Saturday, September 15, 2007

Brawl Over Islam on Facebook

Some corporate dithering but free speech wins in the end:

"The latest concern centers on a group with a crude title denouncing Islam [F**k Islam] that had more than 750 members at last count. While the group takes pains to say it has nothing against Muslims, who "can be and usually are peaceful and respectful," it asserts at the start: "The Quran contains many lies and threats. Islam is false, no god exists, and someone should say that loud and clear."

In the month or so since the group was created, the reaction has been building across Facebook. As of the weekend, more than 58,000 Facebook members had joined a group that said that unless the anti-Islam group was removed, "we're quitting Facebook."

Facebook declined to comment on Friday on the subject of hate speech or on what steps had been taken. What is clear is that for a day or so last week, the site was made inaccessible. The organizer of the anti-Islam site, a man who said in an e-mail message that his legal name is Variable, wrote, "Facebook briefly deleted my account, and I assumed they did so because of the group, but they reinstated the account and told me that it was a mistake of some sort."

He said he disagreed that his site was trafficking in hate speech. "The custom of protecting freedom of speech allows people to address belief systems in the harshest of terms," he wrote, adding that his group's sentiment is "a peaceful one; atheism is a belief system that few will die for, because there is no reward."