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SRINAGAR: Facebook has come under fire in recent days for suspending certain accounts on the social media platform, belonging to both native Kashmiris and foreigners present in and outside of the disputed Himalayan region.

The accounts which have been suspended till date had posted comments, pictures or videos to highlight the treatment meted out to Kashmiris in the latest episode of unrest.

Many Facebook user accounts criticising civilian killings or supporting Kashmir’s decades-old political struggle are being temporarily suspended, with their Kashmir-related posts being removed by the social media giant. Certain users have also claimed that their accounts have been completely blocked by Facebook, while others have complained of temporary blocks lasting for 24 hours or more.

─Photo by Syed Shahriyar
─Photo by Syed Shahriyar

With a blanket ban enforced by Indian authorities on all cellular companies except Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) broadband, Kashmiris are facing tremendous difficulties.

The ban came into effect after the July 8 killing of Burhan Wani, the popular and tech-savvy Hizbul Mujahideen commander. The ban also extends to mobile internet connectivity, 2G/3G data connectivity, WhatsApp, and printing and publishing of newspapers.

Without cellular access, it has become increasingly difficult to coordinate calls for blood donations for those injured by Indian government forces or to provide aid and transport for women who are in labour. Citizens of the Valley are now availing services provided by BSNL broadband to disseminate time-critical information on Facebook and Twitter.

Facing international embarrassment, the under-fire Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government in a hurriedly taken decision on July 19 said, “There are no restrictions on printing and publishing of newspapers.”

The government’s decision has drawn a lot of flak from the editors’ body of Srinagar-based newspapers, Editors Guild of India, and several international organisations for its media gag.

Read: Facebook, Google quietly move toward automatic blocking of extremist videos

Kashmiris are not alone in having their accounts suspended on Facebook, foreigners deemed as sympathisers are also in the cross hairs.

Hamza Ali Abbasi, TV and film actor who is vocal on social media regarding politics and social issues, had his post praising Wani removed by Facebook. His account was also suspended by the social media platform for a short while. “What can I say? Instances like these should teach us a lesson that we must put our own interests aside and define terrorism and terrorists as per the definition of the imperial minded so called champions of freedom of expression. Burhan Wani was not a terrorist and Kashmir’s freedom struggle is not terrorism, even if the US, India or Mark Zuckerberg think otherwise,” posted Abbasi on his timeline.

Mary Scully, an American socialist activist and a former socialist candidate for the US presidency, was outraged after her Facebook account was temporarily suspended for posting pro-Kashmiri sentiments on her timeline. “It’s a violation of the right to free speech embodied in the Bill of Rights,” said Scully while talking to Dawn.

“Facebook is obligated legally to respect the Bill of Rights and is not exempt in any way. It does not censor violent images of women but only those posts about human rights and war crimes. Facebook can have whatever reactionary politics the owners want but they cannot legally censor us in expressing ours,” she added.

Scully, in one of her posts, had drawn parallels between Kashmir and Gaza. “The monstrous symmetries between the Israeli carpet bombing of Gaza in July 2014 and the Indian military siege of Kashmir in July 2016 are a nightmare to witness. Hell to endure,” wrote Scully on July 18.

She also wrote, “FB’s censorship of posts about Kashmir, particularly those about the extrajudicial execution of Burhan Wani as well as videos of Indian Army violence, is a serious violation of the US Bill of Rights which legally binds FB since it operates out of this country.”

Censorship on the social media platform is not limited to posts on one’s timelines. Videos which show Indian paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel beating Kashmiri teenagers, assaulting the injured and attacking ambulances carrying the wounded have also been removed from Twitter and Facebook.

Dibyesh Anand's Facebook post critical of popular Indian sentiment on the ongoing Kashmir protests. ─Courtesy Dibyesh Anand
Dibyesh Anand's Facebook post critical of popular Indian sentiment on the ongoing Kashmir protests. ─Courtesy Dibyesh Anand

Dibyesh Anand, academic and associate professor at London’s Westminster University, is known for his views in favour of the Kashmiri struggle. He confirmed to Dawn in an online conversation that he too was blocked twice by Facebook for his commentary on the recent Kashmir crisis.

“If scholars, writers and prominent public figures in Kashmir, India, Pakistan, UK and USA can be censored by Facebook for posts that are critical of Indian atrocities but legally sound and socially responsible, we can imagine the message it gives out to ordinary people facing a siege in Kashmir. The message is one where not only the mainstream media, but social media is also seen in cahoots with the Indian nation state. We need to reject such censorship that becomes complicit with an ongoing humanitarian crisis,” he said.

