Straight Talk
SIMON KENT - Tarek Fatah's Facebook ban is senseless

Credits: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files

SIMON KENT | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO - A good man.

Three words used to describe Toronto Sun columnist Tarek Fatah by Meir Weinstein, the head of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) of Canada.

It’s a pity Facebook doesn’t share the love. Or the inherent tolerance in that remark.

The popular social media website has banned Fatah and left him unable to post.

Fatah, a leading Muslim thinker, author and broadcaster, thinks he knows the reason Facebook decided to unlike him, even though it won’t tell him personally.

It all started Monday when Fatah sought to access the popular social media site.

As he tried, a message appeared saying he had violated “community standards” when he shared a picture showing a young Australian Muslim girl in a hijab carrying a sign: “Jews haven’t Learn (sic). They need [picture of swastika] more than before.”

Fatah had copied it from the Australian Jewish magazine J-Wire after it had earlier been published on blog at the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Then he posted it as his Facebook “cover” with a caption denouncing Muslim anti-Semitism.

As Fatah writes: “My posting of the picture was clearly an act condemning anti-Jewish hatred among my own Muslim community, not endorsing it.”

Which is where Meir Weinstein comes in.

I asked him what he thought of Tarek Fatah’s Facebook shutout and his first words are the ones that lead this column.

Then he went further.

“Tarek Fatah does a great service to religious followers of all persuasions,” Weinstein told me. “He is a strong voice against religious fanatics and a direct counter to the forces of radicalism that would seek to change the civilized world.”

It would be good to think that Facebook acts as a unifying force. It is a social website after all.

Maybe it could be a digital equivalent of Hyde Park Corner in Central London where for centuries people would gather to argue the ideas of the day and then go their separate way.

No way. Ultimately, Facebook exists to make money. To do that it wants to know about you and the things you like and do while being famously quiet about itself.

Facebook also wants to make sure that there is a hall of mirrors separating the watchers from the watched.

Just one year ago, the word count of Facebook’s privacy policy was 6,910 words, more than double the amount of words in 2007. It is also way past the original privacy policy posted in 2004 that came in at around 1,000 words.

By comparison, as The New York Times has pointed out, the U.S. Constitution is 4,543 words.

This obfuscation comes most into play when Facebook decides to unilaterally ban a member.

Who are you going to call, anyway? There is no such place as the Facebook building waiting to hear your grievance.

We did eventually get a response via Meg Sinclair of Corporate Communications Facebook.

She said Facebook receives up to 2.5 billion pieces of content a day and sometimes users take exception to a post.

This happened In Tarek Fatah’s case. Therefore, it was removed and the author denied access. For now.

Since the Toronto Sun first made inquiries about this case, Fatah has received what he calls a “cryptic e-mail” from Facebook directing him to their, you guessed it, website.

Yet again when it comes to Facebook (and Twitter) there is only silence and a web page offering plenty of links but no direct contact.

We’ll keep you posted on developments. If you’ll pardon the obvious pun.

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