On July 8th, 2021, it was brought to our attention that the personal Facebook account of Armin Navabi, the founder of Atheist Republic, was blocked and unavailable to all users in India. Users in India get a variety of messages when they try to access his personal profile, such as “This content isn’t available at the moment,” or “You’re unable to view this content because local laws restrict our ability to show it.” Navabi received no formal email or in-app notification from Facebook about this action that was taken against him.
Views from an Indian user’s mobile phone
Not only does this prevent any user in India from accessing his page, Navabi is not able to message any user in India. This cuts off a leader in our organization from a wealth of friends, from our organization’s largest presence in Asia, as well as numerous volunteers and team members that contribute to Atheist Republic’s thriving community.
View from an Indian user when they attempted to access Navabi’s profile from the web.
This comes after the Atheist Republic Facebook page was blocked to all Indian users on January 14th, 2021. This cut off Atheist Republic to its largest community outside of the United States, preventing over 300,000 members from having access to our community. The Caravan Magazine confirmed that this block was taken upon directive from the Indian government.
Error messages and glitches that occur when Indian users attempt to message Navabi
The alert that many users see when trying to access Armin Navabi’s page that states “you’re unable to view this content because local laws restrict our ability to show it” is the same message that Indian users see when trying to access the Atheist Republic Facebook page. This is a strong indication that Navabi’s page has also been blocked because of a direct order from the Indian government.
Facebook is an American company that is a full member of the Global Network Iniatiave (GNI), a consortium of companies, universities, and NGOs that agree to uphold principles based upon international covenants to protect human rights and advance free expression globally. Despite this, Facebook has taken the unprecedented step of complying with an authoritarian government’s order to deny a foreign citizen access to an entire country.
Atheist Republic is working with attorneys in India to determine what legal recourse is available to our organization.