A look at the online war being waged against Arab secularist and atheist Facebook groups
One of the only platforms Arab secularists and atheists have to discuss their views is not always available for them, due to mass reporting. (Shutterstock)
A petition kicked off online this weekend demanding Facebook stops deleting Arab atheist and secularist pages and groups. In three days, it reached over 7,200 signatures, but the situation may not be as simple to remedy as the petitioners think.
The petition claims that mass-reporting campaigns by Islamist groups are causing important Facebook groups and pages to be deleted.
“This week only, 9 of the biggest facebook groups of atheists and secular Arabs were closed after a fake reports campaign led by Islamist groups that counts hundreds of thousands of Islamists to close the only window we breathe through,” it states.
“We as secular and Arab atheists , are asking the facebook administration to change it's policy, and to reverse it's decision of closing our pages and groupes.” (sic)
The policy the petitioners are referring to is Facebook’s closure—temporarily or permanently—of a page, group or profile which is reported for violation of the social network’s community standards. Not every report leads to a banning, however mass reporting apparently does cause the targeted page or group to be taken offline until further review.
This is a challenge Facebook has been tackling for quite some time now: How to moderate the vast quantity of content posted to the website, while allowing for free speech and open discussion.
The mass reporting apparently comes from “Islamist” Facebook groups with thousands of followers who either report the atheist/secularist pages for hate speech, or infiltrate the groups and post unacceptable content, which is then grounds for banning.
The petition causing a change in Facebook’s policy is perhaps unlikely, but the issue does bring to light the power of the masses online to silence opinions they do not approve of, even on a relatively “free” space such as Facebook.