A screenshot of Facebook's apology for removing Anand's post. ─Courtesy Dibyesh Anand
A screenshot of Facebook's apology for removing Anand's post. ─Courtesy Dibyesh Anand

“Kashmir is the way. Kashmir is the future. Let a thousand Kashmiris bloom,” wrote Kuffir Nalgunduwar, an Ambedkarite activist and poet, who was also blocked by Facebook.

Dr Peer Suhail Masoodi, a development practitioner and policy analyst based in Srinagar, has also criticised Facebook’s policy of censoring pro-Kashmir posts. “Mark Zuckerberg is the new cyber police chief of Jammu and Kashmir. Your FB posts are being monitored. Any “anti-government” post will be immediately removed and you’ll be booked under Facebook Violation Act — FVA,” Masoodi wrote on his timeline.

“Facebook was seen as an independent and credible platform for connecting people, and sharing ideas of critical importance. However, the removal of posts and blocking FB profiles of those who have criticised Indian policies in Kashmir not only makes people apprehensive to express their opinions freely on Facebook, but, more importantly, Facebook has lost the credibility of providing an alternative platform for discussion,” Dr Masoodi told Dawn.

─Photo by Syed Shahriyar
─Photo by Syed Shahriyar

In a statement to The Guardian, Facebook said: “There is no place on Facebook for content that praises or supports terrorists, terrorist organisations or terrorism. We welcome discussion on these subjects but any terrorist content has to be clearly put in context which condemns these organisations and or their violent activities. Therefore, profiles and content supporting or praising Hizbul Mujahideen and Burhan Wani are removed as soon as they are reported to us. In this instance, some content was removed in error, but this has now been restored.”

Pakistan’s digital-rights advocate Nighat Dad, when asked by Dawn to comment said, “Facebook has come under fire in the past for appearing to arbitrarily remove ‘objectionable’ material, going by very general definitions. Regarding the controversy regarding Kashmir, the company has said that there ‘is no place on Facebook for content that praises or supports terrorists, terrorist organisations or terrorism. We welcome discussion on these subjects but any terrorist content has to be clearly put in context which condemns these organisations and or their violent activities’.”

─Photo by Syed Shahriyar
─Photo by Syed Shahriyar

She added that in the context of Kashmir, it is possible that Facebook is going on complaints made by individual Facebook users, and has exercised the decision to remove the pages in that context. This controversy highlights an ongoing problem with Facebook, in that in an attempt to placate its user base, it makes censorship or removal decisions in a scattershot manner, only to reverse those decisions later.

At the moment, the only way to register a complaint is to report a post, or photo, in order to get it removed — this takes place if the content is deemed to be violating Facebook terms and conditions, ironically hate and harassment by extremists group against progressive Pakistanis is rarely taken down by FB.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2016

Comments (84) Closed

Ancient king Jul 21, 2016 08:42am

You are free not to use Facebook

Angry Pitbull Jul 21, 2016 09:02am

If you dont agree with facebook then dont use it, As simple as it is.

rahat Jul 21, 2016 09:48am

@Ancient king It is like someone is selling spurious drugs and you suggest to people, don't buy them if you think they are spurious.

J.Khanm Jul 21, 2016 09:53am

Ignorant chumps, whether we stop using it or not doesn't make any difference. What's important is to fight for a cause - not leave it at the 1st obstacle!

Mozart Jul 21, 2016 09:57am

I am amazed at the simplified comments saying to not use Facebook if you don't agree with it. You people are basically saying that Facebook is above law.

@RAHAT, nice argument!

devgupt Jul 21, 2016 10:07am

If Facebook & Twitter are correct in removing objectionable material promoting IS from their platform , then it is also correct in removing terrorism inspiring content from Kashmir

A human Jul 21, 2016 10:32am

@Rahat - your are looking from your specs , not necessary others can also see the same.

sam Jul 21, 2016 10:37am

social media platform should remain neutral . If they dont become voice of the ppl the survival become difficult and extinction become inevitable

Amin Jul 21, 2016 10:44am

What a dichotomy ? Such suppression of freedom of expression and oppression of human rights in this age and time from the so called international custodians of democracy and 'human rights' ?

NOBODY Jul 21, 2016 10:47am

@devgupt Well said! Facebook makes no distinction between good and bad terrorists.

