The answer, according to Muhammad Syed, above, President of the Ex-Muslims of North America, is that Islamic fundamentalists are systematically attacking Facebook pages they do not like.
Syed, according to this report, took to Twitter earlier this week to report that the Facebook pages of Ex-Muslims of North America and Atheist Republic were restricted and then shut down for violating Facebook’s “community standards”.
No details were given as to what standards were violated. However on Tuesday, after appealing the case, both groups were able to regain full access to their pages.
Syed accuses Facebook of not doing enough to protect:
Groups vulnerable to malicious attacks.
In an open letter to Facebook Syed pressures the social media company to take measures to improve its reporting mechanisms and to protect ex-Muslim groups.
Ironically, the same social media which empowers religious minorities is susceptible to abuse by religious fundamentalists to enforce what are essentially the equivalent of online blasphemy laws.
A simple English language search reveals hundreds of public groups and pages on Facebook explicitly dedicated to this purpose – giving their members easy-to-follow instructions on how to report public groups and infiltrate private ones.
Patheos reports that Atheist Republic, the world’s largest Facebook page for atheists which has more than 1.6 million users, has been repeatedly unpublished by Facebook as brigades of religious extremists, often devout Muslims, abuse Facebook’s reporting algorithms to censor any criticism of Islam.
In fact, there are multiple Facebook groups dedicated to “Report Anti-Islamic Pages,” groups that target and try to take down atheist pages in general, and atheist pages for ex-Muslims in particular.
These anti-atheist, social media warriors, use Facebook reporting tools to try and censor atheists and other freethinkers. Under Facebook’s “community guidelines,” if enough people flag a page as being harmful or promoting violence or containing illegal content, the page is automatically removed, and those responsible for the post are punished.
Thus, even though a page may not be promoting violence or other illegal content that violates Facebook’s terms of service, if enough dishonest people make false reports, Facebook’s algorithms kick in and page administrators are banned for a certain amount of time from publishing content (24 hours up to 30 days).
In the most extreme instances, the page itself is automatically unpublished and disappears from view.
Conatus News reports that according to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, other atheist groups or pages shut down by the world’s most powerful social network in the course of a month include:
• Arab Atheist Network (23,500 members)
• Arab Atheist Forum and Network (9,200 members)
• Radical Atheists without Borders (23,500 members)
• Arab Atheist Syndicate (11,000 members)
• Arab Atheist Syndicate, backup (5,000 members)
• Humanitarian Non-Religious (32,000 members)
• Human Atheists (11,000 members)
• Arab Atheists Forum and Network (6,400 members)
• Mind and Discussion (6,500 members)
To prevent religious extremists from censoring atheists and secularists.
The petition asks in part:
Facebook should create a whitelist for Facebook Groups and Facebook Pages which are determined as vulnerable to malicious attacks. Reports and flags aimed at them should not be handled by automated mechanisms but reviewed and given due consideration by a trained Facebook employee.
In addition to the petition, a letter signed by dozens of atheists/secularist/humanist organisations asks Facebook:
To prevent religious extremists from censoring atheists and secularists. The letter reads in part:
Due to abuse of Facebook’s reporting tools, atheist and ex-Muslim organizations and groups find themselves yet again the target of censorship campaigns by religious conservatives. We respectfully ask that Facebook create mechanisms to prevent abuse of its features so that our organizations and groups do not fear unjust restriction and removal.
Hat tip: Trevor Blake and BarrieJohn