Sex, Flags, and Ocalan: Facebook Embraces Turkish Censorship

A recently leaked document reveals that in addition to censoring sexually explicit, violent, and hate-inciting materials, the social networking site Facebook has special rules for content deemed unacceptable to the Turkish state. Gawker.com recently posted the document leaked by a former employee of oDesk, the firm contracted to police the content shared by Facebook users.

The 17-page manual outlines especially strict policies when it comes to Turkey, its founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Kurds, and imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. No other country enjoys such censorship privileges.

The 17-page manual outlines particularly strict policies when it comes to Turkey, its founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Kurds, and imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. No other country enjoys such censorship privileges.

The leaked document caused outrage among users of social networking sites. “EU slams Turkey for freedom of expression violations while #Facebook helps Turkey ban Kurdish content. What say you, EU?” asked one Twitter user.

Once a specific post is reported by a Facebook user, moderators are instructed to “confirm,” “unconfirm,” “escalate,” or “ignore” materials that might be considered offensive. The manual defines “confirmed” as “a decision which implies that there is a violation on a piece of content, as reported by the user.” Once confirmed, the material is deleted. If the post does not constitute a violation, the moderator “unconfirms” the material. “Escalate,” on the other hand, sends the content to Facebook’s internal review team “for further action.”

In its manual, aside from categories dealing with sex, nudity, bullying, self-harm, and graphic contents, the manual has an “IP Blocks and International Compliance” section. Within it, four types of materials are to be “escalated”: “Holocaust denial which focuses on hate speech”; “All attacks on Ataturk (visual and text)”; “Maps of Kurdistan (Turkey)”; and “Burning Turkish flag(s).” Two other types of content deemed somewhat less offensive, but still unacceptable, are “Any PKK support or [PKK related] content with no context,” and “Content supporting or showing Abdullah ‘Apo’ Ocalan.” The latter two are to be “confirmed (unless clearly against PKK and/or Ocalan).”

The categories are further clarified in a section titled “Content that should be escalated.” The list includes “Photos AND/OR text making fun of/attacking/depicting negatively/criticizing, Ataturk”; “Burning the Turkish flag (other flags are ok to be shown burning)”; “Maps of Kurdistan (as of now, only maps are escalated; other references are merely confirmed)”; and “Holocaust denial (any discussion of holocaust denial that contains hate speech should be escalated).”

Flags of Kurdistan are to be “ignored”— in other words, they are allowed. The updated 6.1 version of the manual instructs employees to be aware of “PKK versus Kurdistan flags.”

Following the leak, some Twitter users referred to Facebook as “Fascistbook.”

“Facebook has surrendered to the fascist Turkish state, and bans everything related to the Kurds and Kurdistan. Facebook = Fascistbook,” tweeted an outraged user, while another wrote, “#Facebook discriminates against kurds like hitler’s book mein kampf discriminates against Jews. We are denied our existence.#Fascistbook.”

Others were outraged that the content related to Ocalan was censored. “The only one man whose pics are banned on #Facebook #Fascistbook is Kurdish leader Ocalan. #humanrights abuse,” wrote one user.

#Facebook didn’t want to be banned in #turkey so [Facebook founder Mark] Zuckerberg sold his soul to the devil & now supports oppression of Kurds #Fascistbook,” tweeted another.

Turkey has banned access to thousands of websites deemed offensive. Article 301 of the Turkish penal code criminalizes “insulting the Turkish people, Republic of Turkey, and governmental institutions and bodies.” The video sharing website YouTube was banned in Turkey in May 2008, after users posted material that authorities said insulted Ataturk. Authorities removed the ban in October 2010, but reinstated it in November after a clip allegedly showed the former chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal, in a bedroom with a female aide.

In an open letter to Zuckerberg published on the Kurdish ekurd.net website, Hawar Jamal Ameen, an ethnic Kurd, voiced his disappointment at Facebook’s policies. He said the policies ignore the persecution of Kurds in Turkey, and the denial of their basic human rights; the imprisonment of Kurdish children who dare to speak their mother tongue; Ataturk’s involvement in atrocities against Armenians and Kurds; and the similarities between Nelson Mandela and Ocalan.

