Sheryl Sandberg and other top Facebook killed a Kurdish group at the request of the Turkish government in a bid to protect their business in 2018, according to a new report.
According to ProPublica, Turkey, which was launching a bloody military offensive against Kurdish minorities in neighboring Syria, demanded that Facebook block posts from People’s Protection Units, a mostly Kurdish militia group that targeted the Turkish government.
If Facebook did not give in to Turkey’s demands, it faced losing millions of users in the country. On the other hand, silencing a group known as YPG will add to the notion that Facebook too often succumbs to the will of authoritarian governments and gives more importance to its business.
In a series of newly revealed emails from the company’s leadership, Propiola revealed that there was no hands-on writing on the moral dilemma. In response to Turkey’s demand that Facebook block YPG’s posts, Sandberg, number 2 of the social media giant, simply wrote: “I’m fine with it.”
The unilateral email-line was not answered with any other consideration.
According to ProPublica, the emails suggest the discussions were focused on keeping the platform running, not on human rights.
A Facebook manager warned about YPG content, saying, “The page brought us some PR fires in the past.”
The chairman of Turkey’s telecommunications regulator reminded Facebook that “being vigilant about the content being posted, especially photos of the injured,” Mark Smith wrote in an email to UK policy manager Joel Kaplan, who is a global Facebook is the vice president of public policy.
He also said that the government “may ask us to block entire pages and profiles if they can become the focal point for sharing illegal content.”
Facebook’s ultimate solution to increasing Turkish authorities’ threats was to prevent “geo-blocks” or select users of a geographic region from viewing certain content.
Three years later, pictures of the YPG and updates about the Turkish military’s brutal attacks on the Kurdish minority in Syria are still not seen by Facebook users inside Turkey, according to the report.
Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization, although neither the US nor Facebook do so.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Post, “We try to preserve the voice for the largest number of people.” However, there are times when we prohibit content based on local law, even if it does not violate our community standards. In this case, we decided based on our policies regarding government requests to restrict the content and our international human rights commitments. We disclose restricted content in our twice-yearly transparency report and are evaluated by independent experts on our international human rights commitments every two years. ”
Facebook’s regulatory filings suggest the tech giant could be financially disadvantaged by revenue cuts from Turkey. Facebook includes revenue from Turkey and Russia, which it gives overall for Europe and the company reported a 34 percent increase in annual revenue per user for the continent, according to the 2019 10-K filing.
Catitza Rodríguez, policy director for global privacy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the potential revenue loss is a major issue for Facebook and others. He said that the Turkish government had also managed to force Facebook and other platforms to appoint legal representatives in the country. If the tech companies do not comply, he said, Turkish taxpayers will be prevented from advertising and paying Facebook.