A few weeks ago Khalid Baig, a progressive Indian Muslim, posted a satirical status on triple talaq drawing attention to how it is used as a threat by men to subdue their wives. The post immediately went viral and was shared by hundreds of reformist Muslims and feminists before it was taken down by Facebook citing breach of it’s community standards and Khalid was banned from using Facebook for 3 days.
A solidarity campaign was then run by many of his friends as a protest against the ban on the freedom of speech of a reformist Muslim. Three profiles that ran the campaign were eventually banned one after the other including mine.
Facebook ban can have catastrophic consequences
For us, being cut off was not merely an inconvenience. Many of us have Facebook pages and the ban prevented us from administering our pages. The punitive 30 day ban on one of the journalists who relies on social media to interact with the Facebook community she has created over the years has had an outsized adverse effect on her
Non transparent policies
Being banned quite many number of times led to the creation of a kind of experiment which made us realise the arbitrariness with which Facebook implements it’s censorship policies.
Few months ago, a post that called for an acid attack and rape on Anusuya Datta was not removed even after repeated reporting. She then posted a screen grab of the hate status which was promptly taken down by Facebook for “spreading violence” and Anusuya was banned for 48 hours.
There are many aspects of the review process that are are unclear like who reviews the content and what standards are employed. Facebook taken upon itself absolutely no accountability or transparency in it’s working.
While the internet has been credited for broadening discussion by bringing together people from diverse backgrounds from all over the world and facilitating information exchange, it can also serve as a means of bringing together fringe groups with intolerant viewpoints and narrow minded approach to contradictory views. Facebook is then used as tool to foster discrimination as even harmless content and pages can be banned if mass reported.
Facebook must reconsider it’s policies to facilitate the development of a vibrant society that engages in critical public debate.