“I am going to make this an issue of logic, common sense, and rationality,” he wrote. “Countless people around the world are abused, victimized, and oppressed by their governments but you have not mentioned them. It seems that the Kurdish (and only Kurdish) people now have to add Facebook to the list of oppressors.”

“As a Kurd I may be biased but I am not asking you to support an independent Kurdish state or for you to allow racist abusive behavior towards Turkey or its people, but your policy has clearly been written or heavily influenced by a Turkish individual or group that specifically promotes Turkish nationalism and the oppression of the Kurdish ethnic minority,” Ameen said.

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Nanore Barsoumian

Nanore Barsoumian was the editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2014 to 2016. She served as assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly from 2010 to 2014. Her writings focus on human rights, politics, poverty, and environmental and gender issues. She has reported from Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Javakhk, and Turkey. She earned her B.A. degree in political science and English from the University of Massachusetts (Boston), where she is currently continuing her graduate studies. Email Nanore Barsoumian at writenanore@gmail.com, or follow her on Twitter (@NanoreB).

28 Comments

  1. This cleary sets a very dangerous precedent. It is imperative that facebook discloses the reason behind the adaptation of these policies when it comes to Turkey, because it gives the impression that any governement could “lobby” the company into accepting practices that limit free speech.
    If there is money involved – Turks have even attempted in buying American university compliance through money donations – then we also need to know and facebook’s silence on the matter gives us every right to suspect so.

    • “Turks have even attempted in buying American university compliance through money donations ”

      proof ?

    • Necati if you proof you are a true turk and that you have not hijacked other nationalities identity then you can ask for proof on illegal activities of your country which you alrdy know about

    • University and denial for sale is a fact.. From the ITS, Institute of Turkish studies, that pays universities to turn a blind eye to facts and peddle Turkish nonsense purely for MONEY by setting up a “Turkish educational center” at any US university.. In fact most all Armenian genocide denialist get some sort of compensation from these types of usually Turkish government funded institutes so the Turks can then say, ‘See, historians are still debating this issue”..

    • “Institute of Turkish studies, that pays universities to turn a blind eye to facts ”

      Jhon,

      proof ?

    • @ Shameless Turks in this forum:

      Recipients of Turkish Government Money – 2003

      ITS, stands for the Turkish Studies Institute, in Washington D.C., honorary chairman, the Turkish Ambassador to the U.S.. The Institute’s purpose is to counter Armenian activity at the “academic level” and to act as a pro-Turkey lobbying group.

      ARIT, stands for the American Research Institute in Turkey.
      The number in ( ) stands for the number of monetary grants by either ITS, or ARIT to the “scholar”, and the items between [ ] indicate the total number of grants to the rest of the College or University the “scholars” are affiliated with.
      Note the names on this list are the Scholars Who Signed No-Genocide Ad

