Facebook has become the dominant force in the distribution of news in the United States, making it powerful beyond the dreams of Edward Bernays. If Facebook determines that a source of news is to be shunned, the results can be catastrophic, effectively silencing the voice involved just as surely as cutting off the loudspeakers at a large rally would silence a speaker. That makes dispatch from The Gulf Today, which seems to have been ignored by our media, very disturbing:
ISLAMABAD: The Facebook management has assured Pakistan that it will remove fake accounts and explicit, hateful and provocative material that incites violence and terrorism.
The commitment was given by Vice President of Facebook Joel Kaplan who called on Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Saturday. (snip)
The interior minister, the spokesperson said, has been playing a proactive role in engaging the internet service providers and finding solution to the issue of misuse of social media.
This also included convening of a special meeting of the ambassadors of the Muslim countries in March on a single-point agenda to discuss blasphemous content on social media and how to effectively raise voice of the entire Muslim world against the madness unleashed against Islam and holy personalities in the name of freedom of expression.
“Blasphemous content” means anything remotely critical or questioning of Islam, Mohammed, or any of its doctrines. Sharia forbids it on penalty of death. Even among Muslims, accusations can fly of blasphemy for even implyhing something negative, and the holier-than-thou crowd can always resort to violence because holy violence is sanctified in Isalm. “Turn the other cheek” plays no role at all in Shaira-compliant zones:
“Nothing is more sacred to us than our religion and our holy personalities,” the minister observed.
He said that the government of Pakistan firmly believes in freedom of expression but cannot allow anyone to misuse social media for hurting religious sentiments or undertaking unlawful activities.
Nisar said that Pakistan appreciates the understanding shown by the Facebook administration and the cooperation being extended on these issues.
These sahria-compliant policies are not new at Facebook, and they have already taken a toll on freedom of speech. As Pamela Geller knows all too well:
My feed is blocked from my millions of followers on Facebook, and I have seen my circulation drop precipitously in the past three months. For news publishers, Facebook is the motherboard of link traffic. No news site can survive without them. None of us are immune, which is why my traffic is down upwards of 70% since the block. My Facebook page has a million followers; add my organizations to that, and it is roughly 1.5 million people. Now imagine their sharing capability, and their friends and their friends — you get the picture. It’s how we fight fake news. All of my FB followers experience similar issues with their posts and shares. I receive scores of emails everyday from readers telling me of new blocks, bans and Facebook jail sentences. It’s why I am suing.
Why the block? Because under Islamic law, you cannot criticize Islam. Facebook adhering to the most extreme and brutal ideology on the face of the earth should trouble all of us, because Mark Zuckerberg has immense power. He controls the flow of information. He controls what you see and don’t see on Facebook. We did not give him the power to abridge our unalienable freedoms.
Pamela believes that the Sherman Antitrust Act ought to be used to break up Facebook. But because social networks require the broadest possible extent, I am not sure that breakup would work. The resulting half-networks would be crippled. How would users be allocated to one or another of the new networks resulting from the breakup, for instance? People would reconfigure their memberships anyway.
I would much prefer legislation that would require social media to censor only direct threats, making it illegal to delete content on any other basis. That threat is necessary to counter the pressure Facebook obviously faces from Muslim governments like Pakistan’s. Losing a billion-plus-strong market like the 57 Muslim countries is obviously undesirable for Facebook, so its management is responding to pressure.
The value of that market would have to be balanced against the value of markets like the United States that could stand up for free speech. By seeming to cave in to the demand that Isalm be the only subject that cannot be discussed openly and honestly, anywhere in the world, Facebook is in the process of handing the first global triumph of sharia, enforcing its ban on blasphemy.