Facebook cracks down on Kurdish content

GLASGOW – Facebook has banned Glasgow Girl Roza Salih for posting a photo of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan alongside a quote that read: “Liberating life is impossible without a radical women’s revolution which would change man’s mentality and life”.

Salih, who has a 2000 strong network on Facebook, is one of the original Glasgow Girls and Facebook’s censorship of her views prompted condemnation from politicians and a freedom of expression campaigner.

As schoolgirls the group campaigned against dawn raids by the Home Office to detain and deport people seeking asylum. Their story became so famous it was immortalised in a musical and a BAFTA-winning TV drama.

The Kurdish people, who are stateless and spread out between Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria, have long campaigned for an autonomous Kurdish state in Iraq. They have often faced human rights abuses there and also at the hands of the Turkish state.

The PKK Kurdish party has had an armed element, leading to its appearing on US and EU terror watchlists. However leader Ocalan has appealed to followers for peace; many policitians and publications have asked for the party’s delisting as a terrorist organisation; and the PKK has been on the frontline fighting Islamic State.

As a Kurdish refugee to Scotland, Salih is still involved in Kurdish activism, and has been suspended for a month from Facebook, a move that she says is unfair and will impact on her ability to campaign:

“I can’t do anything – my life is on Facebook! How can my sharing a photo relate to terrorism? I would like to know where my freedom of speech is?”

Salih is worried about the impact of the ban on her work as an activist, and on a trade union trip she is making to Cuba soon. She was hoping to share news from her trip with her network of contacts on Facebook, but says she has now been silenced.

Facebook has been known to outsource its moderation, with lowly paid workers deciding on whether users should be banned or not once they’ve been flagged up.

A list of items that could have users banned from a leak in 2012 included any positive mention of Ocalan or of his PKK party. Negative mentions of him or the party, however, were allowed under the rules. No other political leaders or parties are named explicitly by Facebook in the same way – although all posts related to ‘terrorism’ seem to be deemed fair game.

The Ferret spoke to Facebook about these guidelines, and a spokesperson said: “The guidelines you are referring to are from 2012 and are no longer in use. We have global community standards but the detail of how we implement them is informed by local circumstances. We always welcome local expert input to refine the application of our policies.”

In response to our querying the removal of pro-Kurdish content specifically and banning users, Facebook said: “Facebook’s Community Standards prohibit hate speech, terrorism and specific threats of violence. Therefore, content supporting the PKK are removed. However, some pages were taken down in error, and they have now been restored.”

Nonetheless Salih’s account remains locked.

Source: The Ferret