      • Abu El Haj, Rifaat Cal. St. Univ, Long Beach ITS(1)
      • Atis, Sara Univ. of Wisc @ Madison ITS(1), [ITS(8)]
      • Barbir, Karl K. Siena Coll. (NY) Arab-Ottoman Studies
      • Basgoz,Ilhan Indiana Univ. ITS(3), ARIT(2), [ITS(8)]
      • Bates, Daniel Hunter Coll., Univ of NY [ITS(1)]
      • Bates, Ulku Hunter Coll., Univ of NY ARIT(1), [ITS(1)]
      • Bayerle, Gustav Indiana Univ. ARIT(1), [ITS(8)]
      • Bodrogligetti, Andras UCLA ITS(1), [ITS(4)]
      • Burrill, Kathleen Columbia University ITS(8), ARIT(1), [ITS(9)]
      • Childs, Timothy SAIS, John Hopkins Univ. 19th-20th century Ottoman history
      • Daulet, Shafiga Univ. of Conn. [ITS(4)]
      • Davison, Roderic Geo. Wash. Univ. ARIT(1)
      • Denny, Walter Univ. of Mass. ARIT(1)
      • Duben, Alan Anthropoliogist
      • Ervin, Ellen N.Y. Univ. ITS(1), [ITS(6)]
      • Farah, Caesar Univ. of Minn. ITS(1)
      • Findley, Carter Ohio State. Univ. ITS(2), ARIT(1), [ITS(3)]
      • Finefrock, Michael Coll. of Charleston 20th century Turkish history
      • Fisher, Alan Mich. State Univ. ARIT(1), [ITS(1)]
      • Fleischer, Cornell Wash. Univ, Misssouri 16th-17th century Ottoman history
      • Golden, Peter Rutgers Univ.
      • Goodrich, Tom Indiana Univ of Penn. 16th century Ottoman history
      • Gould, Andres Historian
      • Griswald, Willaim Colo. State Univ. ARIT(1)
      • Halasi-Kun, Tibor Columbia Univ. ITS(3), [ITS(10)]
      • Hickman, William UCAL, Berkeley ARIT(1), [ITS(3)]
      • Hurewitz, J.C. Columbia Univ (ret) ITS(10)
      • Hymes, John Glenville State Col., W. Va. 19th-20th Century Ottoman history
      • Inalcik, Halil Univ. of Chicago ITS(1), [ARIT(9)]
      • Jaeckel, Ralph UCLA [ITS(4)]
      • Jennings, Ronald Univ. of Illinois ARIT(1), [ITS(3)]
      • Kelly, James Univ. of Utah ITS(2), ARIT(1), [ITS(5)]
      • Key, Kerim Southeastern Univ. 19th-20th Century Ottoman history
      • Kunt, Metin Ottoman history
      • Latimer, Frederick Univ. of Utah (ret.) Ottoman history
      • Levy, Avigdor Brandies Univ. ARIT(1), [ITS(7)]
      • Lewis, Bernard Princeton Univ. [ITS(3)]
      • Lowry, Heath Inst. of Turkish Studies ARIT(2)
      • McCarthy, Justin Univ of Louisville ITS(1), ARIT(1)
      • Mandaville, Jon Portland State Univ. ARIT(1), [ITS(2)]
      • Meeker, Michael UCAL San Diego Turkish studies
      • Murphy, Rhodes Columbia Univ. ITS(1), ARIT(1), [[ITS(10)]
      • Naff, Thomas Univ. of Penn. [ITS(9)]
      • Oberling, Pierre Hunter Coll., Univ of NY ITS(1), [ITS(1)]
      • Ochsenwald, William Va. Polytech Inst. ARIT(1)
      • Olson, Robert Univ. of Kentucky 18th-20th century Turkish history
      • Peachy, William Ohio State University ARIT(2)
      • Quataert, Sonald Univ of Huston ITS(2), ARIT(1), [ITS(2)]
      • Reed, Howard Univ. of Conn. ITS(1), [ITS(5)]
      • Rustow, Dankart City Univ of NY ITS(1)
      • Shaw, Ezel Kural Cal. State Univ, Nothridge 19th century Ottoman history
      • Shaw, Stanford UCLA ITS(1), ARIT(2), [ITS(4)]
      • Smith, Elaine Foreign Service (ret.) Modern Turkey
      • Smith, Grace UCAL, Berkeley ITS(1), ARIT(1), [ITS(3)]
      • Smith, John Masson UCAL, Berkeley ARIT(1), [ITS(3)]
      • Soucek, Svat ARIT(1)
      • Staab, Robert Univ. of Utah [ITS(5)]
      • Starr, June SUNY Stoneybrook Anthropologist
      • Stewart-Robinson, James Univ. of Mich. [ITS(3)]
      • Stoddard, Phllip Middle East Institute, (Dir.) ITS(3)
      • Tachau, Frank Univ. of Illinois ITS(1), ARIT(2), [ITS(3)]
      • Tamkoc, Metin Texas Tech [ITS(1)]
      • Thomas, David RI College ARIT(2)
      • Yenzke, M.L. Dickinson College ARIT(1)
      • Walker, Warren Texas Tech [ITS(1)]
      • Webster, Walter Rutgers Univ. 1930’s Turkish History
      • Woods, John Univ. of Chicago [ITS(9)]
      • Zilfi, Madeline Univ of Maryland ARIT(2)

