Facebook and Twitter – with more than a billion users – is censoring concerns about Muslim immigrants pouring into Europe as part of a targeted effort to squash any right-wing opposition.
After announcing in Germany that they would be cracking down on talk of “rapefugees” and other genuine concerns people have – chalking it up to “right-wing hate,” there’s rampant speculation that Facebook, especially, is working hand-in-hand with German authorities to quell dissent among the public over the country’s stated policy to let in millions of refugees.
We all saw this coming, and we also knew that Merkel has been personally pushing for more censorship on Facebook. In September, the Chancellor was caught on tape pressuring CEO Mark Zuckerberg to work to counter “racism” on the social network. German prosecutors have also been investigating Facebook for “not doing enough” to counter hate speech. The pressure paid off, and now Sheryl Sandberg herself has flown to Germany to declare that hate speech “has no place in our society.”
Zuckerberg said as much in a Facebook last month:
“I want to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world,” he writes. “After the Paris attacks and hate this week, I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others. As a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities. Even if an attack isn’t against you today, in time attacks on freedom for anyone will hurt everyone. If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you. Having a child has given us so much hope, but the hate of some can make it easy to succumb to cynicism. We must not lose hope. As long as we stand together and see the good in each other, we can build a better world for all people.”
In Europe – with its history of genuine fascist hate and totalitarianism – they’re all too familiar with efforts to squash dissent. But in trying to suppress people’s resentment, they’re only bottling up the anger that inevitably explodes.
It’s a dangerous game. Perhaps it’s because she was raised in East Germany, but Angela Merkel is making the same mistakes of the old Warsaw Pact regimes. It’s true that her influence over Facebook gives her greater surveillance power than the Stasi. But if Germans rebelled against the culture of fear — an oppression which in the face of modern technology now seems quaint — how will they react to Merkel?
Not letting people express their frustration with the current system is a recipe for disaster. Silencing dissent hearkens back to a dark past that Germany – and all of Europe – can not afford to live through again.
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