Spotlight on Facebook over Russian censorship

A planned Jan. 15 rally in Russia in support of political opposition activist Alexey Navalny is raising questions about how Facebook and other services can operate in countries that restrict free speech.

At issue is a Facebook page advertising the rally. Last weekend, the company reportedly blocked user access to the page in response to a government request, according to Bloomberg.

Apparently Twitter did not comply with a similar request. And now both companies are not complying with these requests, with a new Facebook page promoting the event, wrote Bloomberg.

Anton Nossik, described as a Web pioneer who founded popular Russian news sites, told the news service:

They’ve brought things to a standoff. Either the Russian government proceeds or climbs down. The only option left is to shut down Facebook and Twitter entirely in Russia.

Bloomberg View’s Leonid Bershidsky called Facebook’s blocking the end of the Facebook Revolution. “Opposition activists everywhere must now assume that they need more reliable ways to organize online,” he wrote.

But in an editorial today in the New York Times, the writers said that people need to remember that Facebook isn’t the public square but a corporation, which has to comply by local laws and may have a strong business interest to stay in a country even if it faces censorship requests:

Social media businesses have become such a fixture in modern life, many people might think of them as the digital equivalent of the public square where opinions can be freely shared. But these companies are more like privately operated malls — the management always reserves the right to throw you out if you don’t abide by its rules.

Photo by Kirstina Sangsahachart/Daily News archives


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