Civil liberties and digital rights groups are raising concerns over the possible behind-the-scenes influence by the U.S. government in Facebook’s decision to selectively block some sanctioned world leaders from using the social media platform, while allowing others to maintain accounts.
Facebook deleted the account of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov last week, explaining that the head of the Russian republic had been added to the government’s sanctions list, which bars U.S. companies from providing services to him. Kadyrov has been accused of committing numerous human rights abuses against the LGBT community and his opponents.
Other sanctioned leaders, however, have not been banned from the website. While both Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been slapped by the U.S. with economic sanctions, neither have yet had their accounts suspended.
“It really does seem as though Facebook is picking and choosing compliance, which suggests there is government involvement,” Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Guardian.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has raised concerns that the government could be indirectly censoring political speech via its economic sanctions.
“It really does seem as though Facebook is picking and choosing compliance, which suggests there is government involvement.”—Jillian York, Electronic Frontier Foundation
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“This sanctions law is being used to suppress speech with little consideration of the free expression values and the special risks of blocking speech, as opposed to blocking commerce or funds as the sanctions was designed to do. That’s really problematic,” ACLU attorney Jennifer Granick told the New York Times when the newspaper reported on Facebook’s deletion of Kadyrov’s account.
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