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Facebook urged to block anti-gay ‘hate speech’ in Middle East

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Some 20 activist groups called on Facebook to stop the spread of “hate speech” targeting sexual minorities in the Middle East and North Africa through its platform.

“We the signers below are concerned about the increase of hate speech against the LGBTQI+ community on Facebook,” the groups from several countries in the region said in a joint statement.

They urged Facebook “to halt the use of its platform for spreading bigotry and hate, especially among the Arabic-speaking users.”

They said social media was being “used as a tool to share hatred, bullying, discrimination and violence, particularly by those with homophobia launching intense campaigns of intimidation, threat and blackmailing”.

The “hatred” campaigns had increased since last month’s suicide of Egyptian activist Sarah Hegazy who was jailed for waving the rainbow flag of the gay rights movement at a 2017 concert and later went into exile in Canada, where she took her own life after being hounded on the internet, the signatories said.

Complaints over incitement in posts were being “declined because the content ‘did not contradict the Facebook community standards'”, they said.

“This is due to the lax implementation of effective anti-hate speech policies to manage the platform in our region, which makes the platform unsafe for sexual minorities.”

They urged Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to expand the company’s ban announced last week on a “wider category of hateful content” in advertising to also cover anti-LGBTQ posts on the platform which has 1.73 billion daily users.

Homosexuality is a taboo subject in the Middle East and North Africa, and considered a crime punishable by jail in many of the region’s countries.

 

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