed to grow — reaching a point where they have amassed the widest censorship reach in human history — it’s time to sit down and have a serious conversation about Silicon Valley.

Professor Noam Chomsky, linguist and co-founder of cognitive science, has long claimed that America is a nation run by corporations. That assertion was well supported nearly a century ago by the rise of America’s elite class — its first millionaires who, soon after amassing their fortunes, turned to investing in elections to help shape favorable policies.

While corporations and their elites have long-shaped public policy by funding one candidate over another, the questions for our generation are:

  • Are we now also directly overseen by corporations themselves, whose billionaire founders have created innovations that allow for policy to bypass government rule?
  • Are the unelected leaders of billion-dollar tech industries in Silicon Valley now the very people that determine how societies are shaped?
  • And if so, are we reaching a crisis point in human civilization where the widest censorship ability in human history is not at the hands of any fascist government, but those of a handful of tech overlords swayed not by the First Amendment, but by personal politics and profit?

Freedom of speech, a right granted to us by the First Amendment of the Constitution, is something guaranteed to us by our government. It is not guaranteed to us by private corporations.

Yet, we — as a society — have become reliant on social tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for our “free speech” needs. We have become reliant on Google to authenticate and rank the relevancy of that speech. But the fact remains there is no obligation for these companies to uphold the same standards of free speech that we are guaranteed by our government.

Silicon Valley has come to develop its own standard for “free” speech, one that is subjective and heavy-handed. It has become a reality in which views it dislikes are either censored or “shadow banned” (where a user’s post is blocked from appearing in other people’s news feeds).

Take the most recent Silicon Valley scandal concerning a leaked Google memo, The Good Censor. It’s an 85-page admission that Google and other tech platforms now “control the majority of online conversations” and have pivoted away from free speech and “towards censorship” of those whose opinions they disapprove of (largely political conservatives).

This follows a previously leaked Google memo identifying the social media giant as an ideological echo chamber.

After only days in the news cycle, The Good Censor story only yielded about 540 Twitter mentions, which is impossible given the fact that Twitter has 336-million users worldwide, with 68-million users in the United States alone.

The Google memo was leaked to the conservative news outlet Breitbart, which broke the storyYou can decide for yourself whether it was a coincidence that this was shadow-banned.

Meanwhile, post after post promoting misogynistic and extremist rhetoric of Islam’s religious right continue to be promoted. For example, while Twitter shut down right-wing fringe journalist Alex Jones, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Twitter page is not only standing tall, it’s verified.

The Muslim Brotherhood is an extremist operation with chapters across the world, including well-nested front organizations in the United States with agents openly spewing the same hate and propaganda you would find in the caves of Kandahar.

And it’s not just Twitter. Facebook does the same thing. Take another example. Pages that support and promote female genital mutilation (FGM) are left standing while pages belonging to critics of this horrific practice are often silenced.

To be fair, there are a couple of (less sinister) reasons why this is happening (reasons that are also part of the problem):

  1. Social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube rely on artificial intelligence and algorithms to red-flag content. A video directly attacking FGM can raise flags for content on child abuse, whereas a video promoting FGM might be far more discrete in how its message is communicated.
  2. Once content has been red-flagged, it is nearly impossible to reach an actual human being with whom to discuss the issue. On the off chance you do, you’re likely at the mercy of a millennial already well-sculpted into a narrow ideological worldview, passionately fueled by their band-wagon causes with little interest or awareness of nuanced conversations that involve hard facts about life beyond their ideological echo chamber.

Unless billions are invested into multiple counter platforms to break Silicon Valley’s monopoly on regulating and policing speech, the truth is the only real power we have is to break our dependency on technology and return to real-time, real-life connections.

Ultimately, the power is ours.

In some Utopian fantasy, Muslim reformers like myself (and other alternative voices) would have the opportunity to sit down with Silicon Valley tech giants and have an honest conversation with them to help them understand a reality they won’t ever be able to assess through artificial and social intelligence alone.

Until that time comes, I invite you to walk away from social media with me and return to building real relationships with individuals, rather than feeding the beast that technology has become with more of the life-blood it needs to continue to grow and crush opposition voices: our data.

