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MUHAMMAD

Rights group slams Facebook for Muhammad weekly censorship

Rights group Reporters Without Borders slammed Facebook on Friday for threatening to terminate the account of a French weekly whose offices were firebombed after publishing images of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

RSF noted with irony that Charlie Hebdo's staff could no longer edit comments on its Facebook "wall", including those inciting violence, while the "enemies of freedom of expression" could continue to post hate messages.

"Facebook has just discovered opportunely that Charlie Hebdo 'is not a real person', something that breaks the site's rules," RSF said in a statement, citing a message in French from Facebook.

"The content that you have published on Facebook has been deleted for breaking (Facebook) rules. Postings with graphic, sexually explicit or excessively revealing content are banned," it quoted Facebook as saying.

"This message is a warning. Another infraction will result in the account being terminated."

Charlie Hebdo — which on Wednesday published a special Arab Spring edition with Muhammad on the cover as "guest editor" saying: "100 lashes if you don't die of laughter!" — has the offending cover as its Facebook profile picture.

"We can only regret a position that says the enemies of freedom of expression are right and which leaves us perplexed as to the social network's real motives for closing the account," RSF said.

"The newspaper can no longer either add or block outside comments, be they hateful or threatening, as the page's administrator cannot deactivate outside contributions," RSF said.

"It is extremely worrying to notice that the social network seems to fall on the side of censorship and restricting the freedom to inform," RSF said, noting that Facebook had already closed the pages of several dissidents.

Facebook shut down the page of Michael Anti because it was a pseudonym of Chinese political blogger Jing Zhao, while the Facebook group "We are all Khaled Said", named after an Egyptian blogger killed by security forces, was closed because the group's administrators didn't use their real names.

"If Facebook closes Charlie Hebdo's page it would have far-reaching consequences for journalists, bloggers or internet activists, who may in future censor themselves," RSF said.

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RACISM

Norwegian anti-immigrant Facebook group confuses empty bus seats with ‘terrorists’

A Facebook group for Norwegians opposed to immigration was widely mocked after members apparently could not tell the difference between empty bus seats and burka-clad women.

Norwegian anti-immigrant Facebook group confuses empty bus seats with 'terrorists'
A Facebook user shared 23 screenshots of people's strange reactions to the empty seats. Screenshot: Facebook/Sindre Beyer
A user posted a photo of empty bus seats to the Facebook group Fedrelandet viktigst (roughly translated as ‘Fatherland first’) with the question “what do people think about this?” 
 
What they thought is apparently that they were seeing a bus full of burka-clad women and proof of the ‘Islamification’ of Norway. 
 
Member after member sounded off on how “frightening”, “tragic” and “scary” the scene was. Others decried that such a thing could happen in Norway (it didn’t) and worried that the phantom passengers could have “weapons and bombs” under their garments (they didn't because, well, there were no passengers). 
 
“It looks really scary, should be banned. You can never know who is under there. Could be terrorists with weapons,” one group user wrote. 
 
“Get them out of our country, those who look like collapsed umbrellas. Frightening times we are living in,” wrote another. 
 
“I thought it would be like this in the year 2050, but it is happening NOW!!!!” another alarmist chimed in. 
 
The responses from the closed group went viral after Facebook user Sindre Beyer posted screenshots of people’s incredulous reactions. 
 
“What happens when a photo of some empty bus seats is posted to a disgusting Facebook group and nearly everyone thinks they see a bunch of burkas?” he wrote in a post that was shared over 1,500 times and elicited widespread mockery of the Fedrelandet viktigst group.
 
“Just when I thought that nothing from that group could surprise me, they manage to actually surprise me,” a commenter wrote in response to Beyer’s post. 
 
“I think I passed the test because the first thing I saw was a group of Darth Vaders,” cracked another. 
 
“This is the best thing I’ve seen from blind racists since The Chappelle Show,” another user wrote in reference to the American comic’s infamous ’Clayton Bigsby’ skit. 
 
“I can definitely see the humour in it but with that being said I’m left shaking my head over the fact that people could react like that; sad,” wrote another. 
 
Beyer told Nettavisen that he has been following the group, which has nearly 13,000 members, for some time now. 
 
“I’m shocked by how much hate and fake news is spread there. The hatred that was displayed toward some empty bus seats really shows how much prejudices trump wisdom,” he said. 
 
“That’s why I shared the post so that more people can see what is happening in the dark corners of the web,” he added. 
 
The head of the Norwegian Centre Against Racism (Antirasistisk senter) told Nettavisen that the irrational response to six empty bus seats just goes to show how quickly people jump to conclusions. 
 
“People see what they want to see and what they want to see are dangerous Muslims. In a way it’s an interesting test of how quickly people can find confirmations of their own delusions,” Rune Berglund Steen said. 
 
Steen said the photo portrays a scene hardly ever seen in Oslo, no matter how you look at it. 
 
“The busses aren’t full of creepy Islamists and neither do they typically have so many empty seats,” he said.