GS Jul 21, 2016 11:51am

@sam That's what FB is doing ! being neutral to survive in its biggest market, India.

james Jul 21, 2016 11:50am

So the point is which all those 'don't use it ppl ' comments is thatgiant companies r racist and pro west and there is no freedom of speech if you don't go with what the western governments wAnt s to hear

Ajmal kasab mumbai Jul 21, 2016 11:53am

@NOBODY what about freedom of speech etc?, oh no i forgot you lot like to pick and choose right?.

KSA Jul 21, 2016 12:24pm

So where is so called Freedom of Expression? Well a question for those who are commenting not to use FB

FAZ Jul 21, 2016 12:43pm

@NOBODY You believe those thousands of people of all age protesting are all terrorists, let alone good or bad? You believe blinding someone is classified as "riot control"?

Pakistan tujhe salam Jul 21, 2016 12:54pm

@rahat very well said....I would have seen what Indian comments would be if the Facebook was in favour of Kashmiris.... as a unity to our kashmiri Bros can I ask all my Pakistani friends to block Facebook.

Iqbal Bhai Jul 21, 2016 12:54pm

@Ancient king You are ancient. So you should not speak on modern topics. You are king. So we will go for democracy.

Saqib Jul 21, 2016 01:00pm

Why are people not boycotting Facebook then. I haven't used it in years and refuse to do so

ADS Jul 21, 2016 01:12pm

people who don't like Facebook policy and content are advised to not use them. You can't dictate your state policy to independent social media.

Super Raj Jul 21, 2016 01:13pm

I appreciate the heart burns in not being able to upload lopsided incendiary and inciting images...

Hassan Jul 21, 2016 01:24pm

@Super Raj we have been sharing the images massively, and spreading Indian brutalities, but only when waini pics gone viral only then they took action against it. the world is the world is talking about Kashmir these days.

ZAFAR Jul 21, 2016 01:31pm

Facebook has no distinction between good or bad terrorists. It will block comments regarding ISIS and HuM alike,

Gabzi Jul 21, 2016 01:33pm

What's wrong with Facebook removing these posts. If one were to make comments surmounting to blasphemy ( e.g. a charlie hebdo cartoon) and facebook had removed the posts, wouldn't we all support that.

JuJu Jul 21, 2016 01:56pm

What I dont understand is poeple of Kashmir is under the same Indian constitution like every other citizen of India. If you say there is no freedom then any citizen from other parts of India also has no freedom. Kashmiries have every religious freedom (see what happens in China), economical freedom (more money is pumped to kashmir by Indian govt than to other states), social freedom ( see what happens to minorities in paksitan and other muslim countries) and more freedom to kashmiris than other citizen of India, (other state people cannot buy land in Kashmir but kashmiries can buy land in other parts of India). So what is wrong with these people?

Aditya Jul 21, 2016 01:56pm

Facebook don't support propaganda.

rambo Jul 21, 2016 02:20pm

And people will still use facebook. Though facebook has helped many but in totality , its effect was lethal and it caused more destruction than any other platform.

M Taimur Jul 21, 2016 02:38pm

Where is PTA? Did they take it up with facebook?

We do not need facebook in Pakistan if it blocks those accounts which raise voice for the innocent Kashmiris PTA should wake up and take action

Omer Jul 21, 2016 02:39pm

Free Kashmir!!! they do not want to live with India. Can you not see they do not care for their lives but freedom

bilal Jul 21, 2016 03:02pm

so convenient to call millions' struggle for freedom terrorism, this attitude of denying actual issues will be a downfall for India

Amir Khan Jul 21, 2016 03:09pm

The plot thickens. Setup companies that steal the spotlight from all other talking forums. Dress them well and attractive and once they become THE center point of everything then start exerting controls and push your agenda.

james Jul 21, 2016 03:19pm

It's ok to have a balochistan separatist group page but not ok to make comments on Kashmir. Double standards.... It's not ok for an organization to get involved politically.

james Jul 21, 2016 03:23pm

@Aditya I want u to prove it to me how is it a propaganda.... Do you understand the meaning of propaganda? Like ppl there r being killed for a reason and sympathizers r sympathazing . They want to be there is doubt about it. Where is the propaganda.

Sal Jul 21, 2016 04:11pm

I wonder how many Indians work at facebook? Maybe that had an influence!

Tanvir Jul 21, 2016 04:16pm

@devgupt War of independence is not terrorism. The sooner you realize it the better it is for you as well as for hapless Kashmiris

Tanvir Jul 21, 2016 04:23pm

@ADS Simply they want to hide their mayhem in Kashmir from rest of the world. Like they have banned in Kashmir all sorts of other media, even their own journalists.

