In the wake of the devastating terrorist attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a strong statement supporting freedom of speech. (The paper was targeted by Islamic extremists in part because it featured cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammed.) However, just two weeks after Zuckerberg’s rousing words in favor of free speech, Facebook has agreed to censor images of Muhammed in Turkey in compliance with the country’s government. The move has upset many, especially after Zuckerberg specifically cited the example of Muhammed in his words after the Hebdo attack.
“A few years ago, an extremist in Pakistan fought to have me sentenced to death because Facebook refused to ban content about Muhammed that offended him,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We stood up for this because different voices — even if they’re sometimes offensive — can make the world a better and more interesting place.”
According to Facebook’s 2014 transparency report, Turkey had the second-most censorship requests of any country in the first six months of the year. But why Facebook listens at all to these requests is an issue of ongoing debate.
“It would be unfair to fault Facebook for complying with a legitimate foreign government request, regardless of how repressive it may seem.,” wrote Caitlin Dewey in The Washington Post. “But for Facebook to do that while simultaneously styling itself as the patron saint of political speech? It seems a little disingenuous, to say the least.”
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