How Islamist networks silence critical voices on Facebook

It is 13 July 2019 when Aida (name changed) calls me and says: “Facebook has blocked my page again. I don’t have access anymore”. It is now already the twentieth time that this happened to her. This time it’s about the accusation of hate speech and nudity. The entire Facebook page is now no longer accessible. Not even for her. Everything is gone. All her work, the critical discussions with the subscribers. Everything lost.

Many bloggers who are critical of Islam and the misanthropic culture in their home countries are like her. They stand up for the rights of women, homosexuals, atheists or other minorities who have to live in constant fear in this social system. They also fight for the modernisation of their home countries and the banishment of religion from public life and above all from the state.

Aida fights mainly for feminism and against religion. She displays the violence that society in Islamic countries is using against women on Facebook and has thus achieved growing popularity in the Arab community. She is part of a liberal network that discusses on Facebook how to improve the situation in the home countries. Her site was an important part of it. She had about 7000 followers and the number grew every day.

All this is now taken off the net because a post was reported as hate speech. There were also reports of nudity being displayed. Triggers were pictures of a child who was exposed to massive violence by the family. Aida had published it to point out that this child is not protected from this abuse by the Iraqi state. She herself knows the everyday nature of violence against children from her own experience. She still suffers from the consequences today. In her home country, the right of parents to their children is seen as more important than the rights of children. Aida mainly blames religion for this.

What followed this post was something all too familiar to all critical bloggers. There follows a wave of reports to Facebook. These described her post as “hate speech”, “inciting the people” or “immorality (Nudity)”. When a certain amount of reports are made, the facebook page is automatically blocked. This method is very effective. Even well-known sites like Atheist Republic have been exposed to such actions.

But who is behind these Islamist networks?

Islamist net activist Abdullah A.

It’s mostly Islamists like in this case Abdullah A., who is supposed to work for the Iraqi embassy in India, who incite these reports. He has 21.000 followers on Facebook and has therefore a big influence. The 20-year-old talks openly about “his army”. He called through this channel to block the side of Aida. What followed were over 600 reports to Facebook – the site was completely blocked because complaints about other posts had already been received before. When the page was off the net, you could see on Mr. A.’s page how they congratulated each other that another critic was silenced.

This story happens every day with many critics. It is an unequal struggle. Because when Aida had received threats over Facebook and she reported them, she got as a reply that it wouldn’t violate the Facebook guidelines. Maybe it was only because she submitted the complaint on her own and could not activate an “army”.