Facebook is proving that it cares more about expanding internationally than protecting users’ rights to privacy and expression.
On Jan. 9, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a firm and emotional statement on the importance of free speech to Facebook, signing off with the ubiquitous hashtag, “Je Suis Charlie.”
A few weeks later, Facebook complied with an order from the Turkish government to remove images of the Prophet Mohammed, the latest in a series of moves from the social network that give into government influence. The decision reflects the lucrative market that Turkey represents for the American tech company.
In late December, Facebook acquiesced to the Russian government’s order to block access to a page calling for a protest in support of Alexei Navalny. Navalny is Russian President Vladamir Putin’s most vocal critic and is currently under house arrest in Moscow.
It’s also no secret that Zuckerberg has been actively seeking to have Facebook operate in the Chinese market, hosting the Chinese minister of Cyberspace Administration at Facebook’s headquarters, and sucking up to the Chinese President Xi Jinping. If Facebook did receive permission to operate in China, where it is currently blocked, it would certainly have to cooperate with censorship orders from the Chinese government.
Facebook argues that it is simply complying with local laws in the countries that it operates and touts reports it releases with aggregated government requests for data and censorship. Turkey’s government threatened to block access to the entire site if Facebook did not cooperate with its censorship orders.
Facebook is not a “public square.” It is a corporation, and it will do whatever it can to increase market share. However, if Facebook truly wanted to be the force for freedom of expression it claims to be, it could use its considerable influence and visibility to stand up against and refuse to be complicit in repressive government policies.
The greatest threat to the freedom of the press and expression doesn’t come from extremists — it comes from government itself.
Leaders and dignitaries from across the world convened in Paris on Sunday in a show of unity following the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. Unfortunately, many of the governments represented have atrocious records dealing with the press and freedom of expression in their own countries. To mention a few:
- Britain’s government did it’s best to hamper the Guardian’s ability to report on state surveillance revelations from the Edward Snowden documents.
- Turkey’s government just arrested the editor in chief of a leading newspaper and is constantly prosecuting cartoonists for drawing-related crimes.
- In a highly-flawed trial, Egypt’s government jailed 3 Al Jazeera journalists for aiding the Muslim Brotherhood.
- The U.S. government — and the Obama administration in particular — has aggressively pursued and jailed whistleblowers that speak to journalists. The only CIA employee to face jail time for the torture program at the agency was John Kiriakou, who tried to expose it.
The brutal deaths of the cartoonists, editors and journalists at Charlie Hebdo are a tragic loss.
As eloquently put by Joe Randazzo, a former Onion editor, “This is a loss for all of humanity. The victims, people who believed with passion and intellect that humankind can be better, were struck down in the birthplace of the Enlightenment, the movement from which the modern world emanates.”
At the heart of this story is the contrast between the peaceful freedom of expression and violence.
My focus fell on the bravery of continuing to work and maintain a sense of humor, while under the threat of imminent violence — even death.
I recently created an infographic illustrating the key points of a story on government-backed loans for poorly rated nursing homes written by journalist Jeff Kelly Lowenstein and published by the Center for Public Integrity. The graphic was designed as a print handout and was distributed at National Consumer Voice, a national conference of nursing home advocates. This story was one part of an investigation that also showed widespread discrepancies in staffing levels reported by nursing homes, as well as racial disparities present in the quality of care provided by many homes.
This was my first time working on a infographic project, and I was really happy to be able to contribute to hopefully helping people understand the major points of the investigation.