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The Creepy Line movie is streaming on Amazon Prime

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Facebook Lifts Frontpage Editor Jamie Glazov’s 9/11 Ban

Front Page Magazine, by Jamie Glazov, September 14, 2018:

[Editors’ note: To best understand why Facebook would ban Jamie Glazov on 9/11 in the first place, pre-order Jamie’s new book, Jihadist Psychopath: How He Is Charming, Seducing, and Devouring Us: HERE. The book illustrates how the Jihadist Psychopath has, with the help of the Left, successfully built his totalitarian plantation in the West — on which the political and cultural establishment is now enslaved and dutifully following his orders. Jamie outlines the frameworks of this tyrannical plantation and how those who are trapped on it, and yearn for freedom, can best escape.]

Frontpage editors are happy to announce our free speech victory: Facebook has lifted Frontpage editor Jamie Glazov’s 30-day ban on Facebook, apologizing and saying that the block was a “mistake”.

We have no doubt, of course, that no “mistake” had actually occurred in this matter and that the ban has only been lifted because of the publicity that we engaged in — and received.

While it is a positive development that Facebook has lifted the ban on Jamie (for now), this story is crucial to amplify now more than ever, seeing that Facebook, and all of leftist-run social media, is, at this moment, clearly accelerating its totalitarian attack on the free speech of conservatives.

A brief recap of Jamie’s story: on Sept. 11, the 17th Anniversary of the 9/11 terror strike, Facebook’s Unholy Alliance masters informed Jamie that he was suspended from Facebook for 30 days due to his posting of his article, 9 Steps to Successfully Counter Jihad, which Facebook informed him violated their “community standards.” This suggested, of course, that giving advice on how to prevent another 9/11, and all other Jihadist attacks against America, is now against Facebook’s ‘community standards’. (Read the whole story HERE.)

Frontpage and Jamie immediately publicized this tyrannical behavior of Facebook. Then, yesterday, on Sept. 13, Facebook notified Jamie that it had made a mistake and that it was lifting his block.

It goes without saying that this retraction and surrender by Facebook occurred only because of the wide publicity that Jamie’s banning had received. And we are immensely grateful for all the massive support that was given to us across the Internet, including especially from BreitbartPJMediaWorldNetDaily and Thomas Lifson at American Thinker. Leading brave conservative figures such as Michelle Malkin and Laura Loomer also stood up for Jamie, tweeting about his ban — and to them we send our heartfelt appreciation.

Jamie is, of course, no stranger to social media censorship — especially of the insane variety. The Counter Jihad Coalition’s (CJC) Facebook page, which Jamie helped run with CJC President Steve Amundson, was removed a few years ago with absolutely no explanation. The CJC is a human rights and pro-national security group that is dedicated to protecting America and the West from Jihad — and Muslim and non-Muslim people from Sharia oppression. The question remains: why would Facebook remove such a page, let alone in such a fascistic manner — and never explain why?

In April earlier this year, Jamie was suspended from Facebook for posting screenshots of a Muslim’s threat to him on the platform. Then, in May, his Twitter account was temporarily suspended and he was forced to delete tweets he posted which directly quoted Islamic religious texts. His account was suspended for violating Twitter’s rules relating to “hateful conduct.” It is “hateful conduct”, apparently, to reference what Islamic texts themselves say. Indeed, Frontpage’s editor had simply referred to Sahih Bukhari’s texts discussing Mohammed’s marriage to Aisha when she was six years old (7.62.88) and to Qur’anic Suras that mandate the Hijab for women (24:31; 33:59) and sanction sexual slavery (4:3; 33:50).

One thing we know for sure is that, despite this lifting of Jamie’s ban, Facebook and the leftist totalitarians in other social media venues and in the culture at large will continue their unrelenting effort to suffocate dissent and conservative voices. On Facebook, many brave conservative truth-tellers continue to be censored in myriad ways; these individuals include Anni CyrusBosch FawstinMark Lutchman and, of course, Diamond & Silk. The case of #WalkAway leader Brandon Straka is especially disturbing: he was recently banned by Facebook for thecrime of announcing that he would be interviewed by Alex Jones. Prager U has had its videos mysteriously disappear off of Facebook and then, only after vociferous protest, re-appear.

Facebook is, of course, just one terrain of this leftist brownshirt-style assault on free speech. Everyone knows by now, for instance, what has happened, in the most Orwellian sense, to Alex Jones and InfoWars on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Leading scholar of Islam and JihadWatch.org Director Robert Spencer, meanwhile, is not just a target at Facebook, where his referrals are down 90% from what they once were; he has been banned by Patreon at the behest of MasterCard — and MasterCard has yet to respond to his lawyer’s letter. GoFundMe has also banned Spencer because of a smear by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) hate machine.

