Friday, March 25, 2016

Alleging Facebook censorship, Gujarat rights activist, top Delhi journalist point to temporary "ban" on posts

Screenshot on which Sinha commented
By Our Representative
Gujarat's young human rights activist and social media campaigner Pratik Sinha has said that Facebook has "banned" him again, this time for three days. Reason, according to him, is a comment on the screentshot of a tweet by well-known Narendra Modi-supporter and commentator Minhas Merchant.
Sinha's comment (March 23) had just said, “Why are Indian Muslims not giving us a chance to spit Venom like these ISIS people do? Because, basically they are Hindu. But send them to Pakistan. :P”, making him wonder what was objectionable in this.
The three-day "ban" on Sinha's timeline, https://www.facebook.com/freethinker, comes a day after one of the senior-most Indian journalists, Seema Mustafa, declared in a Facebook post (11.30 am, March 24), "Facebook has blocked The Citizen's lead story on the police crackdown on Hyderabad Central University, following which PhD scholar Uday Bhanu was admitted in ICU, asking her friends and supporters to widely spread Please share the following link widely."
Mustafa reported, "We are not being allowed to share the link, so please visit www.thecitizen.in for the full details on how the Hyderabad University administration cut off food, water, internet supplies; restricted entry into campus; and brought in the police who mercilessly beat up students. Please share the link to the story directly from our website."
Uday Bhanu
She said, "To fight instigated Facebook censorship please click on www.thecitizen.in. This will take you straight to the story that FB has been made to Block about the Hyderabad Central University being converted into a war zone, with students attacked, beaten, arrested, and one student admitted in ICU for trying to cook to feed the hungry students."
After waiting for almost 12 hours, the ban on Facebook page was removed, with Mustafa saying, "Thank you all for the support and for sharing the links that we had put out. We have just been told by our tech team that the post has now been restored by Facebook so clearly the loud complaints, and the fact that the news could not be suppressed, finally worked."
Referring to how  he was "banned" for a day a month ago, Sinha said, he had just posted was an info-graphic "which was actually an accurate depiction of history". In a report on his site,  www.truthofgujarat.com, Sinha says, "Can somebody tell me, how can the above post be against Facebook’s community standards? And if you think that was an exception, then check the next image for which I was banned by Facebook about a month ago."
The image on Sinha's Facebook timeline which led to the previous one-day ban
Suspecting that "some Modi followers didn’t like it and reported it", wonders Sinha, "How does Facebook decide that this is against their community standards? This is documented history. Yet, my post was removed and I was banned for a day."
Calling it a "tyrannical behaviour" not limited to "one person", Sinha adds, "Many in my friend circle have reported this problem again and again and again. Just yesterday, Facebook unpublished a parody account of Subramanian Swamy which was called 'Unofficial: Subramaniam Swamy' and used to operate at the URL 'https://www.facebook.com/sususwamy'."
Pointing out that the Facebook's parody account of Swamy "had over 180,000 followers", Sinha says, it was removed despite the fact that the image it had posted was of a Sufi Saint’s shrine in Deva Shareef, Uttar Pradesh, showing Muslims playing Holi.
Subramaniam Swamy parody
Facebook page banned
"This image was posted on the above page with a sarcastic comment which was along the lines of 'How can Muslims celebrate our festival'. This page in question deals with a lot of sarcasm with no intention of hurting anyone’s feelings. Yet Facebook found something objectionable in the post and not just deleted the post but unpublished the entire Facebook page", Sinha says.
"So, when Facebook says that it stands for Freedom of Expression (FOE), what sort of FOE are they referring to? If documented history is not FOE, if personal commentary on a post is not FOE, if sarcasm not intending to hurt anyone’s feelings is not FOE, then what exactly is Facebook’s definition of FOE?", asks Sinha.
"I sent them an email last time around and I never got a response. I have sent them one this time too and I don’t have much hope. While Facebook has made a great platform, they are making the life of its users miserable by their random censorship", Sinha comments, adding, "Since they are a growing platform, they may not feel the need to address the grievances of their users/customers but it would surely come back to bite them when the going is not good."

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