Ex-Muslims Call Out Facebook: New Hate Speech Policy or Blasphemy Law?

In a press release posted on the Ex-Muslims of North America's website, the group's director, Sarah Haider, responded to a letter from the Director of Content Policy Stakeholder Engagement for Facebook, Peter Stern. In her response, Haider explained how and why Facebook's new Content Policy is facilitating harm for marginalized groups such as atheists and other non-religious communities.

Haider stated that instead of putting forward plans to reconsider and review the new Content Policies, Facebook has instead "double-downed" on their implementation. Facebook's new Content Policy on Hate Speech explicitly states to not post "content attacking concepts, institutions, ideas, practices, or beliefs… associated with that protected characteristic." This new policy is fundamentally against the well-known tenet of mindful criticism, i.e., “human beings have rights, ideas do not.”

Haider calls this new definition of hate speech a "departure from the previous policy." She added that in contrast to the previous version of the policy where individuals can speak out against religious institutions' damaging and biased practices, the new policy now protects them.

The vague technicality of the language Facebook used in the Content Policy revised in June of 2021 creates a non-permeable defense for religious zealots. Contents meant to criticize an action of a religious institution now become hate speech under the "do not post" mandate.

Facebook claims that these new policies are being applied in very extreme cases; Facebook's history of failure to enforce its platform policies fairly has become a subject of great concern. Such as the case for Facebook's inability or lack of support in addressing it’s role in the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. 

Haider calls this new policy a violation of our inherent freedom, stating that it "flies in the face of our freedom of expression."

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