Shah Jul 21, 2016 04:31pm

How many of u have read Facebook terms and conditions before opening an account? I would request everyone to read it before commenting any violent ideology. Also read UN resolution on kashmir before going gaga all the time

Sardar Qamar Jul 21, 2016 04:30pm

Facebook has proved that it is also a tool of Indian army used against Kashmiris. Facebook has a big market in India this is why blindly supporting killing of innocents in Kashmir. Whole the civil society and human rights gruops must condemn this action of facebook.

ZULFIQAR Jul 21, 2016 04:46pm

@devgupt Let me Correct if Freedom Fighters are Terrorist than Gandhi should get Title of First indian Sub Continent Terrorist by British Raj Come On & Wake Up call for Largest Democratic Country & Secular Country in World India Need to Come forward & Correct themselves & Accept Kashmir as Disputed Territory

Gustaakh Jul 21, 2016 04:57pm

Seems freedom of speech is only applicable to cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. Everything else can be censored.

Khan Jul 21, 2016 05:09pm

Indian nationalists may think silencing protest will silence dissent. Little are they aware how every action is magnified manifold and pushes Kashmiris towards the main country which openly supports them - Pakistan. And yes, getting closer to Pakistan means getting further from India.

TrueF16 Jul 21, 2016 05:28pm

Double Standards of world against Muslims and we are still looking to get help from Indian run IT services

kz Jul 21, 2016 05:33pm

@devgupt It is the old argument, who is actually a terrorist. Facebook should not be making that determination. Better to leave everything and let people decide for themselves.

With IS they removed the contents because IS were using Social Media to communicate and plan acts that by the standards of all normal people were despicable acts.

Usman Jul 21, 2016 05:33pm

@Ancient king Sounds partial when it comes to blaspheme content Facebook cannot remove it under the name of freedom of expression double standards.

Hannan Jul 21, 2016 05:48pm

More u suppress, more it will emerge. Good Luck Kashmiris and Pakistan. This shows the world is noticing your movement!!

Rohit Jul 21, 2016 05:49pm

Facebook followed its stated policy, did nothing wrong.

Jigar Jul 21, 2016 05:48pm

If pakistan can ban youtube, why can't some one ban other social media.

DMDiL Jul 21, 2016 05:58pm

Facebook shouldn't have any rights to add or remove whatever they like. They are now favoring one nation against another.

MAHESHMS Jul 21, 2016 06:16pm

@Sardar Qamar Best protest is stop using facebook and whatsapp so they can see power of pakistan and pakistanis.

Zubair Khan Jul 21, 2016 06:31pm

So much for "freedom of speech" and the principles of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Wani was a hero, a freedom fighter, just like Bhagat Singh was considered a terrorist by the British his struggle.

Iztraab Jul 21, 2016 06:55pm

I never had Facebook account and will never create one. I encourage the same for others.

TINA Jul 21, 2016 07:09pm

Facebook has come out as a racist platform which knows getting berserk over Paris attacks and others but whenever it's about Middle East or Kashmir as is this time it has come out with such insidious activities.

IamWani Jul 21, 2016 08:07pm

Facebook double standard. They are the tools of west for the west. You remember the cartoons time no post was blocked...Why not make our own worldbook.???

Truth Jul 21, 2016 09:03pm

Theirs a big difference between a terrorist and freedom fighter. Majority of Kashmiris want Independence from Indian Occupation. What kind of freedom and Democracy is this? Let the Kashmiris decide. Facebook is removing stuff just like it did with Palestine. But Facebook never removes isis terrorist videos of beheadings. Facebook is probably changeing and oneday Muslims will ban it and use other.

Muftkhor Jul 21, 2016 09:28pm

Pakistan should develop its own version of Facebook.

Mirza Jul 21, 2016 09:47pm

Facebook and other socail media have lot of indians at the top management

Sindhi Jul 21, 2016 10:01pm

Facebook knows good and bad

Sarwar, USA. Jul 21, 2016 10:05pm

@Shah ... UN resolution on Kashmir... The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan reaffirm their wish that the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people and to that end, upon acceptance of the truce agreement, both Governments agree to enter into consultations with the Commission to determine fair and equitable conditions whereby such free expression will be assured.

gaffer_2_satan Jul 21, 2016 10:13pm

The choice was simple for Facebook: (1) Allow derogatory posts than incite violence and bloodshed (2) Block them in an effort to promote peace. Facebook, for all practical purposes, made a choice that they deemed right. People who have problems should look for other avenues to promote their selfish agendas. Remember, a great person once said "Non Violence is a weapon of the strong"

Dandola Mandola Jul 21, 2016 10:13pm

Please block Facebook like it is in China. Will be a great service to professionals and educators - by increasing productivity of professionals and students.

