Facebook, which is one of the widely preferred social networks by many Turkish internet users, threatens freedom of expression via its content review policies. The censorship applied by Facebook has been reflected onto in media in several news pieces and interviews, and came to be debated in public.
The censorship practices such as closing down of pages or profiles, content removal, which has become a regular news that we come across on a daily basis, when piled together exposes the graveness of the situation. Especially closing down/suspension of political communities, or removal or deletion of content due to various reasons is scary for freedom of expression.
Pages of solidarity with workers’ strikes, of Ötekilerin Postasi –an alternative media platform with tens of thousands of followers, of Kurdish groups, of BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) which is a legal political party and is represented in the parliament, are getting closed down for unacceptable reasons.
Facebook closes down these pages for reasons of “harming the trend mark, infringement of copyright, pornographic content, propaganda of terror and violence”. Yet, these are quite controversial reasons, established within the current political atmosphere, far from objectivity, and in compliance with the motives of the ruling mentality. Almost all of these reasons stand for substantially different meanings in various parts of the world. They even differ in meaning in the same geography but in different time zones. The meaning of “terror” is quite wide in Turkey. We have witnessed countless number of trials being included and excluded in this definition, in our recent history.
It is unacceptable that an online social network with global population to be under control far away from objectivity.
Moreover, a control mechanism starting off from these reasons, applies double standards. Pages of the Ruling [AK] Party is overflown with propaganda material of Al Qaeda or of its related groups. Countless number of pages filled with hate speech and incitement to hate crime against almost all marginalized groups globally, have sustained their existence on Facebook. In Turkey, hate speech against Kurds, Alewites, Armenians, LGBT individuals, conscientious objectors, football fans, and many other fractions in society are being uttered openly, and from time to time –like we have witnessed recently- turn into crimes such as murder or collective lynching. Facebook’s focus not on these but on the initial ones we have counted, using the control criteria generally and primarily against the initial ones is proof that these criteria are subjective and have double standards. From our statement, it should not be understood that we are suggesting also closing down of these pages to be a solution. Censorship or prohibition in no circumstances is a solution.
Social networks like Facebook should be governed not by the fears of the rulers but by the priorities of the citizens’ basic rights and liberties. Because Facebook has come into existence thanks to its users and thusly sustains its existence. Priorities of the citizens must be Facebook’s priorities as well.
We hereby condemn the censorship policies the Facebook management has been applying. We invite Facebook to display a neutral management, leave its attitudes siding with the governments, and be respectful to basic rights of the citizens such as freedom of expression and privacy.
Facebook is a business enterprise which has shares in stock exchanges. Its whole wealth is a result of our sharing on Facebook.
We invite citizens to be conscious against Facebook’s policies, to react against censorship cases that they face and share this with institutions and persons whom they regard as responsible –primarily our foundation, and also to support and join the reactionary actions that we will initiate regarding the issue.
Let’s claim our internet, expanding freedom of expression and right to assembly. Let’s diversify our digital life space in the internet. Let’s not allow commercial monopolies like Facebook to narrow both internet and our user practices.
Alternative Informatics Association