Facebook denied a request made by the government of Pakistan last week to provide easy access to user identities. Pakistan officials asked Facebook to change its authentication requirements from email addresses to phone numbers, a move the social media company isn’t interested in making.
The request, according to the Pakistani government, would allow the owners of ‘fake accounts’ to be tracked and dealt with – especially those that spread hate messages or blasphemy. Facebook confirmed the request – Christine Chen, a Facebook spokeswoman, said:
Facebook met with Pakistan officials to express the company’s deep commitment to protecting the rights of the people who use its service, and to enabling people to express themselves freely and safely.
It was an important and constructive meeting in which we raised our concerns over the recent court cases and made it clear we apply a strict legal process to any government request for data or content restrictions.
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That bit about recent court cases? Pakistan’s government sentenced a man to death over Facebook posts earlier this year. The request that Facebook change policies should be met with derision; social media in Pakistan is a matter of life-and-death.
Facebook is one of the richest companies in the world, and over two billion people use it. Social media defines global communications and allows a greater level of world-wide exposure than ever possible before. The future clearly depends on our ability to integrate ideas that affect all humans, not just the citizens of a specific domain.
A country that cannot handle – without violence – the dissenting viewpoints of its own citizens should not shape the global conversation on how the rest of us deal with our differences.
Kudos to Facebook for getting this one right.