Facebook is an honour-free zone from the top down


Muhammad as published by the NZ Herald before they ran scared and are now ‘sensitive’ to people’s feelings.


Only two weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a strongly worded #JeSuisCharlie statement on the importance of free speech, Facebook has agreed to censor images of the prophet Muhammad in Turkey — including the very type of image that precipitated the Charlie Hebdo attack.

It’s an illustration, perhaps, of how extremely complicated and nuanced issues of online speech really are. It’s also conclusive proof of what many tech critics said of Zuckerberg’s free-speech declaration at the time: Sweeping promises are all well and good, but Facebook’s record doesn’t entirely back it up.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t think we should go out of our way to create and publish images of Muhammad with the intent to upset Muslims.  But in return, when we do make or publish an image, I don’t think the response should include violence, terrorism, hostages, maiming and death.  

There is a huge disconnect between the two, and for Facebook to try and be the arbitor of what is and isn’t offensive causes it to pander to those that kill when offended.

Because it is simply easier that way.

All the media that refuse to publish images of Muhammad do so because their staff, insurance companies and intestinal messages all tell them they are less likely to be killed by a Christian suicide bomber.

Now, per the BBC, Facebook has blocked an unspecified number of pages that “offended the Prophet Muhammad” after receiving a court order from a local court in Ankara. A person familiar with the matter but not authorized to speak publicly confirmed to the Post that Facebook had acted to “block content so that it’s no longer visible in Turkey following a valid legal request.” In the past, social media companies that failed to comply with such requests — including Twitter and YouTube — have been blocked in the country, entirely.

I can live with that.   A legal court order.  Process of law.  Only for the country that it applies to.  That’s sensible.

Facebook is a global company, of course, and must obey the laws of each country it operates in; the site can’t exactly pick and choose which regulations it finds agreeable, and it’s the site’s long-standing policy to comply with subpoenas, warrants and other government requests, provided they meet what Facebook calls a “very high legal bar.” (The company declined to comment on this particular case.)

Still, there’s something a bit grating about the decision, coming so very soon after Zuckerberg’s rosy-eyed epistle on free speech. It would be unfair to fault Facebook for complying with a legitimate foreign government request, regardless of how repressive it may seem. 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.

“I’m committed to building a service where you can speak freely without fear of violence,” Zuckerberg said in his Hebdo statement.

Not so committed then.  Just like our own “free press and freedom of speech” mainstream media ‘mates’ who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.


– Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post


THANK YOU for being a subscriber. Because of you Whaleoil is going from strength to strength. It is a little known fact that Whaleoil subscribers are better in bed, good looking and highly intelligent. Sometimes all at once! Please Click Here Now to subscribe to an ad-free Whaleoil.

  • johcar

    Zuckerberg has never been known for his strong moral fibre…

  • LabTested

    During the Ottoman empire there were many images of the Prophet Muhammad produced in what is now Turkey. (easy Google search). If it was OK for the Muslim Ottomans’ to create images of Muhammad, why is it not OK for their Turkish decedents to view those images?

    Is it OK for a Western publication to show an image of Muhammad created by Muslims during the Ottoman Caliphate?

    It seems this – No Muhammad thing is a recent invention.

    • BloodyOrphan

      Based on this …

      I’d say they change the rules when it suites them, and the main driver is promotion of Islam over any other idiology.

      • LabTested

        Fascinating read. It hits for 6 the concept that images of Muhammad can not be shown when there is a long history of it in Islamic culture. Western countries & Media need to grow a backbone, do some simple research & challenge the hysteria of Muhammad images.

        I particularly like the reference to……an illustrated Quran depicting Muhammad.

        • BloodyOrphan

          Exactly, I think the hysteria is more about pandering to the western Ideals of religious freedom, than adhering to the Quran, or Muhammad, which is apparent in the inter Muslim conflicts we see ass well.

        • Cowgirl

          I liked the depiction and description of muhammed in Dante’s work. Oddly there isn’t a lot of screeching to ban that – it seems it’s only depictions from the point they decided that are verboten.

  • Luis Cannon

    Perhaps Zuckerberg should remove all photos, images etc except burqa clad women. No room for error then. A sterile environment mirroring a sterile country.

  • timemagazine

    Well what would you expect from a bunch of leftists? Political correctness!

  • BloodyOrphan

    This is going to be a problem for any country that adopts sharia law, once the pressure cooker has it’s lid on, removing it is always going to cause problems as the general populace has to start controlling it’s pent up emotionally charged states.

    Like I’ve said in the past, the best way we can help Islam move into the 21st century is ban the Quran, and give the modern civilised Muslims a chance to write a book that isn’t a psychopathic textbook of torture and slavery.

  • Miguel

    I suspect Facebook makes very little money in Turkey, so it would have been interesting if they had called Ankara’s bluff and said no to filtering. How long would the government be able to take the pressure of Turks angry their government has blocked Facebook?

  • Salacious Crumb

    I doubt the Winklevoss twins would have been cowed like the charlatan who stole their idea.

  • sandalwood789

    Meh….. I’ve never joined Facebook (or Twitter) and have never been tempted to. Jillions of people prattling on about the most vacuous things and posting pics saying “this is me having a coffee”.
    Then there is the lack of privacy aspect too in that (AFAIK) you can’t join Facebook anonymously but have to use your real name.