Speaking of Mastercard, the David Horowitz Freedom Center just recently won a major battle with the credit card, defeating well-financed leftwing groups that are trying to run the Center out of business and suffocate free speech in America. The Freedom Center emerged victorious, but it is clear that leftist hate groups such as the SPLC and Color of Change.org are preparing new attacks against the Freedom Center and other conservative groups and individuals 24/7.

To be sure, the Left’s attacks on the David Horowitz Freedom Center continue unabated: just recently a hit piece in the Washington Post smeared a stand-up noble gentleman like Florida Gubernatorial Candidate Republican Ron DeSantis, libeling David Horowitz in the process. The article stated falsely and maliciously that Horowitz’s Restoration Weekend, that DeSantis had attended, was somehow “a racially charged event” — a vicious lie that Frontpage has exposed and for which the Washington Post is still to apologize and issue a retraction. (To learn why David Horowitz is one of the central targets of the Left, make sure to watch this video).

Thus, we clearly gauge that there is no disgusting and venomous level to which the Left will not stoop in its destructive agenda. Yes, Frontpage editor Jamie Glazov has had his ban lifted at Facebook, but this is clearly only a brief reprieve for him on that platform — and it is only, obviously, a very tiny space in the Stalinist Left’s war on America and on everything on which it stands.

At this dire moment, we all need to amplify our voices in defense of free speech. And we need to adamantly defend all the truth-tellers at the very moment they come under attack. We also need to contact our representatives and to call for a Congressional investigation into this pernicious assault by the fascist Left on our liberties.

The battle for America — and for the West — is on.

[Editors’ postscript: Please make sure to FOLLOW Jamie Glazov on Facebook as well as on Twitter (@JamieGlazov) to strengthen his social media strength in the face of the Left’s vicious war on free speech. Thank you!]

Video: Robert Spencer on Facebook’s censorship of criticism of Islam

Jihad Watch, by Robert Spencer, Aug. 18, 2017:

In this new video, I discuss Facebook’s willing compliance with Sharia blasphemy laws, as indicated by Facebook’s Vice President Joel Kaplan traveling to Pakistan to assure the Pakistani government that material critical of Islam would be removed from Facebook.

Also see:

YouTube to Begin Censorship Via Mob Rule as Internet Titans Turn Liberal

Constitution, by Andrew West, August 1, 2017:

The war on conservatism has been waging on the internet for years, and now, YouTube is looking to get in on the action.

Recently, internet giants such as Google and Facebook have been working overtime to restrict the world’s access to non-mainstream media.  Facebook has been extremely egregious in their anti-conservative slant, openly admitting to employing a team of censors to eliminate right wing sources from appearing within their “trending topics” section.  This corrupt curation has been lambasted by watchdog groups the world over as nothing more than totalitarian censorship carried out by a power-hungry CEO.

Google has had its fair share of conservative controversy as well, as a number of popular search terms were neutered by the world’s most popular search engine.  Particularly, during the 2016 election, any searches for negative information on Hillary Clinton were either buried or completely omitted from the autocomplete results displayed on the website.

Furthermore, Google has already received record fines in Europe for their self-serving product search modifications that pointed consumers to Google-owned or Google-centric devices as opposed to the most popular devices as the website purported to be doing.

Now it looks as though YouTube, which is owned by Google, will also look to rig its search results, leaving free speech advocates concerned over the reality-shaping leftist scam completely inundating the internet as we know it.

“According to a post on YouTube’s official blog, videos will now be subject to the rule of the mob. If enough users flag a video as ‘hate speech’ or ‘violent extremism,’ YouTube may impose restrictions on the content even if it breaks none of the platform’s rules.

“‘We’ll soon be applying tougher treatment to videos that aren’t illegal but have been flagged by users as potential violations of our policies on hate speech and violent extremism. If we find that these videos don’t violate our policies but contain controversial religious or supremacist content, they will be placed in a limited state. The videos will remain on YouTube behind an interstitial, won’t be recommended, won’t be monetized, and won’t have key features including comments, suggested videos, and likes.’

“YouTube has also rolled out a ‘trusted flagger’ program, in which 15 ‘expert NGOs and institutions’ to help them identify hate speech and extremism on their platform.

