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Facebook Bans More Activists: This Week in Online Tyranny

Facebook logo.pngChinese activists banned from their own Facebook accounts. ReadWriteWeb has written before about Facebook’s shutting down of pages and groups devoted to boycotting corporations. We have discovered and covered a loophole, whether intended or not, that allowed bully groups to shut down pages run by people they didn’t like or devoted to ideas they objected to.

Now, three activists in Hong Kong have been banned from their own page. All three administrators of a Facebook page called “. The page was devoted to stopping the development of luxury housing on endangered wetlands in Hong Kong. One admin was accused of using a false name, another of “abusing” the Add Friend button.

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Facebook’s influence and actions, such as attention to profane ad hominem attacks against gay men and women, are far from all bad. But they are, if you’ll pardon my putting it like this, consistently inconsistent. From sudden declarations of privacy’s death and hard-sell tactics to enforce cooperation with forced “openness” to backpedaling in the opposite direction — if any of these lurching decisions follow from policy, it must be a policy of profound subtlety, because it has been impossible to anticipate.

Isn’t it time for Facebook to formulate a coherent policy on these very real issues instead of continuing to play PR bumper-cars?

freedom_house.pngFreedom House study shows abuse of blasphemy charges. We have recognized the damage done by blasphemy charges, and is use as a tool of internal coercion, since we started this column. Anyone who covers online free speech issues will notice it in short order.

Now, Freedom House has released a study entitled, “Policing Belief: The Impact of Blasphemy on Human Rights.” That study’s conclusions are welcome. Among them is the realization that such laws, “designed to protect religious institutions, doctrines, figures, and concepts–in other words, nonhuman entities and ideas,” make it OK to sublimate mere humanity.

“(Blasphemy) laws have been defended by state authorities who claim they are needed for the maintenance of social harmony among various religious groups. This argument has also been employed at the United Nations as part of an effort to prohibit blasphemy–or “defamation of religions”–on an international level. Supporters of the project characterize it as an extension of the existing human rights framework, maintaining that blasphemous expression is discriminatory and negatively affects freedom of religion for the offended groups. However, an examination of the application of blasphemy laws indicates that they typically give rise to the violation, not the protection, of fundamental human rights.”

vietnam flag.jpgVietnam keeps arresting bloggers. Last month, Vietnam arrested Pham Minh Hoang, a blogger involved with an opposition political group in that one-party country and a vocal opponent of Chinese-led bauxite mining in his country. This month, it has refused to free a blogger it arrested in 2008, Nguyen Hoang Hai. Also known as Dieu Cay, his release date was several days ago, but instead of freeing him, they transferred him to a different prison and briefly arrested his wife.

Two other bloggers, including Phan Thanh Hai (aka Anh Ba Saigon), were arrested at the same time. Phan was arrested for “propaganda against the state.” His wife however, believes that he, like Pham Minh Hoang, was arrested for condemning the bauxite mining in the Vietnamese highlands.

Vietnamese flag from JC John Cuneta

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