Censorship of Facebook

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Many countries have banned or temporarily limited access to the social networking website Facebook, including Bangladesh,[1] China (except Hong Kong, Macau),[2] Iran,[3] and North Korea.[4] Use of the website has also been restricted in other ways in other countries. As of May 2016, the only countries to ban access around the clock to the social networking site are China, Iran, and North Korea. However, since the vast majority of North Korean residents do not have access to the internet,[citation needed] China and Iran are the only countries where access to Facebook is actively restricted in a wholesale manner.

Censorship by country[edit]

Austria[edit]

Like France and Germany, Austria has laws prohibiting holocaust denial. This caused 78 Facebook posts to be banned from the country in 2013.[5]

Bangladesh[edit]

Bangladesh (like Iran, China and North Korea) had banned Facebook before - the Bangladeshi ban operated for a short period of time[when?]. The Awami League-led government of Bangladesh announced a countrywide ban on Facebook and other social-network websites. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (in office from 2009) proposed the establishment of an Internet monitoring committee with the help of Bangladesh's intelligence services. Right-wing political parties and groups in Bangladesh protested against bloggers and others they had considered "blasphemous" at the time of the proposal. Extremists in the country had murdered eight secularists, including atheist blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider, who was fatally stabbed in February 2013. National riots over the country's war-crimes trials resulted in the deaths of 56 people between 19 January 2013 and 2 March 2013.

On 18 November 2015 the same Awami League government banned Facebook again on the eve of the final judgement of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid and Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader Salauddin Kader Chowdhury. Both the politicians and previous minister have been issued a death sentence by the War Criminals Tribunal and the review board of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh has finally given their judgement in favour of the previously given one.

The Bangladesh government lifted the ban on 20 December 2015. Facebook is accessible in Bangladesh as of late 2017.

China[edit]

In China, Facebook was blocked following the July 2009 Ürümqi riots because Xinjiang independence activists were using Facebook as part of their communications network.[6] Some Chinese users also believed that Facebook would not succeed in China after Google China's problems.[7] Renren (formerly Xiaonei) has many features similar to Facebook, and complies with PRC Government regulations regarding content filtering.

As of 20 August 2013, there have been reports of Facebook being partially unblocked in China.[8] However, according to the "Blocked in China" website, Facebook is still blocked.[9] Facebook is not blocked in Hong Kong and Macau. Facebook is currently working on a censorship project for China, where a third party would be allowed to regulate on Facebook and control popular stories that come around. This would be a huge attempt on Facebook to get back into China.[10]

Egypt[edit]

Facebook was blocked for a few days in Egypt during the 2011 Egyptian protests.[11]

France[edit]

In France, holocaust denial is illegal. Because of this, a reported 80 Facebook posts were blocked from the French people in 2013.[5]

Germany[edit]

In July 2011, authorities in Germany began to discuss the prohibition of events organized on Facebook. The decision is based on numerous cases of overcrowding by people who were not originally invited.[12] In one instance, 1,600 "guests" attended the 16th birthday party for a Hamburg girl who accidentally posted the invitation for the event as public. After reports of overcrowding, more than a hundred police were deployed for crowd control. A police officer was injured and eleven participants were arrested for assault, property damage and resistance to authorities.[13] In another unexpectedly overcrowded event, 41 young people were arrested and at least 16 injured.[14]

In 2013, Facebook revealed Germany had blocked 84 posts from its citizens. These posts contained themes of Holocaust denial, which is illegal there.[5]

In 2015, during the European migrant crisis with large numbers of immigrants entering the country unregulated, a broad discussion about the problems of mass immigration and politics of the actual government took place in social media. Early in 2016, a Bertelsmann company called "Arvato" was mandated to erase comments and contents from Facebook.[15] In the summer of 2016, police in fourteen German states began coordinated raids on the residences of individuals who praised the Nazi regime or referred to refugees as "scum" in a private Facebook group.[16] A law known as NetzDG went into effect starting in 2018 which mandates all websites in Germany, including Facebook, censor such illegal content.[17] A spokesperson for Facebook announced the company's opposition to the law on the grounds that it would lead to overblocking.[18]

India[edit]

