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 Facebook filtering Kurdish content, closing accounts

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Facebook filtering Kurdish content, closing accounts  24.2.2012  

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Getty Images

This may ban you on facebook, an avatar picture, saying “I am KCK” (Kurdistan Communities Union). Photo:  See Related Links
February 24, 2012

AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands, — A former employee of the company oDesk, who used to filter out offensive content on Facebook, has leaked the website's secret rulebook of detailed instructions, which include blocking any content related to Kurdistan and the PKK.

The British Daily Mail reports that aggrieved Moroccan worker Amine Derkaou leaked the information to the U.S. gossip website Gawker.

The rulebook bans all attacks on the founder of Turkey, Kemal Atatürk, along with maps of Kurdistan and the burning of Turkish flags.

Furthermore, indications of supporting PKK, or PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, will result in IP or Facebook account blocks, unless they are clearly against the PKK or Öcalan.

A team of about 50 people from all over the third world -- Mexico, Turkey, India and the Philippines -- work to moderate Facebook content.

Kurds on Twitter were outraged by the leaked rulebook, and suggested that Turks employed by the company were behind the censoring. “[I] got banned too for 3 days last week after posting a picture of Ocalan ... FB's terms are BS and too broad,” wrote Kurdish-American student Mohammed Hesen on Twitter.

Pro-Kurdish activist and blogger Mark Campbell, who maintains the blog Hevallo [], claimed he was banned for 24 hours for having an avatar picture, saying “I am KCK” (Kurdistan Communities Union).

On Wednesday, the website of the German Der Spiegel ran an article on the same topic, saying, “With Facebook you can write: ‘I have a large penis and like it when girls touch it.’ Prohibited, however, is: ‘I am looking for girls who want to have fun. Send me a message if you want to have a good time.’"

The writer Christian Stocker tries to explain the intricacy of Facebook rules, saying, “The second example -- albeit rather implicitly – is an invitation to erotic dating, and falls under the Facebook offense of ‘sexual solicitation.’ To have a big penis though ‘is not a sexual activity,’ and the thing about touching ‘no details’ and does not fulfill the criteria for ‘sexually explicit language.’”

According to this article in the Der Spiegel, Facebook seems to have special rules for Germany and Turkey, taking the interests of both countries interests into account.

"Holocaust denial, with 'hate speech' in focus, and ‘all attacks on Ataturk (visual and textual)’ must be removed, as well as content that apparently supports the Kurdish terrorist organization and the imprisoned PKK leader Ocalan,” reads the article.

Dogan Dogan, a Kurdish community activist in Canada, told Rudaw that his Facebook pages have been closed down more than five times.

“When you post anything against Turkey, when you criticize Turkey or even mention the Armenian genocide, Facebook will immediately close your account,” he said.

Dogan said that Facebook closed pages he had created for Kurdish solidarity with thousands of followers.

“They are targeting the Kurds specifically. But why do this?” he said. “I contacted Facebook administrators three times but never got any response from them.”

Dogan, who still runs Facebook pages for Kurds living in North America, believes that if Kurds had a country of their own, Facebook wouldn’t treat them this way.

“There are many Greek pages against Turkey and Ataturk, but Facebook doesn’t close them because the Greek government protects the rights of its citizens to free speech,” he said. “The Kurds have no one to speak for them and represent them.”

By Wladimir van Wilgenburg
* Ayub Nuri contributed to this article from Canada.

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