A terrorism expert says it's alarming that social media giant Facebook seems to be cooperating with Islamists in Pakistan to censor "blasphemous" content.
Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch is among those speaking out after a Facebook executive traveled to Islamabad in July to discuss anti-Islamic content.
The danger that comes from that visit, he says, is that Facebook appears to be censoring anti-Islamic content both here in the United States and in Pakistan.
Facebook's vice president of public policy met with Pakistan's interior minister after a "counter-terrorism" court sentenced a man to death for posting "blasphemous" comments, the Reuters news service reported.
A spokesperson for Facebook called the meeting "constructive" but insisted it told the government that Facebook is committed to freedom of expression.
Yet a spokesman for the Pakistani government said Facebook agreed to police the content of its 33 million users in Pakistan for "hateful and provocative material that incites violence and terrorism."
The description of "hateful" likely refers to criticism of Islam. The mention of violent-causing material is insightful,too, since human rights activists say they are targeted by unsubstantiated claims of blasphemy.
A university student was beaten to death in April by a mob that accused him of blasphemous content on Facebook, when police later found no evidence.
Relaying news about Facebook's trip to Pakistan, Spencer told American Family Radio the corporate executive was told the website is allowing "blasphemous" materials and that won't be tolerated in an Islamic county.
"By which they meant material that is insulting to Islam and violates Islam's blasphemy laws," Spencer explained in an interview. "And (it) includes material that shows how Jihadis use the text of Islam to incite violence."
Islamic watchdog website The Clarion Project also noticed Facebook's trip to Pakistan last month. Just meeting with the radical Islamists is bad enough, writes editor Meira Svirsky, but agreeing to censor material, and ignoring the death sentence of a Facebook user, is dangerous and outrageous.
Writing about Facebook on his own Jihad Watch website, Spencer wrote in an August 5 story that Facebook-driven traffic to Jihad Watch mysteriously dropped by 90 percent in February – and has never recovered.
"We do not post any hateful or provocative material and neither incite nor approve of violence," he wrote, "but Facebook is acting as judge, jury and executioner in all this."
Spencer told AFR in the radio interview that Facebook hinders anti-Islamic criticism by allowing people to read it but not share the story.
"If they try to forward it to somebody else, it doesn't go," he alleged. "If they try to send it in some other way, they can't do it."