In April, the Facebook Oversight Board prepares to either reinstate or permanently banish former President Donald Trump from the social media platform. Their decision will impact more than just one individual. Several individuals are associated with the website to confront human rights abusers and get justice for the oppressed.
The public is waiting for the new policy to use their voice. In the modern world, social media is the medium of communication and this decision is putting freedom of speech in danger worldwide.
They wield complete control over the largest networks of human communication and their judgments effectively determine what opinions or ideas are valid or noteworthy and which do not adhere to their arbitrary standards.
Cyber censorship is the newest frontier for human rights violations, particularly on freedom of conscience and expression. Information is across boundaries and Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have become a lifeline for millions of people around the world whose voices were otherwise silenced by their own governments.
As per The Hill, “ In Sudan, Hardwired-trained lawyers and advocates leveraged social media to advocate for the release of Mariam Ibrahim, a Christian woman sentenced to death for apostasy, in 2014. Years later, in 2019, activists documented the protests that would ultimately end the nearly 30-year reign of President Omar al Bashir, an indicted war criminal.
In India, lawyers, advocates, and activists used social media to document police brutality against Muslims, a historically marginalized community in the country. More broadly, Indians took to Facebook and Twitter to broadcast their protest against inherently discriminatory citizenship laws.
In Saudi Arabia, secular blogger Raif Badawi challenged the theocratic rule of the country and documented human rights violations. In Myanmar, the world is witness to the military crackdown in large part through social media posts from activists and advocates on the front lines of the protest against the regime”.
At the marketplace of ideas, social media and the internet more broadly, have become the battleground between governments and their citizens. The government applies censorship to maintain authority.
The Government of Sudan regularly cuts off internet access to its citizens. In India, February 2021, unveiled new internet regulations that force news and tech entities to comply with government surveillance and censorship efforts.
Badawi was charged for insulting Islam through electronic channels and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. Myanmar’s military continues to shut down the internet in an effort to contain protests and regulate information coming out of the country.
Free societies are expected to flourish when freedom is respected. If not respected, societies are collapsed and fall.
Protecting freedom of expression in this space provides the best chance for people to find and follow the truth according to their conscience. Imposing limitations or restrictions on expression in the public cyber-square to avoid division or disagreement can encourage the very siloed thinking and association fueling tension across the country and more broadly, around the world.
History has proven time and again that controlling what people think and believe always ends badly for freedom-loving people.