Facebook censors Turkey’s biggest anti-racist initiative

Facebook censors Turkey’s biggest anti-racist initiative

Emrah Güler ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Facebook censors Turkey’s biggest anti-racist initiative

These photos are taken from the Facebook page of DurDe!, an initiative founded to fight racism, nationalism and hate speech in Turkey.

“As we know from historical experiences, racism is an ideological enemy to mankind, has always gone with bloodshed and has been used for the benefits of a small ruling minority.” So begins the founding call for “DurDe!” (Say Stop!), or “Say Stop to Racism and Nationalism Initiative,” on the initiative’s website. And it ends, “We wish to come together and take permanent steps with those who say ‘I’m against racism and nationalism.’”

DurDe! is a grassroots initiative with local groups that was founded in 2007 to fight racism, nationalism and hate speech in Turkey. The initiative has organized high-profile campaigns, such as the “Remove 301, Try Racists” campaign, referring to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which led to a petition with 20,000 signatures, along with a visit to the Turkish National Assembly.

It also organized a commemoration for the Armenian Genocide of 1915 in Istanbul in 2010, drawing 2,500 people to the controversial event. The initiative has been holding events every year since its foundation on March 21, 2007. DurDe! is also a member of United for Intercultural Action, a European network that fights against nationalism, racism and fascism and supports migrants and refugees, as well as the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement.

Facebook censors Turkey’s biggest anti-racist initiativeWith traffic of 25,000 monthly visitors to their website, 7,000 Twitter followers and 50,000 Facebook followers, DurDe! is the biggest initiative in Turkey advocating a strong stance in the fight against racism and nationalism. In fact, theirs is a fight that resonates with Facebook’s own community standards.

Facebook doesn’t ‘like’ DurDe!

In Facebook’s community standards, you can read, “Facebook does not permit hate speech.” It later opens its argument further, “We do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.” Why then, were all of the admins of DurDe!’s Facebook site prevented from accessing the page last week?

“Last week, all of us found out that our admin statuses had been revoked. The page was still active, but we did not have access to the page,” Cengiz Algan, one of the founders of the DurDe! Initiative and admins of the page, told the Hürriyet Daily News. Algan is also the director of the Social Change Association, which kicked off the Campaign Against Hate Crimes which, among other activities, drafted special legislation against hate crimes to be submitted to the Turkish Parliament.

When you look at the page at Facebook.com/durde, the last entry was posted on Jan. 14. When you look at the last posts as the Devil’s Advocate to find any grounds for such an extreme action, there is nothing. In fact, the posts are links to TV programs, one from the state-owned TRT, and to news from major dailies, including Hürriyet, Milliyet, Radikal and Vatan.

“This is systematic and deliberate,” said Algan. “Similar mechanisms of censorship happened in the past when news about Kurds and Armenians increased, and when Jan. 19 was approaching.” Jan. 19 is the anniversary of the assassination of Hrant Dink, the editor-in-chief of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper and a long-time advocate of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, by a 17-year-old Turkish nationalist.

Is there a Facebook Turkey team?

“There had been incidents when some of the page admins were shut off in the past; we could not post entries onto the Facebook page,” said Algan. “This happened during the hunger strikes [by Kurds in prisons across Turkey], when we were covering the murder of Armenians in Samatya [Istanbul] and generally when we were posting entries about Kurds and Armenians. But nothing this big had happened before.”

Facebook’s censor hovers over the personal accounts of Algan and other admins. They are not allowed to post content similar to what they would have posted on DurDe!’s page, not even the link to the petition for Facebook to remove the ban. “Facebook is contradicting itself. On one hand, it is listing hate speech as one of its major reasons to report and remove a ban; on the other, it is censoring the biggest Facebook platform of hate speech in Turkey,” said Algan.

Facebook censors Turkey’s biggest anti-racist initiativeAlgan said there were dozens of pages and posts that overtly advocate hate speech against Kurds and Armenians but which Facebook chooses to ignore.

Have they contacted Facebook? One of the major problems when dealing with Facebook management is, well, not being able to reach Facebook Management. “We have contacted Facebook Turkey, and there is no answer. The next step is to approach the Facebook headquarters. And if that doesn’t work, we will file a lawsuit,” said Algan.

“Facebook needs to reassess its operations in Turkey. There are obviously racist employees in the team,” said Algan. “More transparency is long overdue.” It is actually no news that Facebook, having reached the threshold of 1 billion users worldwide, is hardly able to manage its operations effectively. Last year, one of the employees leaked information about Facebook’s censorship policies, making known that Zuckerberg and co. are recruiting low-wage third-world contractors to monitor the country pages and delete certain content.

Check durde.org to sign a petition to reinstate the rightful admins of the Facebook page.