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Government accuses censorship; Facebook says it was a mistake: ‘digital’ tension grows after page blocking

Everything happened from one day to the next. On February 15, the Facebook page of the National Institute for Historical Studies of the Revolutions of Mexico (INEHRM), attached to the Ministry of Culture, was functioning normally, sharing publications of past events. But, 24 hours later, the profile was silent, without making a single post.

What happened? Facebook, Mark Zuckerbeg’s social network, decided to block the INEHRM page for a post that recalled the death of Osama bin Laden. In the post, the Institute included a photo of the Taliban leader.

The INEHRM said in a statement on Wednesday, February 17, that the page had been blocked for “having violated community norms.”

The suspension was first for a full day, the agency added. But then it went up to 30 days and eventually it went up to two months. This, supposedly, by recidivism.

The Institute explained in the statement that a user shared the post about Osama bin Laden on his Facebook profile repeatedly: twice on February 14 and twice on February 15. Originally, the publication was made by the INEHRM since last May 1, 2020.

At that time, Facebook algorithms detected unusual movements (which also contained the image of one of the most wanted terrorists in the world), and decided to delete the publication and suspend the Institute’s account.

In its community rules, Facebook has stipulated that it can delete content that refers to dangerous people and organizations. In this case, Bin Laden. However, the INEHRM emphasized that the publication in question belonged to the #TiempoPresente series and was made for exclusively historical purposes.

INEHRM publication on Osama bin LadenINEHRM publication on Osama bin Laden Secretary of Culture

The event reached the Presidency of the Republic. Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, general coordinator of Social Communication for the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, accused an attempt at censorship by Facebook and said that no company should restrict freedoms.

“The Government of Mexico rejects any type of censorship. Freedom of expression is the essence of democracy. Yesterday, Facebook censured the INEHRM for remembering an event in contemporary history. No company should restrict freedoms and the right to freedom. memory, “Ramírez Cuevas wrote on his Twitter account.

The words of the federal government spokesman came at a time of tension for social networks in the country.

First, in early January, López Obrador called the blocking of Donald Trump on Twitter and Facebook censorship following his comments before the violent assault on the United States Capitol. A couple of weeks later, another incident with Twitter, a social network that blocked accounts that were sympathetic to the president of Mexico.

And finally, the proposal to regulate social networks in Mexico made on February 8 by Ricardo Monreal, a senator from Moreno. However, the legislator stopped the presentation of the initiative for three weeks after various organizations in favor of digital rights denounced that this could give the state excessive control over social networks.

Facebook, for its part, ended up retracting its decision and said that the blocking of the INEHRM page was a mistake.

“The content in question was erroneously removed and has already been restored along with all the functions of the page. The action was carried out by the same software (that is, the algorithm) that detects and removes the content of dangerous people and organizations and that helps keep our community safe. We regret the inconvenience this may have caused, “a Facebook spokesperson told El Financiero this Thursday afternoon.

Despite the apology and acknowledging the mistake, the INEHRM later published this Thursday that they were back and again alluded to an attempt at censorship by Facebook.

“The National Institute of Historical Studies of the Revolutions of Mexico to the followers of our page @ inehrm.fanpage we inform that we are back in this space, built with patience for 13 years. Our thanks to you, to the authorities of the Government of Mexico, the Ministry of Culture and the media that supported us. We reject any form of censorship, we defend freedom of expression, the right to memory and our commitment to the dissemination of history, “he said.

The three weeks that Monreal said it would stop its initiative to regulate social media ends in early March. This time is intended to collect the voices of organizations and citizens, and thus nurture the project. Until then, the ‘digital’ tension continues.

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