LAHORE: Facebook briefly deleted a women-only group in Pakistan with more than 300,000 members who used it to freely discuss taboo topics, its founder Kanwal Ahmed told AFP on Friday.

Soul Sisters Pakistan, created in 2013, acts as a support group for women who share information about sex, divorce, and domestic violence — issues often deemed inappropriate to discuss publicly in Muslim-majority Pakistan.

Ms Ahmed said Face­book deleted the group late Wednesday after warning her of an unspecified “intellectual property violation” linked to a post.

“They didn’t even show which post it was,” said Ms Ahmed, who Facebook made a community leader in 2018 for her work on the group, adding that it is devoted to “personal stories and anonymous posts”. The group was reinstated late Friday, she said.

The group enables members to offer each other informal help, ranging from legal advice to emotional support, on topics that might otherwise draw abuse if posted about publicly. “The suspension of Soul Sisters Pakistan speaks to the arbitrary and non-transparent ways in which social media platforms operate and subtle ways in which community guidelines of these platforms can work against users in the Global South,” Shmyla Khan, a digital rights researcher, told AFP.

Soul Sisters Pakistan has previously come under fire from critics who accused it of promoting divorce and “wild” behaviour challenging tradition and patriarchal norms.

Digital activists have long complained of creeping censorship in Pakistan.

The Pakistan Telecomm­unications Auth­o­rity has taken down more than one million pages from TikTok, Instagram, Face­book and YouTube for obscene or indecent material.

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2024

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