Atheist Republic, the world’s largest Facebook page for atheists, has survived a concentrated attack by brigades of religious extremists trying to censor the popular page for freethinkers.
According to reports, the Facebook page for atheists with over 1.6 million users has been repeatedly unpublished by Facebook as brigades of religious extremists, often devout Muslims, abuse Facebook reporting algorithms to censor any criticism of Islam.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from publishing content (24 hours up to 30 days), or, in the most extreme instances, the page itself is automatically unpublished and disappears from view.
Earlier this week HeatStreet published an exclusive report documenting how Facebook has been regularly shutting down pages for atheist and ex-Muslims. The report begins:
Yesterday, Facebook restricted and then shut down the public pages of Ex-Muslims of North America (24k followers) and Atheist Republic (1,6 million followers) –groups that advocate secularism and provide support to “apostates” (people who leave Islam and who often face persecution).
Indeed, the sad fact is many atheist pages, particularly those that cater to ex-Musilms, are particularly vulnerable to attack.
- 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)
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 organizations 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.
The good news: Atheist Republic has survived the latest round of attacks, and was republished earlier this week after appealing to Facebook.
The bad news: Many smaller pages for atheists and ex-Muslims lack the reach and influence of Atheist Republic, and when they are victims of the malicious reporting brigades there is no happy ending, and the religious extremists win.
Bottom line: Atheist Republic has survived this latest attack, but the social media war against atheists and ex-Muslims continues.