Censorship

Facebook ‘apologises’ for role in violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka as Kashmir censor continues

After an investigation found that the platform was used to organise attacks against Muslims in Sri Lanka, Facebook has ‘apologised’ for its role in the deadly violence that broke out in the country in 2018.

Many Muslims were killed, while businesses were set on fire by Sinhalese-Buddhist mobs, after hate speech and fake news on the platform was used to whip up anger against the community.

The tech giant commissioned a probe into the part it may have played, and investigators said incendiary content on Facebook may have led to violence against Muslims.

“We deplore the misuse of our platform,” Facebook said in a statement to Bloomberg News. “We recognise, and apologise for, the very real human rights impacts that resulted.”

However, in similar instances of violence in India, no such thing has developed so far.

A documentary series by ‘Channel 4 Dispatches’ has revealed that moderators at Facebook are protecting far-right activists by preventing their pages from getting deleted even after they violate the rules set up by the social media giant.

Over the past few years, the social media giant headed by Mark Zuckerberg has been embroiled in controversies ranging from censoring posts and user accounts in 2016, for poorly handling user account information by being susceptible to breaches or letting third parties use such information as tools for analysing voter tendencies.

In Kashmir, people and organisations have been heavily censored.

ALSO READ: Google and Facebook censoring Kashmir? Leaked document ‘good censor’ might have clues

In July 2017, Kashmir Ink, which is a sister publication of the leading Kashmiri newspaper Greater KashmirFacebook blocked its page when it did a cover story ‘Kashmir: A year after Burhan’s death’, on the anniversary of the killing of Kashmiri militant leader Burhan Wani.

Facebook had come under heavy criticism after it censored content related to Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who was killed on July 8, 2016.

Facebook later came out with a statement saying, “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.”

In a similar incident, in October 2018, Facebook removed online Kashmir-based magazine, Wande Magazine’s page from its portal for ‘going against community standards’.

Similarly, Facebook took down news portal Kashmir Walla’s video featuring scholar-turned-militant Mannan Wani’s father’s voice in the background.

Apart from organisations, including journalistic platforms, individuals including journalists and academic voices have been silenced too.

ALSO READ: Activist Marry Scully censored by Facebook for ‘linking Kashmiri and Palestinian struggles’

In 2016, the Washington Post had reported that the account of Arif Ayaz Parrey, an editor with an environmental magazine in New Delhi, was disabled for more than a day. Parray administered the Facebook account of a discussion group called the Kashmir Solidarity Network, the page was also removed.

In the same year, Professor Dibyesh Anand of London’s Westminster University had said his posts about the actions of Indian armed forces, which have drawn criticism for their heavy-handed tactics, were removed more than twice.

Activist Mary Scully was censored in 2016. Scully had told The Daily Mail that her posts were also removed on more than one occasion, citing ‘community standards’. She and Anand along with others had started a petition urging Facebook to investigate.

But Facebook is not alone in this.

The briefing titled the ‘Good Censor’, admitted that Google and other tech platforms now “control the majority of online conversations” and have undertaken a “shift towards censorship” in response to unwelcome political events around the world.

As per the leaked report, “one such conflict zone which braves this online control is Indian Administered Kashmir”.

 

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