Friday, February 11, 2011

Why Facebook Should Do More to Help Egypt's Protesters:

In many ways, Facebook has made itself actively hostile to those who would organize against a repressive regime or advance an unpopular idea. Most problematic is the policy that bans pseudonyms. Facebook defends the policy by saying their service is about "real people making real-world connections." But what if the real world is full of secret police looking to crack down on dissent, or snooping bosses who might be supportive of a regime? Harvard Internet freedom expert Jillian C York calls the real identity policy "ludicrously out of touch."

And Facebook's notoriously wonky account deactivation system means that activists can find themselves deleted from the site at crucial moments, with little recourse. In 2007, Facebook permanently deactivated the account of the administrator of another important protest group, The April 6 Youth Movement, because its automatic filter thought he was a spammer; he was actually just furiously organizing protests with other members. Many other activists have been muzzled by Facebook's deactivation system, simply for voicing controversial opinions.