Facebook is currently embroiled in a controversy over the social network’s editorial judgement in excluding certain political sites from its Trending Topics section, something critics say raises questions about its status as a news organization. Now, a British book publisher says its Facebook page was suddenly removed after it posted updates that mentioned political events in Turkey.
According to Zed Books, a small-press publisher of academic books based in London, its Facebook page disappeared on Friday and remains unavailable. In a blog post, the company said it had asked the social network for an explanation of why the page was removed but did not get one. On Friday afternoon, Facebook responded to say that it had not removed the page and that it was “working with Zed Books to resolve the situation.”
Zed Books said in its original blog post that it believed its page was taken down because recent updates mentioned prominent critics of the Turkish government, including Ece Temelkuran, a journalist who was fired in 2012 by the Haberturk newspaper for writing articles criticizing the administration of president Recep Erdoğan.
The publisher, a small company founded in 1976 by Roger van Zwanenberg, said its page also made reference to Abdullah Ocalan, the founder of a Kurdish separatist group called the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK, which is classified by a number of countries as a terrorist organization. But Zed Books said that it made those references as part of a discussion about books involving Turkey, not as a political statement. The publisher went on to say:
We are concerned this is part of a growing trend of Facebook censoring free speech and restricting academic freedoms in Turkey, alongside growing repression of academics and journalists in the country.
The British publisher pointed out in its post that Facebook has a history of removing content that involves Turkish politics. In some cases, removals occur because updates or pages mention the PKK, which is a breach of the site’s rules. In 2012, leaked documents were published that described how Facebook’s internal moderation system works, and one section specifically mentioned references to Abdullah Ocalan and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. But Facebook also removes content because of requests from the Turkish government.
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In its blog post, Zed Books quoted a representative of the English branch of the writers’ group PEN about the disappearance of its page. “It’s essential that Facebook give an explanation as to why they have taken down the page and restore it immediately,” said director Jo Glanville. “This appears to be an extremely disturbing instance of censorship. It is imperative that Facebook stands firm in support of free speech.”
As both Zed Books and Glanville noted in the post, Turkish president Erdogan has made a point of attacking social media wherever possible as a way of smothering dissent. Twitter and Facebook have both been blocked or banned outright a number of times over the past couple of years, and individuals—including journalists—have been arrested for things they posted on social networks.