  2. NOt surprised AT ALL.. Turkey’s dirty claws are digging in EVERY major line of business in USA.. They are taking over little by little… Trust me they will succeed if US does not its head out of their you know what because Turkey is going to make US not only their puppets (which is already happening) but even worst.. no need to use my French now…

    Facebook.. I am absolutely appaulled at your actions.. I say Shame on you for such discrimination and such crude and unfair practices.. You are supporting the savage of the world.. the most human rights violator in the world.. and how can you operate under such disgusting and unmoral grounds.. I have lost my respect for your entire orgnazation Mark Z.. I am surprised that you would support Turkey knowing what Germany did to Jews by taking an example of what Turkish Ottomans did to ARmenians then and now .. as well as Kurds….

    It is absolutely shameful and now Facebook’s name is among those bought out politicians and businesses… totally dissapointing…

    G

  3. Oh, but when France tries to make it illegal to deny the Armenian genocide, THEN the Turks whine about freedom of speech. But it’s fine when you’re only banned from saying things they disagree with.

    • In reality if you look at Turkey’s existance from where they came from and where they would have been if they did not commit the Genocide and steal the indegnious people’s culture, music, lifestyle, and women, yes they were, would have been and will always be worst than the 3rd world country… but they got lucky because all the wealth and riches they stole by cold blooded murder is not what they are using to deny their dirty deeds.. it is absolutely sickening…

  4. Hello from Turkey !

    It is shameful my country to still have the fascist article no: 301 in the penal code. It should be abolished as soon as possible !

    Hoping for a normalised Turkey-Armenia relations and hoping that fascism in both Turkey and in other countries will, sooner or later, be beaten.

  5. interesting .. in the future we need to use Turkish racist laws on facebook. we may be deleted on facebook, BUT we (Kurds) will not die. I am Kurd and is proud to be a Kurd. I am Kurd and know that Turks are afraid of me.

  6. Zhian Abdulla

    Do not worry we are not afraid of Kurds we have enough space for everybody you can sit down and share our food. life is short to be afraid of other people

  7. I SEE A KURD OR YET ANOTHER IS ON THIS FORUM NOW.WE NEED TO DIALOGUE WITH THEM.FOLLOWING ARE FACTS FOR ARMENIANS&kurds.
    1.We know we have lived together before the conquering hoards of seljuk moguls occupied and have been ruling in ASIA MINOR. Being neighbours with you is therefore ON MUCH MORE EASIER TERMS TRACK-THENCE
    2.I SUGGEST YOU AND YOURS CONTACT DR. HENRY ASTARJIAN(HIS ARTICLE IS HERE ON this site you can get to know him.He has been in touch with your delegates in Brussels in Belgium .
    3.According Sevres Treaty after WWI an Autonomous Kurdistan was to have come to existance alongside Wilsonian Armenia on Easwt and r.of Turky to your West. THERE IS NO OTHER BETTER SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM THAT EXISTS BETWEEN ARMENIA AND TURKEY,THIS SHOULD BE WORKED UPON NEGOTIATED FIRST BETWEEN ARMENIANS &kurds.
    4.YOUR PEOPLE OUGHT TO KNOW THAT OUR STRUGGLE(AS YOURS,I UNDERSTAND) is to be a long one.But we must begin on above premises and respect each other´s RIGHT TO EXIST.HOWEVER,
    5.WE ALSO KNOW THAT IN THIS RESPECT YOUR PEOPLE HAVE ONE ADVANTAGE OVER US-THAT OF BEING ON ANCESTRAL LANDS,WHEREAS WE WERE EVICTED FROM OURS.THIS SHOULD BE WELL STUDIED BY YOUR PEOPLE,AS QUITE A LARGE PROTION OF WESTERN ARMENIA IS NOW POPULATED BY KURDS,BUT ALSO ARMENIANS ISLAMAIZESD AND /OR HEMSHENI ARMENIANS,PLUS OF COURSE HERIS OF THOSE ARMENIANS EVICTED.
    FINALLY, IRRESPECTIVE OF WHAT THE THIRD PARTY,NAMELY GREAT TURKEY THINKS OR PLANS ABOVE C A N N O T B E C H A N G E D .THE SOONER THEY COME TO TERMS WITH THIS REALITY THE BETTER OFF THEY WILL BE.OTHEERWISE IT IS FUTILE S H O W THAT THEY ARE CONTINUEING ON THE INTERNATIONL SCNE AND IN ISTANBULLA AND OTHER TOWNS OF THAT REPUBLIC.

