Monday, May 31, 2010

Facebook Pulls a Molly Norris

Facebook decides that freedom of expression just isn't worth the trouble:

Pakistan lifted a ban on Facebook on Monday after officials from the social networking site apologized for a page deemed offensive to Muslims and removed its contents, a top information technology official said.

The move came almost two weeks after Pakistan imposed the ban amid anger over a page that encouraged users to post images of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims regard depictions of the prophet, even favorable ones, as blasphemous.

"In response to our protest, Facebook has tendered their apology and informed us that all the sacrilegious material has been removed from the URL," said Najibullah Malik, secretary of Pakistan's information technology ministry, referring to the technical term for a Web page.

Facebook assured the Pakistani government that "nothing of this sort will happen in the future," Malik said.

Officials from the website could not immediately be reached for comment. They said earlier the contents of the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!" page did not violate Facebook's terms.
Will Facebook now extend the same sensitivity to all religions, and take down any page that anyone in any given faith deems "offensive"? Or will only Muslim governments like Pakistan be allowed a permanent veto over what Western users post?

As much as I disagree with Molly Norris for her turnaround and how she's handled it—be sure to check out her editorial cartoon for a Pakistani newspaper about the French ban on the face veil—I can at least sympathize with where her head was at and what she's been going through. Facebook (henceforth known as "Veilbook") gets no such sympathy. And the Veilbook turnaround is going to be far more damaging to our freedoms in the long run.

We really have learned nothing since the days of Salman Rushdie. Not a damn thing.