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By Syria Tribune

Category: By Syria Tribune

On April 20, a group of my friends contacted a former Facebook employee (name not to be revealed), complaining about a Facebook page that they found threatening to national unity and stability in Syria. The former employee agreed that content on that page does violate Facebook terms and conditions,and promised to help close the page should the group manage to have a good number of Facebook users report the page.

My friends organized a campaign that succeeded on April 24th in gathering a huge number of Facebook users who agree with them, and they all reported the page to Facebook simultaneously. The campaign lasted for about two hours, and they estimate that they succeeded in gathering at least 20,000 reports. The page was disabled by Facebook. A few hours later, Facebook restored the page again, despite all the violating content. When my friends contacted the former employee asking why, he just said: This issue is beyond my reach.


The page I am talking about is none but The Syrian Revolution 2011, the main Syrian Revolution page on Facebook.


On the other hand, a page called The Syrian Electronic Army has been disabled 105 times until the time of writing this article, all because of violations to Facebook terms and conditions. You may think I am joking, but I am not. This page has in fact been disabled 105 times so far, and its admins have managed to start a new page every time the page was disabled, with an average of 6000 fans gathering within 48 hours of reopening each and every time.


In this article, I am going to discuss how Facebook handled the Arab Spring, in which it played a vital role. Was the behavior described above just an exception? Or has Facebook been selective in disabling certain pages, but protecting others, despite all violations to its terms and conditions?


To discuss this, we will refer to Facebook terms, especially the Special Provisions Applicable to Pages, and use the Syrian uprising as an example.


Please note that the links in this article go the current pages being discussed. But these pages may be disabled at any time. We will try to update the links continuously.




The Syrian Electronic Army

 Syrian Electronic Army

There is no doubt that the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) page(s) did violate Facebook terms and conditions in many ways. Namely:


Article 3.6: You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.


Although this article applies to users, not pages, but the spirit of it necessitates that no page should encourage its users to engage in such behavior, which SEA has done several times, by asking its users to “attack” certain pages or users and leave harassing comments.


SEA also brags about defacing websites, which also violates the spirit of Facebook terms, although the terms do not prohibit this behavior in letters. One more thing that is considered violating is the main behavior SEA is involved in, which is spamming Facebook pages with hundreds or even thousands of comments by page users, again, terms and conditions do not prohibit this directly, but the spirit of them does.


So SEA does violate Facebook terms, and it has been duly punished by being disabled 105 times. This would not be a point of debate if Facebook behaved the same way with some other pages that violate its terms, as we will explain below.




The Syrian Revolution 2011


The way Facebook handled this page can only be interpreted as protecting it by all means. Facebook returned this page to its admins two times: The first time is mentioned in the introduction, and the second happened on July 5, 2011, when Facebook returned page after it being hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army itself. The Syrian Revolution


Has this page violated Facebook terms? It does, continuously. Let’s see how:


Article 3.7: You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.


But take a look at this post, which is just an example amongst many. In this post, the page admins published the names of 9 doctors and nursing staff in Homs National Hospital, accusing them of killing and mutilating wounded protesters admitted to the hospital. This is a clear incitement for violence, and it was posted just a few hours after Facebook restored the page on April 25th. One of the doctors on this list was assassinated a few months later.


Facebook page terms article 8: 8. You will restrict access to your Page as necessary to comply with all applicable laws and Facebook terms and policies.


Article 3.7: You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.


This is a similar post that shows names of people in Daria, accusing them of being spies. The comments under the image contain clear threats of killing the people on the list. The same thing happens in this post, but in Hama, the city that witnessed the terrible massacre where security personnel were killed and their dead bodies thrown in Orontes River. This post goes beyond that. It names people who are “spies” as claimed, and others who are called “hypocrites”, which means they don’t really support the revolution. The image itself contains clear threats that “this would be the last warning, and the people will take their revenge.”


This post names a whole family in Aleppo, the Burri family, accusing them of being regime tools, and asking revolution sympathizers from that family to “put an end to this”.


The page also gives directions to how to face the police, telling revolutionists to burn tyres in the streets, as explained in this post, and make smoke machines, and other behavior that contradicts with Facebook terms article 3.10:


You will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory.


On the other hand, take a look at this recent post. It attacks Sameer Al Kuntar, who has recently expressed support to President Bashar Al Assad, and opposition to those who carry weapons against him (he was in fact explicit in talking about armed gangs only). Here are some comments that are under his picture:


·         Souria Hourah-Amir تفو عليه خنزير طائفي:
“I spit on him, this sectarian pig.”


