Facebook restricts access to its holocaust-denial sites
. . a free-access social networking website that is operated and privately owned by Facebook, Inc.. Users can join networks organized by city, workplace, school, and region to connect and interact with other people. People can also add friends and send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves.
Bradley Smith wrote on his "One Person with Proof" blog,
Technically Incorrect has posted an interesting article on censorship instigated by Dallas Cowboys owner Mark Cuban's brother and attorney for his companies, Brian. Brian has written to Facebook demanding to know why the social-networking site allows Holocaust denial groups. His opinion is that this is not a First Amendment issue.
"The belief that the First Amendment protects speech in the private social media arena or at your place of employment is a common misconception," he says.
Wrong. TV stations, radio stations, and newspapers, for example, are usually privately owned, yet the courts have ruled that they are subject or potentially subject to 1st Amendment freedom-of-speech requirements.
Although Holocaust denial is not illegal in the US, it is a crime in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Israel, Slovakia, and Switzerland.
To Cuban, any Holocaust denial group is clearly committing an illegal act in those countries. He has therefore written to Facebook asking the company why it permits the five Holocaust denial groups he has found on the site.
It is not Facebook's job to enforce foreign censorship laws. Facebook's first obligation is to the US Constitution. Our courts have been severely criticized for merely mentioning foreign laws and court opinions, let alone applying them.
A Facebook spokesman said that Facebook is not planning to remove the holocaust-denial sites -- at least not yet [link]--
. . .we are sensitive to groups that threaten violence towards people and these groups are taken down. We also remove groups that express hatred towards individuals and groups that are sponsored by recognized terrorist organizations. We do not, however, take down groups that speak out against countries, political entities, or ideas.
However, he said that Facebook is using IP addresses to block access from countries where holocaust-denial is illegal [link]--
When dealing with user generated content on global websites, there are occasions where content that is illegal in one country, is not (or may even be protected) in another. For example, homosexual content is illegal in some countries, but that does not mean it should be removed from Facebook. Most companies approach this issue by preventing certain content from being shown to users in the countries where it is illegal and that is our approach as well. We have recently begun to block content by IP in countries where that content is illegal, including Nazi-related and holocaust denial content in certain European countries. The groups in question have been blocked in the appropriate countries.
As I said, Facebook's obligation is to follow the US Constitution and US laws, not foreign censorship laws. And I am really surprised that anyone in the US would dare restrict access to homosexual sites.
Also, using IP addresses to block Internet communications is illegal or frowned upon in Europe. A news article said,
(AP) IP addresses, string of numbers that identify computers on the Internet, should generally be regarded as personal information, the head of the European Union's group of data privacy regulators said Monday.
Germany's data protection commissioner, Peter Scharr, leads the EU group preparing a report on how well the privacy policies of Internet search engines operated by Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and others comply with EU privacy law.
Here are some excerpts from Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995:
Object of the Directive1. In accordance with this Directive, Member States shall protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, and in particular their right to privacy with respect to the processing of personal data . . . ..
DefinitionsFor the purposes of this Directive:
(a) 'personal data' shall mean any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person ('data subject'); an identifiable person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identification number or to one or more factors specific to his physical, physiological, mental, economic, cultural or social identity . . . . .(emphasis added)
Article 61. Member States shall provide that personal data must be:
- - - - - - - - -
(e) kept in a form which permits identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary for the purposes for which the data were collected or for which they are further processed . . . . .
Member States shall provide that personal data may be processed only if:
(a) the data subject has unambiguously given his consent; or
(b) processing is necessary for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is party or in order to take steps at the request of the data subject prior to entering into a contract; or
(c) processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation to which the controller is subject; or
(d) processing is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject; or
(e) processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller or in a third party to whom the data are disclosed; or
(f) processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or by the third party or parties to whom the data are disclosed, except where such interests are overridden by the interests for fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection under Article 1 (1).
As for Articles 7(c) and 7(e) above, "compliance with a legal obligation" and "performance of a task carried out in the public interest," Facebook has an obligation to follow the US Constitution and has no obligation to follow foreign censorship laws.
Some of this blog's articles about misuse of IP addresses to block Internet communications are here, here, here, here, and here.
If Facebook's restriction of access to a Facebook site shows disapproval, then what does unrestricted access to a Facebook site show? Approval? Does Facebook want to imply that it approves of every Facebook site that has unrestricted access? Why can't Facebook just post a disclaimer saying that Facebook does not endorse or approve any Facebook site?
Facebook is so big that they think they can get away with almost anything. However, like Wikipedia, Facebook is going to find out that, as the saying goes, "the bigger they are, the harder they fall."