On Friday January 9, 2014, Mark Zuckerberg shared a post on his Facebook page in which he vowed to protect the freedom of speech of all Facebook users. In the post, Zuckerberg also shared his own experience with terrorism and extremism in Pakistan.
The CEO of the largest social network in the world believes that Facebook has always been a place for people to freely share their views and ideas. He argued that Facebook does not let one country’s rules and norms dictate what people from other country should post and not post to their accounts.
In 2010, Facebook was banned from Pakistan during a controversy over a page that encouraged people to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. One Pakistani lawyer even went as far to suggest the death penalty for Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg quoted, “I’m committed to building a service where you can speak freely without fear of violence.” He ended his status message with hashtag #JeSuisCharlie.
Social Media critics were quick to respond to Mark Zuckerberg with skepticism. They argue that the latest blocks in Pakistan affected pages that criticized extremism and terrorism, while several extremist pages were left unblocked.
In the past, the company has stated that it regularly removes pages that promote hate or extremism. According to a report published on its website, Facebook restricted access to 162 pieces of content in Pakistan between July and December 2013. In India, it also restricted access to more than 4,700 pages during the same period.
To these criticisms, Facebook said that they make every effort possible to resist censorship, but their efforts are limited in countries like Pakistan where the government imposes constraints with little room for rebuttal.
The attack on Charlie Hebdo was a terrible tragedy and a strike at the heart of freedom of speech. But this isn’t the first blow that freedom of speech took in a matter of two months. On November 24, 2014, an image of a stylized skull with long skeletal fingers flashed on every Sony employee’s computer screens at the same time. The image was accompanied by a threatening message, warning “This is just the beginning.” The attack was in response to proposed release of the “The Interview”, a movie that depicted the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. On January 5, 2015, Dalhousie University suspended 13 dentistry students over Facebook misconduct.
We can’t allow others to dictate what and how we should do things. We should stand up for what we believe in as long as it does not impede on the rights and freedoms of others. That means standing up and saying that we will not be cowed and will not be silenced. We will not stop asking, questioning and criticizing everything around us. It is our universal human right to do so. But it is not a right that we have come by easily or hold easily today. Its weakness and frailty has been uncovered – and so have we.
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