Facebook facing heavy criticism after removing major atheist pages
Written by: Ayman El Kaissi
In the middle of April, Facebook removed more than six Arabic-speaking atheist pages due to “violations” of Community Standards. This is not the first time that Facebook has censored atheists and freethinkers in the MENA region. In response, the Atheist Alliance – Middle-East and North Africa
(AA-MENA) has decided to speak out, demanding that Facebook change the way it addresses violation reports, so as to preserve members’ freedom of speech.
In February 2016, ten of the largest Arabic-speaking atheist groups, with a total of about 100,000 members, have been deactivated for the same reason: heavy reporting campaigns that are organized by “cyber jihadist” fundamentalist Islamic groups, especially for the removal of any anti-Islamic group or page. In such coordinated campaigns, very large numbers of people, and possibly automated scripts, simultaneously file reports falsely claiming that a page, group, or personal account has violated Community Standards.
Representatives of AA-MENA petitioned
Mark Zuckerberg demanding that Facebook reactivate the removed groups. The petition was shared on most major atheist groups in the Arab world, the US, and the UK, and it has been supported by many prominent social media activism organizations such as Atheist Alliance International
and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
AA-MENA has adopted #FacebookVSFreeSpeech
as the hashtag of its Facebook event, Atheism: Campaigning to regain the right to free speech within Facebook Pages. The campaign’s goal is to rally atheists and freethinkers of the MENA region and to attract the attention of relevant nongovernmental organizations and irreligious social media activists to their cause.