(For an update to this story, click here.)
Recently my Facebook profile, on which I was connected to around 5000 people, was closed down by Facebook. This has had some impact on my ability to do my job as a researcher and journalist, though I have since managed to repair much of the damage. However, the process by which the profile was destroyed is interesting and may be informative regarding the practices of Facebook with regard to the issue of freedom of expression on the site.
The last posting which I made on my profile before it was one which was slightly unusual in tone. I said that I considered that the wave of terror attacks in Germany and France indicated that a ‘low level Islamist insurgency’ was now taking place in those countries. A few hours after placing this posting, my account was ‘disabled.’
I wrote to the appropriate Facebook address asking for clarification on this. A few days later, on July 29, I received an email from someone called ‘Justin’ saying:
’We have reviewed your account, and have determined that it is contrary to the Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities of Facebook. Due to the violation of these terms, we have permanently deleted your account.
One of the main priorities of Facebook is the safety of Facebook users. Credible threats to harm others, support for violent organizations or extreme graphic content are not allowed on Facebook.’
I am placing this post here so that readers will be aware of the apparent parameters of free speech at Facebook.
I have never expressed support for ‘violent organizations’ on my page, other than support for the armed forces of the state of which I am a citizen, Israel, and perhaps also a general support for the Kurdish-led, western-backed forces fighting the Sunni jihadis of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Facebook apparently considers that support for either of these, or expressing the view that a still relatively small-scale Islamist insurgency is taking place in Europe, constitutes a threat to the ‘safety of Facebook users.’ This is, I think, a point of some significance.
In any case, I want also to hereby apologize to any contacts who thought I had for some reason or another removed or blocked them. This was not the case and I invite them to connect to my re-constituted page. Regarding the broader implications of all this, it is a matter of grave concern that a private company that to a great extent now controls the ‘means of representation’ on the Internet is apparently practicing a form of censorship, ensuring that certain views cannot be expressed in what has become a vital forum for the public conversation.