The social networking site Facebook from afar can look a lot like college, with cliques and the familiar range of personalities. In another imitation of college life, the Facebook campus is wrestling with the contentious issue of speech codes.
The latest concern centers on a group with a crude title denouncing Islam that had more than 750 members at last count. While the group takes pains to say it has nothing against Muslims, who “can be and usually are peaceful and respectful,” it asserts at the start: “The Quran contains many lies and threats. Islam is false, no god exists, and someone should say that loud and clear.”
In the month or so since the group was created, the reaction has been building across Facebook. As of the weekend, more than 58,000 Facebook members had joined a group that said that unless the anti-Islam group was removed, “we r quitting Facebook.”
Facebook declined to comment on Friday on the subject of hate speech or on what steps had been taken.
What is clear is that for a day or so last week, the site was made inaccessible. The organizer of the anti-Islam site, a man who said in an e-mail message that his legal name is Variable, wrote, “Facebook briefly deleted my account, and I assumed they did so because of the group, but they reinstated the account and told me that it was a mistake of some sort.”
He said he disagreed that his site was trafficking in hate speech. “The custom of protecting freedom of speech allows people to address belief systems in the harshest of terms,” he wrote, adding that his group’s sentiment is “a peaceful one; atheism is a belief system that few will die for, because there is no reward.”
He noted that a search on Facebook finds a multitude of sites attacking him personally, “which qualifies as hate speech,” unlike his site, “which concerns itself with abstract ideas.”
One of the officers of the petition-drive group, Essma Bargewee, who said in an e-mail message that she is 20 years old and studying business at Montclair State University in New Jersey, said she joined and invited some friends and posted at a few other groups in Facebook. “Next morning I came and was expecting 15 or something to join but found hundreds,” she wrote. “As you have seen we ended up with thousands of both Muslims and non-Muslims defending our idea.”
She said she was sure that Facebook had acted because of the petition. She said she was serious about threatening to quit. “As much as I used to love Facebook when I first joined this petition,” she wrote in an e-mail message, she now feels “like I could leave it at any second. I don’t even need more hate groups.”
|Liveleak on Facebook|