I attacked Iran regime, Facebook censored my post
Verifying subscriber identity is more important than murky ‘Community Standards’
I shared a picture on Facebook showing the daughter of late Iranian paramilitary chief Qassem Soleimani holding the latest iPhone model. I commented in Arabic that “to Lebanon they [Iranians] send missiles and keep for themselves in Iran the latest models of American iPhones, as shown in the hand of the daughter of Qassem Soleimani.” I added that the regime’s protege in Lebanon Hezbollah chief “Nasrallah calls for austerity, for growing lentils on balconies, and for boycotting American merchandize [in order] to liberate Palestine.” I concluded with the word “hypocrites.”
My post argued that the Iran regime and its militia leader in Lebanon were hypocrites because they called for boycotting US merchandize while Ms. Soleimani was brandishing the top model iPhone. Over 80 friends liked the post and a few others posted comments.
The next day, my Soleimani post was censored and I got a 24-hour suspension. I could surf Facebook but not post, comment or press the like button. Facebook also imposed a series of other restrictions, such as banning me from debating in groups or advertising for 29 days.
Restrictions were a verdict issued by a court without due process. While reading my suspension decision, I gathered that I had committed two violations against Facebook’s so-called Community Standards. I publicized dangerous people, which I assume would have been Ms. Soleimani, and I put “vulnerable groups” at risk, which must have been the Shia population represented by Soleimani and Nasrallah. The two reasons contradict one another for I could not have possibly endangered dangerous people.
Facebook also displaced my two past “infringements,” both from March. Both were in Arabic and both were critical of Soleimani and Nasrallah. Past “violations” were chalked under “every one makes mistakes” and thus I was forgiven without a suspension, but the third violation took me to Facebook jail for 24 hours, which means that should I post more against Soleimani in Arabic, restrictions will get longer and more severe.
The irony of the Facebook punishment is that, in the case of myself vs the Iran regime, I am clearly the endangered underdog.
Before President Trump killed Soleimani, two years ago, the Iranian was on the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Individuals. Nasrallah is still is on the list. Both their organizations, the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hezbollah, are on the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organization list (FTO). Ms. Soleimani too is a known America basher. In speeches commemorating her father’s assassination, she has promised to take revenge on America.
For my part, I have been advocating against Iranian tyranny and thrashing the Soleimanis and Nasrallah. Because of my writings, I have stayed away from my two ancestral hometowns, Baghdad and Baalbek, where the Iran regime hunts down opponents. And yet, when I thrash the Soleimanis and Nasrallah — without using any offensive language — I get booted off Facebook.
Since 2007, I have posted thousands of times on Facebook, in English and Arabic. The three times I was censored were all in Arabic, and all against Soleimani, which makes me think that the Iranian regime’s intelligence agencies monitor posts and instruct their bots to massively report the ones they dislike. With limited Arabic-speaking staff, Facebook probably relies on the volume of reports against the posts it censors.
I would like to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt and assume that its censorship of anti-Iran regime posts is due to ignorance rather than bias toward the Mullahs.
But what should Facebook — and Twitter — do to minimize the cases in which global tyrants manipulate them?
One answer is that social media should welcome — and even mandate — identity verification, which would hold every disseminator of information accountable. From behind an avatar, spreading fake news is easier than when using a real identity. People tend to think twice before pegging their reputation to rumors. Carelessly spreading fake news usually tarnishes the credibility of disseminators.
On Twitter, I tried twice to verify my identity and failed. Twitter said I was not prominent enough to get its blue check. I even used the verified status of the organization I work for. That still did not work.
If social media wants to filter content and weed out instigation to violence and fake news, Facebook and Twitter should verify the identity of as many of their subscribers as possible, and hire censors who understand posts and can reason with censored individuals who wish to stand behind their information and make the case for their post.