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Ukrainian and Russian Users Petition Facebook to ‘Stop Political Blocking’

Title image from the petition page, displaying headlines of media coverage of the Facebook bans.

Title image from the petition page, displaying headlines of media coverage of the Facebook bans.

A group of Internet and social media users who call themselves “the worldwide community of Ukrainian and Russian FB users” has started an online petition on the website to protest what they insist is ongoing, unwarranted, and biased blocking of Ukrainian and Russian Facebook profiles.

The petition, titled “Stop political blocking on Facebook,” provides a summary of some of the recent high-profile cases of censoring Facebook users in Russia and Ukraine, and cites them as evidence that “Facebook has become an efficient tool of the Kremlin.” Examples include the December 2014 blocking of the event page in support of the Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, the more recent takedowns of posts and accounts of prominent Russian online figures such as Rustam Adagamov, Anton Nossik, and journalist Sergey Parkhomenko, as well as popular Ukrainian accounts of journalists Vakhtang Kipiani and Yuri Butusov, and outspoken poet Andriy Bondar.

The petition's authors express regret that Facebook is not taking the situation “seriously enough” (the social network's founder Mark Zuckerberg has addressed some of the concerns publicly, but mostly dismissed the accusations of “political” bias) and call for a stop to blockings of Russian and Ukrainian accounts “until a new moderation system, designed to withstand paid troll attacks and prevent misuse to achieve political aims, is put in place.”

We don’t know why Facebook seems so eager to block people protesting against the Russian government policies. Perhaps its moderator team is not savvy enough, not large enough, or politically biased. […] But whatever the reason, the Russian government has learned to subvert the current moderation system and abuse it for its own political gains.
Cyber-attacks against opposition that come from Russia and target mainly Russians and Ukrainians may seem like a small problem that only concerns a fraction of Facebook users. However, if this problem is not addressed today, tomorrow the same tactic might be used by governments and political movements across the world to silence their opponents. During the Arab Spring, Facebook became synonymous with the freedom of speech. It will be sad indeed if it turns into a symbol of its suppression.

The petition, started on May 26, has attracted over 1,700 signatures during the first ten hours after its launch, including many prominent Russian and Ukrainian public figures.

Facebook has previously admitted to making some errors when taking down content reported for violations of its community standards, but insists that mass complaints are not considered a “good indicator” of whether or not a post violates the site's policies.

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