“Among these organizations are the No Hate Speech Movement, a left-wing project pushed by the Council of Europe, as well as the Anti-Defamation League, an organization whose president has been accused of ‘manufacturing outrage’ by the World Jewish Congress.

“YouTube is also planning to artificially alter its search results so that searches for ‘sensitive’ topics on YouTube no longer return the most popular videos, but a ‘playlist of curated YouTube videos that directly confront and debunk violent extremist messages.’”

While the concept of censoring hateful videos seems innocuous enough, the reality of this overreach will likely be much more damaging than imagined.

Free speech in America has been under attack for some time, with February’s UC Berkeley riots being the flashpoint for the liberal New Fascist movement to bolster their offensives.  These militant leftists believe that the First Amendment should be rewritten to nullify free speech in cases where people are offended.

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YOUTUBE’S DANGEROUS CONFLATION OF “TERRORISM” AND “INFLAMMATORY SPEECH” by Daniel Greenfield

Google was unique as a major dot com with an absolutist position on free speech. Where Twitter eagerly censored the right and favored the left, Facebook favored the left, Google stood by free speech.

When Obama came looking for a Benghazi scapegoat and seized on the Innocence of Muslims video, not only did YouTube refuse to take it down, but Google fought an extended court battle over it. It was an impressive feat that is coming undone.

Google News and then Google began baking in partisan “fact checks” into search results. Then the search algorithms were retooled to promote Islamist views over those of counterterrorism critics, as Robert Spencer has discussed.  Search for Jihad and you’ll find Islamist results while Jihad Watch has been buried.

Now Google will have a cage for “inflammatory videos”. As a subset of measures being taken to flag pro-terrorist videos, there will be a crackdown on non-violent but inflammatory videos.

Third, we will be taking a tougher stance on videos that do not clearly violate our policies — for example, videos that contain inflammatory religious or supremacist content. In future these will appear behind an interstitial warning and they will not be monetised, recommended or eligible for comments or user endorsements. That means these videos will have less engagement and be harder to find. We think this strikes the right balance between free expression and access to information without promoting extremely offensive viewpoints.

The question is who decides what is inflammatory or offensive. And what are the metrics?

Google is a private company. It has the right to decide who uses its service. But

1. Google is vocally fighting for Net Neutrality. There’s a good deal of hypocrisy in demanding that cable companies shouldn’t be able to rein in YouTube’s bandwidth as part of their own corporate policies, while playing the capitalism card when it suits it.

2. Google is a monopoly. There’s no way around it. It controls much of the internet. Its dominance in search is particularly troubling. As it begins biasing its results, the worry stops being abstract and becomes a real threat to freedom of speech. When a corporate monopoly can silence political dissent, we’re in troubling territory.

And this needs to be addressed.

Did Facebook Just Agree to Enforce Blasphemy Laws?

(Photo; Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Clarion Project, by Meira Svirsky, July 13, 2017

Doublespeak is language that deliberately distorts or even reverses the meaning of words. For example, when critics of radical Islam expose this extremism for what is it, Islamists and their “progressive” enablers call them “Islamophobes;” when those who call themselves “social justice warriors” campaigning for tolerance exhibit just the opposite (i.e., intolerance) by shutting down any conversation with which they don’t agree; when others force their religious beliefs (i.e., blasphemy laws) upon others in the name of freedom of religion (as in Canada’s new motion against criticism of Islam); or when perpetrators of crimes frame themselves as victims.

Doublespeak often leads to doublethink, as George Orwell writes in his seminal novel Nineteen Eight-Four: “To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient.” In the novel, people explicitly learn doublethink due to peer pressure and a desire to fit in or gain status with in the “Party.”

With these definitions in mind, Clarion Project launches a week-long expose of some of the worst offenders:

A high-level Facebook executive met with the interior minister in Pakistan last week to discuss Pakistan’s demand that the social media platform remove what the Islamist country deems “blasphemous content.”

The fact the meeting took place at all speaks volumes about Facebook’s intent.

First, the tete-a-tete, the first-ever discussion on the issue between a senior Facebook exec and the Pakistani government, comes on the heels of the decision by a Pakistani “counter-terrorism” court to sentence a 30-year-old man to death for making “blasphemous” comments on Facebook.

Such an outrageous verdict should have caused any company serious about human rights to refuse to engage with such a regime. Even the fact that there exists such a law such a law that violates the basic — and what should be universal — right to freedom of speech should be reason to protest.

Yet apparently, business is business for Facebook.

