Recently Facebook deleted some of my statuses, when a group of religious fanatics collectively targeted me (and some other freethinkers on Facebook) to report our clean” statuses as ‘spam’. I am asking Facebook to restore all of my deleted statuses:

To the Facebook Customer Service Department,

For the past year, I, like thousands of other activists living in Bangladesh and abroad, have been using Facebook as a means to rally support for free speech movements and other causes in Bangladesh. Recently, I found that many of my important statuses have been deleted, without any notification. I am under the impression that certain radical Islamist groups collectively reported my statuses as “spam” or as “abusive language”, but, as I will explain, this is far from the truth.

I am a Bangladeshi-American social activist living in the USA. To spread awareness about social issues, I write books and other social criticisms, which I often publicize via Facebook.  One of my recent articles was published in the renowned ‘Skeptic’ Magazine (see the online version of my write-up in Skeptic Magazine; May 8th, 2013 | ISSN 1556-5696), which should give you an idea of the level of activist-work I am involved in. To my knowledge, I did not violate any Facebook policies or guidelines in the writing or posting of my statuses; nor did I utilize any abusive language to anyone, under any race or gender.  All of my statuses which Facebook authorities took onus to delete were written in the Bengali language. Therefore, I am unable to understand why or how Facebook deleted any of my statuses, especially without knowing the language in which my posts were written!

I would now like to provide some background information with the hope that you will spend a few minutes to read it all. In doing so, it will be apparent that restoring my deleted posts will be a sign of much-needed respect towards the causes that the Bangladeshi people are fighting for.

I am an engineer by profession with a PhD degree in the relevant field.  Apart from my professional job, I pursue a parallel track as a social activist and science writer.  I have published seven Bangla books so far, and many of my articles have been published in magazines and journals. I am also the founder of Mukto-Mona – an Internet congregation of freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, atheists, and humanists of mainly Bengali and South Asian descent. I have been using Faceboook as a medium to help organize protests and create public awareness ever since a movement called the ‘Shahbag movement’ erupted in the capital city of Bangladesh a few months ago. This was a major event that young bloggers and university students in Bangladesh organized to bring justice to the notorious war criminal acts during the 1971 Liberation war between Bangladesh and Pakistan. Like thousands of other enthusiastic activists, I was engaged with the monumental event, and I updated my status regularly to keep others informed. I was quite vocal after the Bangladeshi government arrested a handful of ‘atheist’ bloggers to appease the Islamists who literally believe that atheists should not be permitted any rights or that all anti-religious beliefs should be terminated in a country like Bangladesh. I criticized the government’s decision and wrote a few articles in this respect. These articles were published in my English and Bangla blogs (here and here), in several popular Bangla newspapers ( see here, here, or here ), as well as in a few reputed English prints (see  here or here).  Through all this, I did not use any language that would be considered abusive by the Facebook community. Nevertheless, it seems as though my statuses have irritated some of the aforementioned Bangladeshi Islamic extremists who are opposed to progressive and secular philosophy.

I had been posting one or two statuses each day since the Sahbagh movement began (from February 5, 2013), into the time of the atheist bloggers’ unjustified arrest (April, 2013). Among the dozens of statuses that I had posted, I am only permitted to view a few of my recent statuses on my Facebook timeline (including just two statuses for this month). Let me give you a specific example —  the status I posted on May 12th is shown below:

“আসিফ মহিউদ্দীনের মুক্তি চাই, মুক্তি চাই মশিউর রহমান বিপ্লবের”।

না আমাদের যুদ্ধটা শেষ হয়নি। দু’জন ব্লগারকে জামিন দেয়া হয়েছে সত্য। কিন্তু আরো দু’জন ব্লগার এখনো কারাগারে। লড়াইটা তো কেবল শুরু।

আটককৃত ব্লগারদের সবাই মুক্ত না হওয়া পর্যন্ত লড়াই চলবে।

ওয়েলকাম ব্যাক Subrata Shuvo এবং রাসেল পারভেজ।

Which, in English, means –

We want the immediate release of Asif Mohiuddin and Mashiur Rahman Biplob.

It’s true that two of the arrested bloggers have been bailed out, but we cannot forget that the other two are still in prison. This being said, our battle has not ended; it has just begun.

Our struggle will continue until all the bloggers are free.

Welcome back, Subrata Shuvo and Rasel Pervez.

