FACEBOOK often struggles with its principles regarding freedom of speech for users versus its bottom line, which requires keeping powerful stakeholders happy.

This appeared to be on display once again on Monday, when the company blocked live streaming of the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation’s news bulletins highlighting Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir.

As reported by Radio Pakistan, Facebook had been sending messages since May warning the PBC of violating “community standards on dangerous individuals and organisations”.

The company’s spokesperson later clarified that the PBC’s access to Facebook Live was only temporarily restricted pending review.

Nonetheless, there is a broader pattern, since the death of Burhan Wani in 2016, of Facebook methodically censoring news and opinion on the Kashmir crisis.

Based on news reports and details shared by users, censorship activities occur in short, sharp spikes around current events connected to India. It is reasonable to assume that this policy is set in place through lobbying by India, one of Facebook’s critical markets.

The question of who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter; which struggle is legitimate and which is not, comes down to who has more sway with the social network, which is largely determined by size and scope of the market, not by higher principles or nuanced examination of the issue at hand.

It is true that Facebook is facing a Herculean task trying to manage the inevitable politics that result from being responsible for billions of users globally — it encounters challenges that have never been faced by any organisation historically — but it is doing a poor job of it.

This has real-world consequences, especially in conflict zones.

The likelihood that the social network will change its modus operandi is slim, and given that Twitter is going down the same path of censorship, the internet as a whole will become increasingly regulated in favour of those with the most power.

For Kashmiris and those lobbying for their rights, social media in its current form is more curse than blessing.

In such a situation, the suggestion by the prime minister’s aide Firdous Ashiq Awan that Pakistan stop relying heavily on these social media platforms isn’t as absurd as it sounds. The internet is still unpredictable; companies rise and fall, and if Facebook, Twitter and YouTube do not offer their users the freedom they seek, they will go elsewhere. This is a fundamental the platforms must recognise sooner rather than later.

Published in Dawn, January 1st, 2020

Opinion

Press and power
25 Sep 2021

Press and power

None used the press so brazenly as the Modi government.
Once upon a Taliban
Updated 25 Sep 2021

Once upon a Taliban

Something, somewhere is terribly wrong with how this story is unfolding.
Foundation of healthcare
24 Sep 2021

Foundation of healthcare

Primary healthcare is as much for healthy individuals as it for those suffering from ill health.

Editorial

25 Sep 2021

NAB controversy

THE completion of the four-year term of NAB chairman Javed Iqbal early next month has afforded Prime Minister Imran...
Cabinet ‘inclusivity’
Updated 25 Sep 2021

Cabinet ‘inclusivity’

Voices are being raised questioning when the much-hyped inclusivity the group had talked about will materialise.
25 Sep 2021

Quorum malady

LACK of quorum has become a chronic problem for the present National Assembly which is in the process of becoming a...
24 Sep 2021

Costs of growth

IS Pakistan’s growth party over? Not yet. But both the State Bank and government are now cutting down on the items...
Smear campaign
Updated 24 Sep 2021

Smear campaign

It is commendable that the government has taken the matter as seriously as it has, and delved deep into cyber investigations.
24 Sep 2021

Rising dengue cases

THE dengue monster is once again rearing its head in different cities of Punjab. More than 820 cases have surfaced ...