Facebook Execs: Brave Fighters for Freedom!
If you aren't a regular reader of The Daily Mail, you're likely unaware of the wonderfully named Raoul Moat, an English sociopath who, upon release from prison in early July, shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend, killed her partner, and blinded a police officer with a shotgun blast to the face. After a more efficacious team of armed British police surrounded Moat in the village of Rothbury, the former nightclub bouncer graciously shot himself in the head, despite the best efforts of his friend Paul Gascoigne, the alcoholic former soccer star, who brought the gunman "a can of lager, some chicken, a mobile phone and something to keep warm."
Then something odd(er) happened. Despite never having been a member of a faddish lefty protest group (a la Mumia Abu-Jamal), a small movement memorializing Moat blossomed online. A Facebook page was created; flowers were piled in front of his house and at the site in Rothbury where he killed himself; the Birmingham-based hip-hop outfit TripleR released a repulsive track called "A Tribute to Raoul Moat" on YouTube.
It would have been advisable to ignore this small explosion of chav outrage, but Prime Minister David Cameron took the bait, calling on Facebook to remove the tribute to Moat and denouncing his sympathizers from the floor of the Commons. The Facebook page is the project of Siobhan O'Dowd, a semi-literate woman from Burnley, a town with the dubious distinction of electing the first BNP county council representative in Britain. O'Dowd, whose life has not been previously marked by success, managed to attract over 35,000 members. Between bottles of Buckfast Tonic Wine, declaring that Moat was a "legend," and being denounced by the PM, O'Dowd spoke with TalkSport radio during which she defended, in the cadence of Vicky Pollard, the murderer because "'He kept from eyes of police for a week–that were funny." (The full interview below.)
When pressured by members of Cameron's government to remove the group, Facebook did the right thing, arguing that while some might find the group and many of the comments left on the page offensive, the website "is a place where people can express their views and discuss things in an open way as they can and do in many other places, and as such we sometimes find people discussing topics others may find distasteful, however that is not a reason in itself to stop a debate from happening."
It is good to see a company like Facebook stand up for free and robust…errr…wait a minute. Perhaps the defenders of freedom at Facebook, the corporate Voltaires who bravely provide an online forum for opinions "others may find distasteful," think we forgot about this:
LAHORE, Pakistan — Pakistan lifted a ban on Facebook on Monday after officials from the social networking site apologized for a page deemed offensive to Muslims and removed its contents, a top information technology official said.
The move came almost two weeks after Pakistan imposed the ban amid anger over a page that encouraged users to post images of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims regard depictions of the prophet, even favorable ones, as blasphemous.
"In response to our protest, Facebook has tendered their apology and informed us that all the sacrilegious material has been removed from the URL," said Najibullah Malik, secretary of Pakistan's information technology ministry, referring to the technical term for a Web page.
Facebook assured the Pakistani government that "nothing of this sort will happen in the future," Malik said.
Bonus audio of Siobhan O'Dowd on TalkSport. If any non-chav readers can transcribe the whole conversation, I'll send you a copy of New Threats to Freedom, featuring myself, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Anne Applebaum, Christopher Hitchens, and many other clever folks, for free! Because I haven't a clue what she is on about.