“It’s an illustration, perhaps, of how extremely complicated and nuanced issues of online speech really are,” says the Washington Post. But it isn’t really an illustration of anything except the cowardice and inconsistency of Mark Zuckerberg.
“Two weeks after Zuckerberg said ‘je suis Charlie,’ Facebook begins censoring images of prophet Muhammad,” by Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post, January 27, 2015:
Only two weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a strongly worded #JeSuisCharlie statement on the importance of free speech, Facebook has agreed to censor images of the prophet Muhammad in Turkey — including the very type of image that precipitated the Charlie Hebdo attack.
It’s an illustration, perhaps, of how extremely complicated and nuanced issues of online speech really are. It’s also conclusive proof of what many tech critics said of Zuckerberg’s free-speech declaration at the time: Sweeping promises are all well and good, but Facebook’s record doesn’t entirely back it up….
Now, per the BBC, Facebook has blocked an unspecified number of pages that “offended the Prophet Muhammad” after receiving a court order from a local court in Ankara. A person familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak publicly confirmed to the Post that Facebook had acted to “block content so that it’s no longer visible in Turkey following a valid legal request.” In the past, social media companies that failed to comply with such requests — including Twitter and YouTube — have been blocked in the country, entirely.
Turkey is, in fact, one of Facebook’s more vexing territories, at least where censorship is concerned. The country represents a huge potential audience for U.S. tech companies, with its growing population of young digital natives and its rapidly transforming economy.
But according to Facebook’s latest transparency report, which covered the first six months of 2014, Turkey asked Facebook to censor 1,893 pieces of content in that timespan — the second-most of any country. Many of the requests sprang from local laws that prohibit criticism of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, or the president or the Turkish state. (Turkey takes this stuff seriously, too: You may have heard about the teenager who was arrested in December simply for reading a statement that criticized President Tayyip Erdogan.)…