·         Abbood Mahmoud يا ريت سمير مات وخلص
“I wish he died and made it easier for all.” (referring to the time he spent in Israeli prisons).


·         Àbu Mouslem اخوتي في الله ماذا تتوقعون من شخص من المذهب الدرزي؟؟؟؟يعني شخص من الفرق الباطنية يعني مثل النصيرية لعنة الله على الاثنين
“Brothers in worshiping ALLAH, what would you expect from a druze? He belongs to a sect of a secret doctrine. He is just like Alawites, God’s curses on both.”


·         ابراهيم العقيديقنطار لازم نقطع راسو هالكلب لانو عم يتطاول على اسيادو
“This dog must be beheaded for insulting his masters.”


Is this not hateful? Doesn’t this comprise a content that is threatening and that incites on violence? Isn’t the page admin responsible for restricting access to his page so it complies “with all applicable laws and Facebook terms and policies”?


One more example of how this page violates Facebook terms is article 3.7:


You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.


This page has been posting graphic videos for months, containing bloody scenes that should not be posted, as per the article above, unless of course this is considered “gratuitous violence”. Examples of such videos are numerous, and you may check the page to see that.


These are just a few examples of thousands of similar posts and comments that incite sectarianism and violence. Yet, the page is still there, and Facebook is in fact protecting it.




Khalid Bin Al Waleed Phalanges


This page is a different type of revolution pages. It does not claim to adopt peaceful protesting, but states clearly that it adopts violence. Let’s see how this page violates Facebook terms and conditions.Khalid Bin Al Waleed


Article 3.7: You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.


Let’s see some posts from this page:


This post says the following:


“The Syrian Free Army, Khalid Bin Al Waleed Phalanges: A group from Ali Bin Abi Talib division attacked a military barricade near Al Houleh and destroyed it completely. All soldiers on that barricade have been eliminated.”


Another example is this post, that says:


“in the name of ALLAH the Most Gracious, Most Merciful. We have just been informed of some of the actions taken by Nashama division (of Khalid Bin Al Waleed Phalanges): Targeting a car on Al Zir roundabout that was carrying five Shabyha with their arms, all killed or wounded, ambushing a shabyh (thug) who is well known for committing crimes in Homs, whose name is not known to us, and sniping him in Sinaa area. and targeting a group of Shabyha near Kutaib cemetery killing and injuring a number of them. May ALLAH bless the great men in Homs.”


Of course Shabyha is a term used to describe Assad loyalists in Syria.


There are hundreds of similar posts that claim responsibility for violence and killing. Yet the page remains, despite all reporting done by Syrian activists.




ShameLeaks: Syrians abroad Against the Revolution


This page is an example of tens of similar pages that publish names and pictures of Syrians who do not support the uprising, with accusations that vary from not supporting the uprising to organizing pro-regime demonstrations, which are not crimes of course. This particular page has been involved in intimidating Syrians in European countries based on their political views. Does this page violate Facebook terms? Let’s see.Shameleaks


Article 3.6: You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.


If you know Arabic, and you take a look at this page, you will find that it does nothing but harassing people, most of which are Facebook users. This post for example says:


“Kinan Ibraheem, Manchester, Student on a scholarship.
He supports the regime by all means, and participates in organizing pro-regime demonstrations in London, supporting children killing. It seems, Kinan, you haven’t heard the voices of your own people in Banias. We say to you: The time of regime supporters has come to an end, and regime will be toppled, no matter what happens. Shame on you and on such researchers.”


This other post targets a woman, and it says:


“Thaana Ghalia, Brunel, a student on a scholarship.
From the great Syrian coastal areas. She sold her conscience to work with the regime by saying terrible things about revolutionists, asking for them to be killed and eliminated... She is related to high Syrian officers, and is a member of Brunel University gang that worships the regime imagery. She dedicated herself to organizing pro-regime demonstrations, and she urges everyone to participate in them. She does her best to give a wrong image of the Syrian Revolution to her non-Arab friends, by claiming revolutionists are nothing but terrorists and murderers who kill the Syrian people and soldiers.”


We see clearly in these examples that people targeted are only targeted because of their political orientation.


Yet, the page is still there, not even notified by Facebook that this violates its terms and conditions.




These are just four examples of pages that violate Facebook terms and conditions. I find it difficult to justify why Facebook would disable one of them 105 times, but leave the other three intact, and even restore one of them two times. I am not assuming that Facebook is taking sides in this struggle, but I would really like an explanation for this.




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