  8. Necati,
    the attempt of Turkey to infuence the American academic community through donations and Turkish Studies Chairs has been well established and documented in the main stream American press and actually in the ’90s it became the subject of a heated debate among the American academics. Just google it and you will discover hundreds of articles.
    This practice however is not restricted to universities. About a year ago a major story in The New York Times revealed the way Turkish contractors managed by bribing and other no so legal ways to quasi monopolize public contracts to build schools in the Houston, Texas, wider area.
    Again, you don’t have to believe me or others who talk about those things, go to google and everything will become available to you.

    • necati,

      Do you understand how google works?

      At this point, it’s only worth responding to necati only to make fun and ridicule.

    • Necati you know whats funny? Someone with your brain capacity asking for proof. Now thats not just little funny but hillarious. Please stop acting like you need information. If you want information you can find it yourself? Afraid you will find out that the truth is actually out there?

    • Necati has been a source of ridicule and considered a low life clown long time ago especially when she without a remorse disrespected one our commentator’s grandmother and called us “gaymanians”

  9. Reason why I advocate creation/establishment of PCA´s(Professional Colleaggues Assoc.)-BTW 5 on the scene already -whether I ,you ,he, she like it or not -which are armenian Health/Medical,The BAR, The Sportive,The Jewelller-latter should enlap all furnishings as well.Ten more are like transport/travel,construction field,communications/IT, etc., (see my writs/articles please..(below given poncde more) IS…AS FOLLOWS:_
    1 .Through those Associations we get GROUPED into these ,in all Armenian townships of the world.Sort of gearing up getting into RANK &File,to begin with.
    2.WE thus merge and mix into each ones´field of work*prof.It is more facile to have a medical doctor get to know his counterparts within his/her prof. field than say a with a colleague that is in the Transport/travel field.Indeed after getting well organzied a few yrs process(with an objective or two -to that later-) ELECT FROM WITHIN THEIR OWN FIELD -besides usual Board, a 3 person Delegates FOR gOD GIVEN merits(this my brainchild,pleae forgive if I say so) i.,e. an Elite of the group .A.One for his /her having advanced in Prof. more than others, B.One Economically so,C-One culturally,Nat´l/Int´l and with networking capacity)Note,one compliments the other two,no this MERIT. tHES WILL ,WITH 3 PERSON DELEGATES OF OUR POLITICAL PARTY REP.S AND ONE EA FROM SPIRITUAL , FORM THE TOWNSHIPS,Central Body. heretofore it has been only the two THAT IS CANDIDATES OF POLITICAL PARTIES , AND SPIRITUAL LEADERS,elected by their respective parties and or Church hierarchy…NO REAL PARTICIPATION AND REPRESENTATION OF OUR MAINSTREA PEOPLE.
    Latter today cxonsitutue the MOST IMPORTANT ,I DARE SAY OVER A 100,000 people well advanced in their professions.
    Whereas those lected or SELF APPOINTED OR BY FRIENDS TO PRESENT DIASPORA UPFRONTSO CALLED LEADERS…BY THEMSELVES AND A multitude that they work on.tHAT IS BY ADVERTISING AND CAMPAIGNING WHICH IS NOT A JUST MANNER. OVERALL MAJORITY ARE THUS PEOPLE NOT SO RESPONSIBLY ELECTING FOR A CANDIDATES REAL W O R T H , MERIT.RATHER BY MONEY SPENDING AND CAMPAIGNING ,AT BEST BY ONLY THE POLITICAL PARTY PEOPLE.
    I A M TO COME OUT MORE LOUDLY ON THE NATIONAL SCENE WITH ADS AND WEB SITES AND …OTHER IN ORDER TO INTRODUCE MY ¨SUGGESTIONS¨¨.There is no other way Armenians can REALLY GET ORGANIZED and then indeed with the PCA´s MAIN OBJECTIVE IS
    C R EA T I O N OF ——————————————–
    ´NATIONAL INVESTMENT TRUST FUND¨¨ without which , believe me we can neither organized the diasporas, nor begin repatriation.nothing can be done without above 100,000 plus PCA members and their ECONOMIC M I G H T …PERIOD.
    I REQUEST, SHORT OF CHALLENGING MY COMPATRIOTS TO HELP SUPPORT MY IDEAS AND /OR EITHERWISE O P P O S E IT…CRIQUE IS BETTER THAN ARMENIAN SILENCE WHICH ABODES BAD, VERY BAD ARMENIAN T R A I T .ONE THAT IS THE OTHER BEING ..
    NON COOPERATIVENESS!!!!
    BEST HASGCOGHIN

