Facebook clarifies its stand on the blocking of activist's account

Facebook made its stand clear in the case of the alleged ban of an activists account with regards to the protests in Kashmir

Social media has become a sort of go-to point for us to express ourselves in times of joy as well as in times of uncertainty. Facebook, with its billion-plus users, is a platform that is used by many individuals to stay in touch with family and friends, participate in discussions around news or hobbies and interests, shine a light on issues bothering the society and so on. A lot of events happening in India see a lot of discussion on Facebook – which can sometimes lead to a lot of invigorating debates.

In the on-going issue surrounding the death of Burhan Wani and its after effects, which has left 23 people dead, Facebook and Twitter are yet again emerging as important platforms. Not just for those affected by the curfews happening in the Valley, but also for those who want to show their solidarity with the issue at hand. Huma Dar, an academic associated with the University of California, Berkeley and a pro-Kashmir activist had her account allegedly banned by Facebook. She put out a Tweet mentioning it and this issue became quite talked about the Indian social media circles – specially for those following this news.

Facebook's response

We reached out to Facebook to get an answer about the alleged ban of Dar’s account. A spokesperson associated with Facebook told tech2, “Our Community Standards prohibit content that praises or supports terrorists, terrorist organisations or terrorism, and we remove it as soon as we’re made aware of it. We welcome discussion on these subjects but any terrorist content has to be clearly put in a context which condemns these organisations or their violent activities.”

According to Facebook’s Community Standards, users can report offensive content to Facebook via a Report tool, which is then reviewed by Facebook’s internal team which takes a call based on whether something is in violation of the standards. In this particular case, we are assuming either Facebook has got too many complaints with regards to statuses updated by Dar or some of her statements have been in violation of the Community Standards. However, just high number of reports about a status is not the only parameter to block a user account or pull down a status or a photo say Facebook’s standards.

We have reached out to Dar for further clarification on the matter, with regards to the alleged blocking of her account. We will update the story accordingly.

But under Facebook’s Community Standards, there’s also a line that says, “Governments also sometimes ask us to remove content that violates local laws, but does not violate our Community Standards. If after careful legal review, we find that the content is illegal under local law, then we may make it unavailable only in the relevant country or territory.”

Violation of terms
Every social media site – be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – has its own way of ensuring a semblance of checks and balances to prevent abuse. The most common way of getting things blocked / banned or removed, is via user reporting or flagging of social media updates which can be offensive or too graphic or so on. There have been popular personalities who have been banned from social media sites, because of such technicalities. For instance, renowned author Salman Rushdie was banned from Facebook, because he was using Salman (which happens to be his middle name, a name he is known by) rather than using Ahmed (which happens to be his first name).

Facebook does give users whose accounts have been blocked, the option to learn why it has been blocked with fb.me/disabled and in a lot of cases users whose accounts have been blocked have been able to restore them. The exact reason of blocking or banning of an account on Facebook may or may not be given. According to this experience on The Next Web, you may not get to know the specific reason behind the ban. This is a bit extreme.

With regards to Dar’s account blockage, the Facebook spokesperson also pointed to a clause in the Community Standards around terrorism: “We don’t allow any organisations that are engaged in the following to have a presence on Facebook: Terrorist activity, or Organised criminal activity. We also remove content that expresses support for groups that are involved in the violent or criminal behavior mentioned above. Supporting or praising leaders of those same organisations, or condoning their violent activities, is not allowed. We welcome broad discussion and social commentary on these general subjects, but ask that people show sensitivity towards victims of violence and discrimination.”

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