Facebook has 33-million users in Pakistan. So not only did Facebook engage with the Pakistani government, they made assurances to the sharia-compliant country that they were committed to keeping their platform “safe” by “promoting values” that are in congruence with their “community standards.”

Facebook also committed to removing explicit, hateful and provocative posts that incite violence and terrorism.

In Pakistan, that means blasphemous content (as per Pakistan’s definition of blasphemy). Because in Pakistan, just the mere mention of blasphemy can incite mob violence and extra-judicial lynchings.

Pakistan is active in pursing internet service providers to convince them to make any criticism of Islam forbidden. In March, it convened a meeting of Muslim countries to discuss how they can shut down freedom of expression on social media with regards to blasphemous (read: anti-Islam) content.

As to how the meeting went with Facebook, Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said, “We appreciate the understanding shown by the Facebook administration and the cooperation being extended to us on these issues.”

So, when Facebook – which has a history of taking down material critical of Islamists — says to Pakistan it will remove “hateful and provocative” material, it is most likely doublespeak for “We will comply with Islam’s blasphemy laws.”

Unfortunately, compliance with – and even enforcement of—Islamist blasphemy laws has become an all-too-common fixture in the West.

In some cases, the West has simply bowed to Islamists under the threat of violence. After the Danish cartoon riots which spread across the globe and the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Western publications have demurred from publishing most any material deemed offensive to Islam.

Yet other examples are more insidious. Canada just passed a motion “condemning all forms of Islamophobia.” The motion, hailed as a “first-step” by its supporters, is dangerously close to and may even make illegal any criticism of Islam.

Europe, which has no bill of rights guaranteeing the freedoms enshrined in America’s constitution, has traditionally balanced freedom of expression with social concerns. In recent years, that balance has become defined through the relativistic morality of each country’s political climate, with freedom of speech in a serious decline due to pressure from Islamists and their “progressive” supporters.

If we intend to hold on to the freedoms we now take for granted in the U.S., pressure should be put on Facebook as well as any other company which exhibits compliance with sharia blasphemy laws. Otherwise, we will sadly see our rights slipping away as is the situation in Europe today.

Facebook’s Little Ethics Problem

Gatestone Institute, by Ruthie Blum, June 7, 2017:

  • Facebook has been aiding abusers of human-rights — such as China, Turkey, Russia and Pakistan — to curb the freedom of expression of their people.
  • “On the same day that we filed the report, the ‘Stop Palestinians’ page that incited against Palestinians was removed by Facebook… for ‘containing credible threat of violence’ which ‘violated our community standards.’ On the other hand, the ‘Stop Israelis’ page that incited against Israelis, was not removed. We received a response from Facebook stating that the page was ‘not in violation of Facebook’s rules.'” — Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of The Israel Law Center.
  • According to Darshan-Leitner, Facebook’s insistence that it cannot control all the content on its pages is disingenuous, if not an outright lie. After all, its algorithms are perfectly accurate when it comes to detecting users’ shopping habits.

There is a problem at Facebook. On May 8, the social media platform blocked and then shut down the pages of two popular moderate Muslim groups — on the grounds that their content was “in violation of community standards” — without explanation.

Had these pages belonged to the radicals who incite followers to violence, however, the move would have been welcome, and would have corresponded to Facebook’s Online Civil Courage Initiative, founded in Berlin in January 2016, to “challeng[e] hate speech and extremism online,” in the effort to prevent the use of social media as a platform for recruiting terrorists.

The pages that Facebook shut down, however — Ex-Muslims of North America, which has 24,000 followers; and Atheist Republic, with 1.6 million — do nothing of the sort. In fact, they are managed and followed by Arabs across the world who reject not only violence and terrorism, but Islam as a religion.

This, it turns out, is precisely the problem.

Angry Islamists, bent on silencing such “blasphemers” and “apostates,” troll social media and abuse Facebook’s complaint system. It’s a tactic that works like a charm every time, as conservative and pro-Israel individuals and groups — whose posts are disproportionately targeted by political opponents and removed by Facebook for “violating community standards” — can attest. As in most of those cases, the pages of the former Muslims were reinstated the next day, after their administrators demonstrated that the charges against them were false.

