Facebook attempts to shut down the voice of The Uprising of Women in the Arab World
Nov 7, 2012 - On the morning of November 7, 2012, the 5 admins of The Uprising of Women in the Arab World log into Facebook, to find out that one’s account has been blocked for 30 days, another for 3 days, 2 others for 24 hours, and 1 other received a warning notification.
According to Facebook, those persons had violated its policy by sharing a post asking for supporting Dana Bakdounes on Twitter. The message that was sent to the admins as the reasoning for the ban from Facebook was: “You have posted a content that violates Facebook Community Rules, the post says: Follow us on Twitter @UprisingOFWomen. Support Dana with hashtag #WindToDana”
Dana Bakdounes is one the hundreds of women and men who participated in the Uprising of Women in the Arab World campaign, holding a sign expressing the reason why they support this uprising. Dana’s slogan stated: “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because for 20 years I wasn’t allowed to feel the wind in my hair and on my body”, and her picture showed an unveiled woman carrying her passport with her picture when she was veiled.
Dana’s picture was initially posted on October 21, among many other photos and statements of women and men of various religious beliefs and practices (some women were veiled, some unveiled, some in niqab...), all demanding women’s rights and equally enjoying the freedom of speech, in a secular space that promotes tolerance and embraces the differences. But on October 25, Facebook chose to censor Dana’s image and to suspend for 24 hours the account of the admin who posted it. This incident provoked an outrage among the defenders of freedom of speech who started sharing Dana’s picture all over Facebook, Twitter and other media channels.
On October 28, persuaded that Facebook had mistakenly taken down the photo due to abusive reports of haters of the Page and that the photo held no offensive content, and seeing that it was all over the web, we uploaded it again. A few hours later, Facebook removed it again and blocked another admin’s account for 7 days.
However on October 31, Facebook restored Dana’s censored photo to The Uprising of Women in the Arab World page without any notice nor explanation, although it didn’t lift the ban on the admin’s account which ended on November 5.
On November 7, all 5 admins of The Uprising of Women in the Arab World’s Page received threats by Facebook for the reasons mentioned earlier that their accounts may be permanently deleted. The repeated temporary blockades on the admins’ personal accounts with no clear motive or explanation show a direct attack on The Uprising of Women in The Arab World’s Page. It also raises serious questions about the true intentions behind FB’s policies, and whether Dana’s “controversial” image is a mere excuse to shut down the voice of the Uprising of Women in The Arab World.
(Note that during the past 3 weeks, we have wrote to Facebook several times asking for explanation about their censorship but received no response at all.)
Today more than ever we want to say to the world that our voices will not be silenced, not by Facebook, nor by patriarchy, dictatorships, military rule and/or religious extremism. They may be temporarily denied, overlooked, censored or whitewashed, but only to be uttered once again. We will continue to write on the dividing walls of fear, submission and defamation, if not tear them down.
The Uprising of Women in the Arab World has already hit the streets! Our slogan is printed on t-shirts in Damascus, riding bicycles in Marseille, being tagged from walls of Mohamed Mahmoud street of Cairo to private home walls in Riyadh, and will soon be all over the world. Schools and universities are organizing workshops inspired by the campaign, films are being shot, music composed, as tens of thousands of women have decided that enough was enough. The wall of silence has been broken. The revolution continues.