Facebook has been deleting accounts of activist groups in the UK, according to the Guardian and to students at University College London, in what Adbusters is calling a #zuckup. Complaints are, of course, on a Facebook page.
Luckily, friendly old Liam says Hi on Facebook's behalf, and explains that terms of service technicalities outweigh speech:
As you may know, Facebook profiles are intended to represent individual people only. It is a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to use a profile to represent a brand, business, group, or organization. As such, your account was disabled for violating these guidelines.
Meanwhile, as Jillian York explains in Foreign Policy, Facebook has never identified with the liberation claims made on its behalf. Here is Adam Conner, reported in the Wall Street Journal a week ago:
"Maybe we will block content in some countries, but not others," Adam Conner, a Facebook lobbyist, told the Journal. "We are occasionally held in uncomfortable positions because now we're allowing too much, maybe, free speech in countries that haven't experienced it before," he said.
My only gripe about Jillian York's article – she has been critical of Facebook for some time, unearthing and publicising some of their shadier actions – is that she suggests that "American companies ultimately have a tough choice to make: Uphold American values and the principles of Internet freedom set forth by [Hillary] Clinton, or focus on the bottom line." For some companies, at least, this is not a tough choice at all.
Adbuster style free-speech: only if it’s the right message. I’d be much happier if the adbuster-types of the world took a hard look at their own actions with respect to the rights and freedoms of others. Economic freedom is real and should be respected as much as individual and political freedoms.
I don’t think Facebook is choosing between freedom of speech and the bottom line in this case. They are trying to create some hard rules that balance the rights of all of their users. They have purposefully created a service based on real identities. Right or wrong that was the choice they made. These types of restrictions for Canadians or Brits is no big deal because we have the option to use or create a service with different underlying terms.
Egypt and other locations with limited personal freedoms is a different kettle of fish. Enforcing the terms of service has a different set of implications for those individuals. It’s one thing to deny someone entrance to your private nightclub because they are not dressed appropriately and quite another to deny entrance to someone being persued by an attacker (sorry, that was the best analogy I could come up with).
Regardless, these are important discussions to have and I don’t think the issues are as black and white as many people assume.