Facebook has signalled its intent to help Pakistan identify thought criminals even as one blogger faces the death penalty for the ‘crime’ of blaspheming against Islam.
The social media giant will work with the Pakistani government to block “blasphemous” content and has “already removed 85 per cent of anti-Islamic content from Pakistan in the last few weeks,” according to reports.
The penalty for “blasphemy” (criticizing the religion of Islam) in Pakistan is death.
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) Chairman Ismael Shah celebrated Facebook’s compliance with sharia law as a “big achievement”. A delegation from Facebook will meet with the Pakistani government this week to oversee the process.
The revelation is particularly disturbing given that a Pakistani blogger known by the pseudonym Ayaz Nizami was recently arrested and faces the death penalty for “blasphemy”.
Nizami’s crime was to leave the religion of Islam, critique its origins and teachings, and form an atheist organization.
According to his friends, Nizami “Spoke out on religion and Islam, and with highly educated, scholarly authority in the relevant subject matter. It was taken as terrorism and blasphemy.”
To make matters worse, the hashtag #HangAyazNizami, under which Islamists called for his brutal murder or state execution, was allowed to trend on Twitter earlier this week.
The fact that Facebook, a supposedly “progressive” Silicon Valley company, is helping the government of Pakistan impose sharia law by identifying and censoring people who then face execution because of their words is chilling and exposes the fact that the social networking giant’s liberal credentials are non-existent.
Citizens of European countries who also face official oppression and hate crime charges for criticizing refugee policies thanks to Facebook working with the government to identify them also underscores how Facebook is now virtually an arm of the state and can no longer be considered just a private company.
However, Facebook is not the only western media organization helping to legitimize the idea that “blasphemy” should have any consequences at all.
Earlier this month, the BBC’s Asian Network stoked controversy when it sent out a tweet asking, “What is the right punishment for blasphemy?”
What is the right punishment for blasphemy?
— BBC Asian Network (@bbcasiannetwork) March 17, 2017
The network subsequently apologized yet still did not make clear that there should be no punishment whatsoever for “blasphemy” in a truly tolerant, modern society.
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