M Jamal Jul 21, 2016 10:40pm

The reality is that the Kashmiris do not want to live under occupation of India.The world is changing and we in the 21st century have to admit it.Those against must please revisit their conscience.

Pakistani Jul 21, 2016 11:17pm

So I had just about lost hope in Pakistanis and then I read the comment section here and realized that there is still hope. Yes please boycott that facebook. Lets have some self respect, and ban it permanently in Pakistan. We don't need it. We need to come together as a nation and take a stand

I've said it Jul 21, 2016 11:28pm

@devgupt - Facebook is correct and we support it in removing any material promoting IS and their agenda, BUT there's no parallel between IS' agenda and highlighting the inhumane and barbaric treatment of innocent Kashmiris by occupying forces of India. Kashmir cause is 65+ years old now - ask UN.

Chandler Jul 22, 2016 12:11am

This is the power of India

Kamal2 Jul 22, 2016 12:34am

@IamWani some aren't technologically

Y-Fi Jul 22, 2016 01:36am

We are relying on things that are controlled by people who r not in favor of human awakening

Amin a Jul 22, 2016 01:40am

@JuJu What was wrong under British?

awais aziz Jul 22, 2016 02:43am

Western hypocrisy shining brightly!

JB Jul 22, 2016 03:36am

Long Live the struggle for Independent Kashmir. Down with the atrocities of Indian Army

Akil Akhtar Jul 22, 2016 04:59am

The world is now dominated by western interests...there is no freedom of expression or truth out there....

Mukul Jul 22, 2016 05:52am

@rahat yes and whats wrong with that

Indian Jul 22, 2016 09:55am

Where do you see 'Facebook under fire'. Bunch of Pakistanis and couple of foreigner complaining does not mean Facebook on fire. They have almost 800 million or more users and few thousands complaining and million supporting Facebook move. Just check even poll on Dawn.

Mansoor Jul 22, 2016 10:44am

This is called freedom of expression, Shameless

Jaffar Jul 22, 2016 01:04pm

@devgupt Kashmiris are fighting for freedom from Indian occupation. They are fighting to achieve what UN sanctioned for them repeatedly in their resolutions. They are not terrorists. It is the Indian occupying force that is terrorists killing innocent people and children.

Jaffar Jul 22, 2016 01:11pm

@Saqib we are not ostrich. We will face what is their and we will write befitting replies.

vmo Jul 22, 2016 01:23pm

Long live pakistan...... All Pakistanis should unsubscribe from facebook, this matter should be raised in the UNSC. OIC and the Uma must be motivated to follow & support Pakistan in this same.

vmo Jul 22, 2016 02:08pm

@Jaffar - Jaffar my friend, India is NOT occupying Kashmir, it was aceeded to India by the Maharaja like other provinces did Just like your and my forefathers did during Partition ...People were free to move to the country of their cannot have it both ways.

aslam shaikh1 Jul 22, 2016 03:23pm

@JuJu I think you need to go to Kashmir to see what is really happening there.

Imran Altaf Jul 22, 2016 05:48pm

Kashmir / Gaza, the world watching and doing nothing, in the meantime what happened to democracy ? Facebook don't want account holders to post the truth

lafanga Jul 22, 2016 06:43pm

So the censorship is alive and well in the so called largest democracy in the world. Shame.

lafanga Jul 22, 2016 06:45pm

@Chandler "This is the power of India"

To kill innocent people and then force media not to report on it?

Shahan Jul 22, 2016 07:50pm

The question is how do you define the rebels or freedom fighthers ? For the state, they are terrorists, for others they are heros.

Terrorism itself is a subective term. In such cases the rules and laws of the land need to followed hence freedom fighters (regardless of them fighting for good or bad) will always be considered as crimnals of the state.

So facebook has to decide whether it treats each state as law entity or general public. Hence, according to the Community Standards, facebook treated these as wrong

Thinker Jul 23, 2016 01:22am

@rahat Facebook does not "sell". It is free to set up an account. You can use it for free and if you don't like it you are "free" not use it. Where does the entitlement mentality come from for something that is given for free ?

Mayor Jul 23, 2016 04:23am

@lafanga Prove to me that they are innocents...

kuka Jul 23, 2016 01:36pm

@Jigar FYI youtube is running in Pakistan without any problem.