Pakistan has banned access to Facebook over the controversial “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” leading Facebook to issue strong comments about the importance of freedom of speech – right before it blocked access to the page from India.
May 20 was “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” a “freedom of speech” protest against Islamic extremists who threaten death against anyone who dares render an image of the prophet Mohammed. It all began with the censorship of a South Park episode in which Mohammed appeared, leading to death threats against creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and quickly picked up steam. As of now, the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” Facebook group has attracted well over 115,000 fans.
The nation of Pakistan is not among them, however. Following a court order, access to Facebook from within the country was blocked entirely and although the ban is scheduled to be lifted on May 31, that deadline could very easily be extended. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority also blocked access to YouTube for carrying “sacrilegious content.”
Facebook responded by saying it was “disappointed” with the decision but insisted that it won’t remove the offending page. “We strongly believe that Facebook users have the freedom to express their opinions, and we don’t typically take down content, groups or pages that speak out against countries, religions, political entities or ideas,” the company said in a statement.
But don’t get too excited about passing out medals of freedom just yet. Facebook may be talking the talk about the Pakistan situation but it’s taken a slightly different approach with India, where it has voluntarily blocked access to the controversial page. “Out of respect for the local regulations, standards and customs, we have decided to restrict access to the ‘Everyone Draw Mohammed!’ page from India, after being contacted by authorities and reviewing the matter closely,” a Facebook rep said yesterday. “We have not removed the Page from Facebook, but have only restricted access to it from India.” Facebook may consider blocking access to the page from Pakistan as well, the rep added.
I honestly can’t tell: Is this hugely hypocritical, or does it just really feel that way?