The president of Ex-Muslims of North America, Muhammad Syed, who is originally from Pakistan, complained about the practice in an open letter to Facebook, and demanded that the company do more to protect former Muslims from online harassment by Islamists:

“Ironically, the same social media which empowers religious minorities is susceptible to abuse by religious fundamentalists to enforce what are essentially the equivalent of online blasphemy laws. A simple English-language search reveals hundreds of public groups and pages on Facebook explicitly dedicated to this purpose [enforcing blasphemy laws online] — giving their members easy-to-follow instructions on how to report public groups and infiltrate private ones.”

Syed also started a Change.org petition, calling on Facebook to “prevent religious extremists from censoring atheists and secularists.” According to the website Heat Street, which broke the story, there are many other secular Arab groups that have been similarly flagged by religious Muslims on social media.

For its part, Facebook continues to claim that the sheer volume of material it deals with every day makes it virtually impossible even for its algorithms to distinguish accurately between posts that violate its own “community standards” and those that do not.

This claim has been refuted by attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of Shurat HaDin – The Israel Law Center, who has been engaged in a billion-dollar class action lawsuit against Facebook for failing to prevent or halt anti-Israel incitement on its pages. Darshan-Leitner decided to put her premise to the test at the end of December 2015, by creating two fictitious Facebook pages — “Stop Palestinians” and “Stop Israelis” — and posting hate-filled comments and clips on each.

For two days, from December 28-30, Darshan-Leitner’s organization continued to increase the level of incitement on both pages. For example, a post on the “Stop Israelis page” featured an anti-Semitic cartoon and the phrase “death to all the Jews.” Simultaneously, a post on the “Stop Palestinians” page read, “Revenge against the Arab enemy. Death to all the Arabs.”

At this point, according to Darshan-Leitner, Shurat HaDin reported both pages to Facebook and requested that they be removed.

“Facebook was very quick to respond to our reports,” she said on a YouTube video.

“On the same day that we filed the report, the ‘Stop Palestinians’ page that incited against Palestinians was removed by Facebook. Facebook sent us a response stating that the page was removed for ‘containing credible threat of violence’ which ‘violated our community standards.’ On the other hand, the ‘Stop Israelis’ page that incited against Israelis, was not removed. We received a response from Facebook stating that the page was ‘not in violation of Facebook’s rules.'”

Six days later, after a huge outcry in the Hebrew press and on social media, Facebook changed its initial judgement and removed the anti-Semitic page.

This kind of behavior is just what Muhammad Syed is railing about.

“Arab atheists, Bangladeshi secularists, and numerous other groups have been under attack for years, as religious conservatives in the Muslim world learn to abuse Facebook’s reporting system to their advantage. Early last year, multiple atheist and secularist groups were targeted with mass, coordinated infiltration and reporting — leading to the closure of many groups. These groups were eventually restored, but only after a lengthy and sustained effort by organizers to draw public attention to the issue.”

Darshan-Leitner said that although she does not consider Facebook guilty of incitement, its insistence that it cannot control all the content on its pages is disingenuous, if not an outright lie. After all, its algorithms are very accurate when it comes to detecting users’ shopping habits — information that advertisers pay a lot of money for the privilege of obtaining.

Furthermore, Facebook has been aiding abusers of human rights — such as China, Turkey, Russia and Pakistan — to curb the freedom of expression of their people. As the New York Timesreported last November, the social media giant quietly developed software to enable the Chinese government to suppress posts. This was CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s way of getting back in China’s good graces, after Facebook was banned from the enormous market in 2009.

Where Pakistan is concerned, the situation is just as delicate. In March, according to Al Jazeera, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif warned that blasphemous content on Facebook would be “strictly punished.”

Sharif has been trying to get social media outlets to adhere to his country’s blasphemy laws, which state that anything deemed insulting to Islam or Muhammad is a crime, and those convicted of it can be sentenced to death. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan called blasphemy “an issue about the honor of every Muslim,” and threatened to “take strong action” against Facebook and other platforms that do not comply. He also mentioned, however, that Facebook had agreed to send a delegation to Pakistan to work something out.

This was a mere few months after Facebook signed a “Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online,” produced by the European Commission and also endorsed by Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube, asserting “a collective responsibility and pride in promoting and facilitating freedom of expression throughout the online world.” This, it stated, “is applicable not only to ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.” (Emphasis added.)

This is a far cry from a whispered exchange, caught on a hot mic on the sidelines of a United Nations development summit in New York in 2015, between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Merkel confronted Zuckerberg about not doing enough to combat “xenophobic” posts relating to the influx of migrants into Europe in general and Germany in particular.

