Facebook has over 2 billion active users around the world, and it often has a hard time abiding by the laws of the countries it operates in. However, the platform faces its fiercest criticism when these foreign governments use it to oppress or monitor their populations. That’s why privacy advocates took heart this week when the social media giant denied a request from the Pakistani government to change its authentication process.
The Pakistani government asked Facebook to link user accounts to mobile phone numbers instead of email addresses, which they said could help them fight fake accounts. However, the move would also help the government track down users accused of posting “blasphemous” content — a serious crime in Pakistan. In fact, the Pakistani government sentenced a man to death for posting blasphemy on Facebook earlier this year, so this seemingly-benign request is actually a life or death matter. Thankfully, Facebook declined it.
“Facebook met with Pakistan officials to express the company’s deep commitment to protecting the rights of the people who use its service, and to enabling people to express themselves freely and safely,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “It was an important and constructive meeting in which we… made it clear we apply a strict legal process to any government request for data or content restrictions.”
Facebook gets a lot of grief for what it does wrong regarding user privacy, but in this case the company got it very right.