[Here is the screenshot of my status, and here is the evidence that someone copied my deleted status in her wall].

As you can see, I did not use any “abusive” or defaming language. The status demanded the release of the bloggers who had been arrested for committing the “crime” of freedom of expression. To my surprise, though, Facebook authorities have deleted it.  I suspect that individuals from radical Islamist groups reported my statuses on the basis that they were “offensive”.  This is simply outrageous. A bunch of people can form a closed/secret group at anytime and target an activist to report his/her statuses as ‘spam’. Facebook should not entertain this. Instead, the site (or the people in charge) should be able to identify the suspicious group approach to vilifying important humanitarian activism of a socially-conscious activist.  If Facebook does not take action against these notorious extremist groups with vested agenda, Facebook’s reputation, which is committed to upholding free speech, will be in jeopardy.

I am not making up the story, nor the possibilities. When I searched on the internet to see if any other users have faced similar problems, I found that in one recent occasion  (Hawaii Defense Foundation v. City and County of Honolulu), a complaint was filed over deleted Facebook posts and free speech. The plaintiffs alleged that their due process rights were violated and that the deletion of the Facebook posts affected the fundamental free speech right of First amendment, subsequently leading to a lawsuit. In another incident, Facebook had to apologize after it deleted a free speech group’s post about the abuse of human rights in Syria. In that case, a spokesman for Facebook said the post was ‘mistakenly’ removed by a member of its moderation team after receiving a high volume of take-down requests.

facebook_apologises_syria

I suspect that the exact same thing happened to my statuses. Facebook has removed the posts without even reading them. Even if they receive take-down requests, Facebook cannot and should not delete content without some kind of transparent investigation.  And instead of playing the part of a blind executioner, Facebook should provide reasons behind its actions and notify the user before rashly deleting a post or comment.

I call upon the Facebook authority to produce a more humane and sensible means to prove that the site respects free speech. I hope that you will understand the gravity of the issue and reinstate the statuses on my Timeline.

Thanks,

Avijit Roy

After I filed the complaint yesterday, Facebook immediately responded, most likely via an automated message:

The Facebook Team received a report from you [Notification Complaint: #175564335939695]. Please note that this channel is only for reports of alleged infringements or violations of your legal rights, such as copyright or trademark. If you filed that type of report, no further action is necessary. However, if you contacted us through this channel about another matter, you might not receive a response.

While I am providing Facebook some time to resolve the issue, I still find it necessary to make a few forcible comments regarding the fanatics who are trying to silence the growing freethinking activists. These radical individuals are genuinely afraid of free speech. They are afraid, they are embarrassed, and they are angry, because they are basically unable to defend their medieval superstitions and belief system using logic or any modern litmus test.  Therefore, the favorite tactic of these fanatics has been to try to suppress the views that criticize their cherished dogma. Their main target is now atheists, humanists, and skeptics. They have realized that unified groups of radicals are more effective than a solitary silencer, so they have started utilizing a ‘gangbang’ approach to suppress views that directly contradict their own (i.e. they form closed/secret groups and target popular freethinkers on Facebook, reporting our posts as ‘spam’). Here is one example of ‘gang bang’ approach by fanatics, and  how this is being carried out:

islamist_Chagu_gangbang

Here is one of the victim’s statuses whose messages got deleted just as mine:

rathy_status

or here is another one:

facebook_slavery

chagu_eating_statuses

Unfortunately, these Islamists, who are commonly attributed as Chaugus (ছাগু) in Bangla blog communities, their actions passed through Facebook’s automated filter, because Facebook does not seem to have a support system that can read and analyze posts written in Bengali. Not to mention, these desi Islamists are very clever.  Although they contribute minimally to modern scientific and technological advancement, they are always eager to defame progressive thought using the tools invented by kaffir scientists and inventors. As we know, Mark Zuckerberg is an outspoken atheist (please read wiki to view his religious position). The fanatics are now using Facebook – Zuckerberg’s creation – to silence atheists and freethinkers. When their online Jihad becomes less effective, they take action to silence the rationalist thinkers physically, just as they did for the blogger Thaba baba (Ahmed Rajib Haider) in the past.

Free speech has always been one of our most cherished rights. Let’s not be swayed by the rhetoric of those who consider this right to be an inconvenience in the attainment of their political or religious goals.

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