Facebook’s decision to guard ‘illegal contents’ spurs debate over free speech on internet

Monday, December 13, 2010

WASHINGTON - The step taken by social networking site Facebook to establish a “hate and harassment team” as part of a virtual police squad charged with taking down content that is illegal or violates Facebook’s terms of service, has spurred debate over freedom of speech on the Internet.

The Facebook’s move came into sharp focus last week after whistleblower website ‘Wikileaks’ created a hue and cry across the world over its release of hundreds of secret US diplomatic cables.

According to The New York Times, Facebook took down a page used by WikiLeaks supporters to organize hacking attacks on the sites of such companies, including PayPal and MasterCard.

It said that the page violated the terms of service, which prohibit material that is hateful, threatening, pornographic or incites violence or illegal acts. However, it did not remove WikiLeaks’s own Facebook pages.

Over 500 million members upload more than one billion pieces of content a day on Facebook, and therefore the site’s move to guard such content would likely make the question of free speech in the internet very prominent.

“Facebook has more power in determining who can speak and who can be heard around the globe than any Supreme Court justice, any king or any president. It is important that Facebook is exercising its power carefully and protecting more speech rather than less,” the paper quoted Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University who has written about free speech on the Internet, as saying.

Earlier decisions by the company not to remove material related to Holocaust denial or pages critical of Islam and other religions had annoyed advocacy groups and prompted some foreign governments to temporarily block the site. (ANI)

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