The first time Facebook shared how often it allows governments to censor their citizens' content, they stated India had censored 4,765 posts in their country in the last six months of 2013. Facebook removed these posts in India under the government's claim of unlawful blasphemy of the state.[5]

India posed three day ban on Facebook and other social sites during the riots in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh regarding Baba Ram Rahim Sing.[19] Censorship on Facebook increases 19% in 6 months in 2014; India leads the list of content removal.[20]

The Indian government also imposed a six-month ban on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites in Kashmir Valley in 2016-17, due to public safety because the Indian government believed social media were being misused by anti-national and anti-social elements backed by Pakistan Army and Pakistan intelligence agencies including Inter-Services Intelligence. The ban was also placed to cut communication between the terrorists, who were countering the efforts made by the Indian Army.

Iran[edit]

After the 2009 election in Iran, the website was banned because of fears that opposition movements were being organized on the website.[3] However, after four years of the blocking of Facebook website, as of September 2013, the blocking of both Twitter and Facebook was thought to have been lifted without notice.[21] Iranians lost unrestricted access to Facebook and Twitter the next day, leaving many people wondering whether the opening was deliberate or the result of some technical glitch.[22]

Israel[edit]

In September 2016, the Cabinet of Israel has said to have agreed with Facebook to remove content that is deemed as incitement.[23][24][25] Israel bragged that Facebook had removed 95 percent of its requested content.[26] This announcement came after top Facebook officials met with the Israeli government to determine which Facebook accounts should be deleted on the grounds that they constituted as incitement. The Israeli interior minister's office has said that they agreed with Facebook representatives to create teams that would figure out how best to monitor and remove "inflammatory content" online. Critics of Israels policies are not happy with this move as they claim this is being used as a way to silence outspoken Palestinian civilians, activists and journalists. The activists argue that when they post material meant to critique alleged occupation, Israel sees it as encouraging violence.[27] Some believe Israeli government and Facebook have an "informal arrangement" for monitoring Facebook content.[26]

North Korea[edit]

In April 2016, North Korea started blocking Facebook, "a move underscoring its concern with the spread of online information," according to The Associated Press. Anyone who tries to access it, even with special permission from the North Korean government, will be subject to punishment.[4]

Malaysia[edit]

Facebook was blocked for a few days in Malaysia during the 2011 Egyptian protests.[11]

Mauritius[edit]

The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) of Mauritius, ordered internet service providers of the country to ban Facebook on immediate effect, on the 8 November 2007 because of a fake profile page of the Prime Minister. Access to Facebook was restored on the next day.[28][29][30]

Morocco[edit]

On February 5, 2008, Fouad Mourtada, a citizen of Morocco, was arrested for 43 days due to the alleged creation of a faked Facebook profile of Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco.[31][32]

Pakistan[edit]

On May 19, 2010, Lahore High Court ordered Facebook to be blocked. Facebook was blocked until May 31 after a competition page encouraged users to post drawings of Muhammad. The controversial page named “Draw Muhammad Day” had been created by a Facebook user in response to American cartoonist Molly Noris’s protest to the decision of US television channel, Comedy Central to cancel an episode of the popular show “South Park” over its depiction of Mohammed. Noris had however disavowed having declared May 20 “Draw Muhammad Day” and had condemned the effort and issued an apology. The ban, implemented by the PTA, also resulted in a ban on YouTube and restricted access to other websites, including Wikipedia.[citation needed]

On 25 November 2017, the NetBlocks internet shutdown observatory and Digital Rights Foundation collected evidence of nationwide blocking of Facebook alongside other social media services, imposed by the government in response to the violent Tehreek-e-Labaik protests.[33][34][35] The technical investigation found that all major Pakistani fixed-line and mobile service providers were affected by the restrictions, which were lifted by the PTA the next day when protests abated following the resignation of Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid.[36] Other websites including Twitter, YouTube and Dailymotion were also reportedly blocked by order of the PTA.[37]

Palestine[edit]

In March 2018, Facebook deleted the account of the SAFA Palestine Press Agency which had 1.3 million followers on the site. They had unconsciously helped popularize a campaign for extreme violence in Myanmar and received no notice before their account was deleted. Some believe this added to tensions to the March 30th "March of the Great Return" protest.[26]

Russia[edit]

