Make Facebook safer for LGBT Bangladeshis and Indians, act against online hate speech
This petition had 716 supporters
A right-wing media organization named Voice of Bangladesh, and its followers have been using Facebook to spread hate and incite gender and sexuality-based violence against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) communities of Bangladesh and India. They had created a now-deleted public event page on Facebook named ‘Beat up any rainbow-flag bearing homosexuals you see on Bengali new year’s day and turn them over to the police’ (Pohela Boishakhe Ramdhanu Ronger Shomokamider Dekhle Jutopeta Kore Pulishe Din), which was active between April 13 and April 17, 2016.
The host Voice of Bangladesh and other participants used the public event page to target specific LGBTIQ-identified people and LGBTIQ communities in general with hate speech and threats of physical and sexual assault, mostly in Bengali. Despite many reports against the event page, Facebook took no action till the host deleted it on the 17th of April.
This petition is intended to demand that Facebook must immediately initiate action against the page host Voice of Bangladesh, take down hate-mongering posts linked to the page that still remain active elsewhere on Facebook, and ensure that Facebook’s feedback channels are equipped to deal with complaints about hate speech in languages other than English.
Before the event page was deleted, event participants actively worked to prevent an LGBTIQ rally celebrating the Bengali New Year in Dhaka, Bangladesh on April 14, 2016 by inciting hatred against the rally and the LGBTIQ community with a series of abusive posts. Later, the host Voice of Bangladesh along with other participants celebrated the arrest of four LGBTIQ individuals who had come for the rally in their posts. They shared the names and contact details of those arrested, and even called for physical and sexual assault on them.
Further, the page was replete with lewd remarks, verbal violence and religious indictments against the LGBTIQ community as a whole. They targeted specific Facebook profiles of Bangladeshi and Indian people “suspected” to be LGBTIQ, sharing the links to their profiles on the event page, shaming them, reporting their profiles to Facebook, and sending harassing messages directly to profile owners.
For example, in a post dated April 16, 2016, a profile which goes by the name ‘Comrade Mahmud’ writes, “Before this event page gets deleted, let us report some more faggots.” (Event delete hoar aage aashun Putukamider id bhoge pathiye di. Sobai report korun). Then Mahmud goes on to disclose the name of a queer individual and soon others comment on his post, stating that they have reported this person, as well as many others. An hour later, Mahmud reports that the queer individual’s profile has been blocked. This is greeted by cheers in the comments section and more such profiles are publicly named on the thread. Such posts exposed LGBTIQ individuals in Bangladesh and India to right-wing groups who have been actively persecuting atheists and progressive bloggers in Bangladesh. Another post dated 14th April, 2016 by Atikul Islam Liman advocated strict punishment and physical violence against homosexuals. Further, the page also contained links to similar hate-mongering public posts that still remain active elsewhere on Facebook.
In spite of multiple reports against the event page between 14th and 17th April, Facebook did not take any action. Instead, it repeatedly sent the message that it did not find any “hate speech” or “symbols” on the page that violated its “community standards”. After the page was deleted by the hosts, Facebook updated the review reports to claim that the page had been removed before they could review it. However, this was blatantly untrue, as a previous set of reports had denied finding any “hate speech” on the event page.
So it seems Facebook has been shirking its responsibility and actively covering up its role in condoning the event page and the associated dissemination of hate and violence.
This is not the first time that Facebook has ignored hate speech related to gender and sexuality based violence, thereby making it an unsafe space for millions of its users, especially those whose modes of communication is not in English.
Can a major social media organization that claims to be an ally to LGBTIQ people be indifferent to fundamental human rights? Should the Facebook review method not be equipped enough to scan posts and comments in various languages, and not only in English (as the page and its posts and comments were mostly in Bengali)?
Given that the platform of Facebook has been used for such basic violations of human rights, we demand:
- Immediate steps for banning the groups and individuals who were involved in spreading hate and violence through the event page.
- In particular, the host Voice of Bangladesh’s account should be banned or in the minimum, suspended for using social media to spread hate and incite violence.
- At least three hate-mongering public posts that were linked on the page are still active and must be immediately taken down.
- Facebook must ensure a proper review process and feedback channel for posts which are not in English and ensure that communication with Facebook is not just an automated process.
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