Last Friday, Jonathan Spyer, a Middle East analyst, author, and journalist who specializes in the areas of Israel, Lebanon, Syria and broader issues of regional strategy, said Facebook permanently deleted his account after he posted an article in which he said “the wave of terror attacks in Germany and France” are indicative of what he called “a ‘low level Islamist insurgency’” taking place in those European countries.
“A few hours after placing this posting, my account was ‘disabled,’” he said.
Spyer said he reached out to the company to learn what prompted his account to be deleted. He got a response on July 29 from someone named “Justin.”
According to Spyer, “Justin” explained:
We have reviewed your account, and have determined that it is contrary to the Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities of Facebook. Due to the violation of these terms, we have permanently deleted your account.
One of the main priorities of Facebook is the safety of Facebook users. Credible threats to harm others, support for violent organizations or extreme graphic content are not allowed on Facebook.
This was apparently quite a shock to Spyer, who writes:
I have never expressed support for ‘violent organizations’ on my page, other than support for the armed forces of the state of which I am a citizen, Israel, and perhaps also a general support for the Kurdish-led, western-backed forces fighting the Sunni jihadis of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Facebook apparently considers that support for either of these, or expressing the view that a still relatively small-scale Islamist insurgency is taking place in Europe, constitutes a threat to the ‘safety of Facebook users.’ This is, I think, a point of some significance.
Shorter Spyer: Opposing violent jihad and supporting the forces arrayed against those who seek to establish a worldwide caliphate, by the sword if necessary, apparently violates the site’s alleged “standards” and somehow threatens the safety of other users. No wonder Breitbart.com called the social media giant the “world’s most dangerous censor.”
Spyer said he was connected to about 5,000 people and Facebook’s actions severely hampered his ability to work. Although, he said, “I have since managed to repair much of the damage.”
Mind you, Spyer isn’t your average user. His “About” page notes: “He is a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.”
In short, when it comes to the Middle East and violent jihad, he knows what he’s talking about and his work is highly respected.
As a result, a petition was posted to encourage the company to reverse its action. That petition, which can be seen here, simply reads:
In the interests of the free speech that Facebook prides itself on, and out of respect for the first-class scholar and reporter that Jonathan Spyer is, we ask that the decision be reconsidered and the valuable resource he has created be reinstated.
On Tuesday, Spyer said that his page had been restored.
“The power of positive thinking evidently works wonders,” he wrote. “Much thanks to all.”
While Spyer’s page was eventually restored, the fact remains it should never have been taken down to start with. Moreover, many others who suffer this kind of action often do not get their issues corrected.
Incidents like this, by the way, are the reason Adina Kutnicki, an investigative journalist based in Israel, and I wrote “Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad.” The book has been endorsed by Pamela Geller and is set to be published in September.
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