In 2014, Russia demanded that all links on Facebook be blocked that supported Russian opposition Aleksei A. Navalny. Facebook users were blocked from any protest supporting Aleksei.[38] This included about ten million Facebook users.[39]

Sri Lanka[edit]

In March 2018, Facebook was blocked for 3 days in Sri Lanka due to racial hate speeches being rumored around the country via the social media which caused many riots in the country by extremist groups. However this decision was not permanent.[40][41]

On April 21, 2019, Facebook was blocked along with other social media sites until April 30, 2019 in Sri Lanka to prevent the false information about Easter Sunday bombings spreading around the country via the social media.[42][43]

On May 5, 2019, the Sri Lankan government has reimposed a ban on social media platforms in an effort to stop the spread of rumours after violence erupted between groups of civilians in Negombo, north of the capital and site of one of the Easter Sunday bombings.[44] The ban was lifted on May 6, 2019.[45]

On May 13, 2019, the Sri Lankan government temporarily banned social media including Facebook. This measure has been taken owing to the false propaganda carried out by the social media and the unrest which had occurred in several areas.[46] The ban was lifted on May 17, 2019.[47]

Sudan[edit]

In December 2018, the Sudanese government blocked Facebook, along with other social media sites, which were being used by anti-government protesters to organize protests against President Omar al-Bashir.[48][49][50] The restrictions were lifted 68 days later following the introduction of emergency measures outlawing public demonstrations.[48][51]

Syria[edit]

The Syrian government explained their ban by claiming the website promoted attacks on authorities.[52][53] The government also feared Israeli infiltration of Syrian social networks on Facebook.[52] Facebook was also used by Syrian citizens to criticize the government of Syria, as public criticism of the Syrian government used to be punishable by imprisonment.[52] In February 2011, Facebook was un-blocked from all ISP's and the website remains to be accessible.[54]

Tajikistan[edit]

In November 2012, Tajikistan blocked access to Facebook in response to comments posted online, spreading “mud and slander” about President Emomalii Rahmon and various other officials.[55]

Thailand[edit]

In 2017, Thailand asked Facebook to remove 309 posted items that were said to be illegal by standards of Thailand. However, Facebook only deleted 178 of the items, leaving 131 still on Facebook. Thai authorities stated if they found any illegal content in the remaining 131 posts they would ban all 14.8 million users from Facebook, instead of taking legal action. All posts ended up being removed from Facebook, preventing the shutdown of Facebook in Thailand.[56]

Turkey[edit]

After photos of Mehmet Selim Kiraz being held at gun point by two Marxist militants began circulation on social media on April 6, 2015, the Turkish government banned Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and 166 other websites in the country for hours. The government does not tolerate "anti-government propaganda," and their laws are becoming increasingly more strict. In the 2015 Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders, Turkey ranked 149 of 180 countries.[57]

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom on April 28, 2011, the day before the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, a number of politically motivated Facebook groups and pages were removed or suspended from the website as part of a nationwide crackdown on political activity. The groups and pages were mostly concerned with opposition to government spending cuts, and many were used to organize demonstrations in a continuation of the 2010 UK student protests.[58][59][60] The censorship of the pages coincided with a series of pre-emptive arrests of known activists.[61] Amongst the arrestees were a communist and socialist, and a few members of a street theater group planning an effigy beheading performance in opposition to the monarchy.[62]

A Facebook spokesman said the pages were disabled as part of a routine sweep because they were created with fake personal profiles, a violation of the company’s term of service. In this case a number of the Facebook personal profile pages represented causes, rather than real people. Facebook "offered to help convert the profiles to pages that are designed to represent companies, groups or causes."[60] The spokesman went on to say that "the Met Police did not ask Facebook to take down this content."[59]

In March 2018, far-right Britain First was removed by Facebook. The pages of the leaders of the party were also taken down following their arrest and incarceration.

Vietnam[edit]

Facebook was blocked in Vietnam for two weeks in May 2016 due to protest of dissidents.[63]

Vietnam Facebook users total about 52 million and is a vital tool for their day to day use. However, the government is not accountable to the people which causes abuse of censorship in Vietnam.[64] In 2018, the government created a huge military unit to block posts containing "wrong views" online. To appease the government, Facebook removed 160 "toxic" accounts for speech against the Communist Party in 2017.[65]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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