  10. Dear Hairenagitz,
    Other many other good advice my father-may his sould rest in peace-used to say..GOGHIN GOGH CHEN USER..YOU DON´T TELL A THIEF THAT YOURE A THIEF, OR TO A N IMMORAL PERSON YOJU ARE IMMORAL.
    THEY KNOW FULL WELL WHT THEY STAND FOR WHAT THEY ARE…
    THUS THEY ARE TAKING UP OUR PRECIOUS TIME,,WORTH ,ALLOW ME TO SAY MORE THAN G O L D …
    LET US WORK TO MAKE OUR PEOPLE MORE ADVANCED, OUR SMALL HAIRENIK ADOPT BETTER WAYS OF LIFE…RATHER THAN WHAT THOSE PEOPLE ARE OFFERINNG US UNDER GUIZE OF G R A N T S

    LOANS, INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND LOANS AND MANY SUCH..
    WE CAN HELP OIURSELVES BETTER THAN ANY OTHER OF THESE..
    AS EXAMPLE, RATHER IF YOU WISH WHAT I WOULD WANT FOR HAYASTAN
    AT THIS JUNCTURE…IS TO MAKE A TURN TOWARDS ,NO NOT SOCIALISM OR SOME SUCH IDEALISM (MUCH RESPECT TO ALL OF THEM) but become self supporting by getting into our own SYSTEM…AND WHY NOT???
    should we always c o p y others? PRAY TELL ME WHY?
    my suggestioins are for those who wish to implement them and carry on to the best of their abilitties in their own townships…
    talk and write we can of course aplenty.BUT WORK REAL ACTION IS SOMETHING ELSE…
    PLEASE FORGIVE ME IF I HAVE OVER SPOKEN AND DO PLEASE…
    go to read my modest articles in http://www.aarmeniannews.info
    Thanks,
    Hama Haigagani siro,
    g.p

  11. Hairenakitz
    Thank you for the exhaustive list of US “scholars” receiving Turkish money to deny the AG. It would be advisable also to mention the source of this information for completness.

    • @ Sevan,
      Originally released by sources close to ‘Taner Akcam’, followed by a court case against the publication of those names for possible retalliation by Armenians against those people, is a proof its veracity.
      Anti-AG grants are part of public domain both in Turkey and the US, and not even one of those on the list have tried to deny it.
      Readers should keep in mind that this is ongoing practice not only in US and Turkey; but all over the world, and there are many more names since the publication of this short list.

  12. Necati,
    I didn’t direct you to Google to find proof of anything. What you – if you want to – can find there is a huge list of articles referring to the subject. Again, we are talking about main stream American press, not obscure, little known publications. It will be an eye opener to you to see how a modern fascist regime works using well honored totalitarian practices, taking advantage of democracy’s inherited weak spots. What the Turkish regime is doing in that case as in many others is harmful to all, including Turks!

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