“We need to do some work on it,” Zuckerberg responded.

So far, all of Zuckerberg’s hard work seems to be paying off, but not for former Muslims such as Syed, seeking moral and intellectual support from the like-minded.

Ruthie Blum is a journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama and the ‘Arab Spring.'”

Facebook Has Been Regularly Shutting Down Atheist and Ex-Muslim Groups

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Heat Street, by Masha Froliak, May 9, 2017:

Yesterday, Facebook restricted and then shut down the public pages of Ex-Muslims of North America (24k followers) and Atheist Republic (1,6 million followers) –groups that advocate secularism and provide support to “apostates” (people who leave Islam and who often face persecution).

In fact, the ex-Muslim group claims that for the last several years, Facebook has been continuously blocking groups like it. The ex-Muslims have written an open letter to the social media giant, calling on it to “to stop exercising intellectual persecution” against atheist and ex-Muslim organizations and to “whitelist” such vulnerable groups from organized false flagging attacks.

On Monday, Muhammad Syed, the president of the Ex-Muslims of North America took to Twitter to report that the Facebook pages of Ex-Muslims and Atheist Republic were restricted (and the next morning shut down) “in violation of Facebook’s community standards”. No details were given as to what standards were violated. On Tuesday, after appealing the case, both groups were able to regain full access to their pages.

Syed believes the pages had been targeted in coordinated attacks by Muslim fundamentalists using “simple and effective” Facebook flagging tools to report that pages falsely for standards violations. Facebook, Syed said, isn’t doing enough to protect “groups vulnerable to malicious attacks”.

In the open letter to Facebook, which was revealed to Heat Street, Syed pressures the social media company to take measures to improve its reporting mechanisms and to protect ex-Muslim groups.

“Ironically, the same social media which empowers religious minorities is susceptible to abuse by religious fundamentalists to enforce what are essentially the equivalent of online blasphemy laws. A simple English language search reveals hundreds of public groups and pages on Facebook explicitly dedicated to this purpose – giving their members easy-to-follow instructions on how to report public groups and infiltrate private ones,” Syed writes.

The Atheist Republic group has been shut down 4 times in the last two years, Syed says, and then reinstated. He adds that attacks of this nature are not new and there are there are hundreds of Facebook accounts that are working to shut down atheist and ex-Muslim public pages in an organized effort. Facebook, he alleges, is doing nothing about it.

“Arab atheists, Bangladeshi secularists, and numerous other groups have been under attack for years, as religious conservatives in the Muslim world learn to abuse Facebook’s reporting system to their advantage. Early last year, multiple atheist and secularist groups were targeted with mass, coordinated infiltration and reporting – leading to the closure of many groups. These groups were eventually restored, but only after a lengthy and sustained effort by organizers to draw public attention to the issue,” he explains.

In his letter to Facebook, Syed, with the help of the Arab Atheist Network, compiled a list of groups that have been targeted in coordinated flagging attacks and shut down by Facebook in the last several weeks. At least nine other groups have been abused with Facebook’s reporting tool.

Syed, who was raised in Pakistan, believes that ex-Muslims are among the most persecuted groups in the world and that online platforms like Facebook are the “last refuge” for many atheists and secularists in the Muslim world.

Muhammad Syed

“Many of these groups are not simply pages – they are communities in which atheists who are abandoned by those around them find comfort, support and emergency assistance in case of persecution or abuse. The closure of these groups means the loss of these vital resources for the isolated and vulnerable,” Muhammad tells Heat Street.

The letter urges Facebook to create a “whitelist” for groups and pages that are vulnerable to such attacks and asks to penalize accounts that repeatedly abuse its reporting tools.

In the meantime, as Heat Street reported, in March Facebook kowtowed to officials in Pakistan and removed “blasphemous” content insulting Islam within the country. In this instance, Facebook had no problem with censoring freedom of speech on its platform.

Other atheist groups shut down by Facebook in the course of a month:

A Science Enthusiast (750,000 members)

Arab Atheist Network (23,500 members)

Arab Atheist Forum and Network (9,200 members)

Radical Atheists without Borders (23,500 members)

Arab Atheist Syndicate (11,000 members)

Arab Atheist Syndicate, backup (5,000 members)

Humanitarian Non-Religious (32,000 members)

Human Atheists (11,000 members)

Arab Atheists Forum and Network (6,400 members)

Mind and Discussion (6,500 members)