Facebook Draws Flak For Blocking Freedom of Expression Like Free-Kashmir

Free Kashmir – Posts like these may be blocked by Facebook. Social networking giant Facebook has asked its moderators to look out for phrases like “Free Kashmir” on its platform “urging moderators to apply extra scrutiny” on provocative posts.

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This was revealed by a New York Times report “Inside Facebook’s Secret Rulebook for Global Political Speech” on Friday, explaining how social media giant Facebook monitors content and filters it by giving “guidelines” that “consist of dozens of unorganized PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets.”

The report, while giving details of content moderation in many parts of the world, reveals that a guideline slide says that “Indian law prohibits calls for an independent Kashmir” and “instructs moderators to “look out for” the phrase “Free Kashmir.”

Facebook says it is simply urging moderators to apply extra scrutiny to posts that use the phrase, the report quotes. “Still, even this could chill activism in Kashmir. And it is not clear that the distinction will be obvious to moderators, who are warned that ignoring violations could get Facebook blocked in India.”

The NYT report also shows a diagram, saying Facebook’s rules for India and Pakistan both include this diagram “explaining that the company removes some content to avoid the risk of legal challenge or being blocked by governments.”

As per the report, Facebook’s one document “sets out several rules just to determine when a word like “martyr” or “jihad” indicates pro-terrorism speech.” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, is quoted saying that the primary goal was to prevent harm, and that to a great extent, the company had been successful. But perfection, she said, is not possible.

“We have billions of posts every day, we’re identifying more and more potential violations using our technical systems,” Ms. Bickert is quoted in the report. “At that scale, even if you’re 99 percent accurate, you’re going to have a lot of mistakes.”

Academics, journalists and the pages of local newspapers are among those who have had photos, videos and entire accounts deleted by Facebook after they posted about recent events about Kashmir.

Facebook Under Pressure?

Social media companies such as Facebook are under increasing pressure to limit the spread of extremist propaganda – but have also faced criticism that they have gone too far. Rizwan Sajid, whose account was blocked after he changed his profile picture to an image of Burhan Wani, said Facebook’s actions amounted to Islamophobia. “Why is it that only Muslims get blocked? Facebook is being one-sided by supporting the atrocities committed by the Indian army. Other people can say whatever they want, but if Muslims say something, we get blocked. It is not neutral.”

When Dar wrote to Facebook about her account being deleted, she got a response saying that her posts had “violated community standards. The email did not mention which post specifically had led to the deletion of her account but said, “One of our main priorities is the comfort and safety of the people who use Facebook, and we don’t allow credible threats to harm others, support for violent organizations or exceedingly graphic content on Facebook.”

“I am very careful about what I post,” says Dar, who often writes about various issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement or the war in Gaza. “The biggest irony is that I get death threats, I get people saying they’ll come and rape me and my mother. None of those people, even when I complain to Facebook, have ever been censored.”

Dar says she’s outraged by Facebook’s decision. “I use it a lot, I post articles and papers for my students, and I run working groups for my research. Now my students and the people who use those resources can’t access any of that. I have poems that I wrote and I have long messages from friends who have now died – those correspondences are gone forever and they were very precious to me.”

In a statement, Facebook said: “There is no place on Facebook for content that praises or supports terrorists, terrorists organisations or terrorism. We welcome discussion on these subjects but any terrorist content has to be clearly put in a context which condemns these organisations and or their violent activities. Therefore, profiles and content supporting or praising Hizbul Mujahideen and Burhan Wani are removed as soon as they are reported to us. In this instance, some content was removed in error, but this has now been restored.”

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