Home Facebook Shuts Down “Pro-Genocide” Group

Facebook Shuts Down “Pro-Genocide” Group

A fast-growing new group of Facebook users from Bosnia called on Facebook to shut down another group on the site that celebrates the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by the Serbian army in Srebrenica. It appears that the group has been shut down while we wrote this story about it, the link to the group now redirects users to their profile pages with no explanation. Was that the right way to handle it? We’re not sure.

Reuters wrote this morning about the Serbian group that reportedly describes itself as “For all those who think that Muslims are best on the spit and while swimming in sulphur acid”. The anti-Muslim group’s membership grew 20% to more than 1100 people since the Reuters report was published.

Should Facebook Have Shut This Group Down?

We don’t have access to a reliable translation of the Facebook group in question, but we are honestly perplexed about how it ought to be dealt with. Calls to violence against a particular group are unacceptable, celebration of past acts of genocidal violence is absolutely repugnant but where do the lines get drawn around this?

Facebook is a private company and so presumably has the right to shut down whoever they like, but ought they? The alternative to “censorship” is generally said to be “vigorous debate” but as was arguably evidenced by the 20% growth in this group’s membership since international attention fell on it – public debate can have unexpected consequences as well. French philosopher Voltaire is often invoked in conversations like this, he was the man who allegedly uttered the phrase “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

No one from Facebook responded to inquires by Reuters or this site by press time.

It’s a Slippery Slope

It’s a slippery slope and these are complex matters. It could be argued that genocide is a very clear matter – but there are people who would make the same kinds of arguments that are being made in this case against a group online celebrating Columbus Day in the United States. There are, in fact, more Groups on Facebook dedicated to condemning Columbus Day than to celebrating it. Should the pro-Columbus Day groups be banned, though?

Yesterday we read that a South African political party has announced that it will send delegates to its national convention to represent party members who have joined the party’s group on Facebook!

Politics and Facebook are inevitably going to collide as the site grows bigger and more important. As a private company, a privately owned communication utility, there are some interesting issues that come up that are different from the way these questions are asked about the web at large.

We honestly don’t know what to think about this question, but we’re curious what our readers have to say. RSS readers can click here to view and participate in a poll on the question: should Facebook have shut down the group celebrating the Srebrenica massacre? We would ask whether readers believe that Facebook should shut down pro-genocide groups, but it’s not clear who would be the best party to determine what constitutes genocide.

Update: A Facebook spokesperson contacted us with the following statement. “The group violated our Terms of Use and has been removed. Facebook supports the free flow of information, and groups provide a forum for discussing important issues. However, Facebook will remove any groups which are violent or threatening. “

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