Facebook Criticized For Censorship

Facebook has an interesting past when it comes to censoring groups. One of the most discussed instances was when Facebook failed to censor Holocaust denial groups, forcing blogger Mike Arrington to go on a month long tirade over their hypocritical policies. There are numerous instances of Facebook censorship in the past, many of which lean toward protecting the company over any other party.

Facebook’s Energy Censorship

Earlier this week we covered the controversy surrounding Facebook’s decision to use a power company that uses coal as its primary energy source. Despite a trend toward more reusable energy sources from PacifiCorp, the company powering Facebook’s new data center, some energy advocates continued to criticize Facebook. As we mentioned at the time, one group was set up called “Tell Facebook to use clean energy for its data center”. That group has since been shut down.

While we can only speculate that the group was shut down by Facebook, other groups have sprouted up to replace this one. That tends to be the case with other groups which Facebook shuts down: new ones just sprout up.

Facebook Blocking Users

Facebook has also on occasion taken the drastic action of blocking the accounts of those users who speak out against the company. As Venturebeat highlighted yesterday, the creators of a satirical book which criticized Facebook had their profiles disabled for a month without any explanation. Following “an uproar in Latin American media”, the authors had their profiles reinstated.

While most of Facebook’s account disabling practices is automated, the company has on a rare occasion, disabled those users who speak out against the company. However once the media gets their hand on these stories, the accounts are often reinstated.

Freedom Of Speech When It Matters

Facebook does realize the power of free speech on the site. Back in 2008, millions of Facebook users organized massive protests against the Farc in Colombia. It was an incredible feeling that Facebook could be used as a tool to drive social change. Many have even gone so far as to argue that Facebook was one of the primary reasons Obama won the Presidential election.

Whether or not that’s the case, many global protests have been organized on the site and freedom of speech can be seen in many instances. However Facebook does tend to censor groups and Pages at their discretion. While protecting Holocaust denial groups (which appear to have since been disabled), the company had simultaneously disabled the pages of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah according to a number of reports (and based on a general search in Facebook).

The Power Of Group Think

While Facebook users often rally around the insignificant, such as this Facebook page, a small percentage of users try to use Facebook to drive change. This “change” becomes a problem when the aims of the groups are not only hateful or threatening, but on occasion, when the group doesn’t mesh with Facebook’s aims.

Honestly, users are granted access to Facebook as a free service and Facebook has the full rights to remove groups and Pages as their discretion. However that doesn’t stop some users from criticizing the company of ongoing censorship. Where do you think Facebook should draw the line on groups on Pages? Do you think freedom of speech truly exists on the site?