Forward Press

National Dastak, Facebook and freedom of expression

 Facebook has banned National Dastak, the website that specializes in news related to Dalitbahujans, from sharing its links on its own Facebook page. While expressing its support for the democratic voices from India’s deprived sections, Forward Press stands with National Dastak.

Over the last two days, Forward Press has contacted several top officials at Facebook and acquainted them with India’s social situation and the dominant social forces active in the cyberworld. Carson Dalton, Facebook’s India head of communications, assured us that his team is looking into the matter in all seriousness and is searching for a solution.

Facebook has enforced a temporary ban on National Dastak on sharing links from its website and YouTube channel. The social media website sent the following message to National Dastak: “Your Page has been temporarily restricted for causing people to like or engage with it unintentionally in a misleading way. Our Page Terms that: ‘Pages must not contain false, misleading, fraudulent, or deceptive claims or content.’ All Pages must comply with the Facebook Page Guidelines.”

Furthermore, Dalton told Forward Press, “Facebook has set community standards, based on which it takes action.” He said his team was analysing certain material published on National Dastak’s Facebook page over which the community had raised objections and would soon come up with a solution.

Following the ban of National Dastak, messages have been posted on Facebook both against and in support of the ban. Those posting in support of the ban have accused National Dastak of following certain politicians’ lead, publishing misleading information to fulfil the political aspirations of its editors as well as plagiarism. However, we shouldn’t forget that India is a democratic nation and our Constitution drafted by Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar has granted us freedom of expression. Our Constitution and legal system also has provisions of lawfully restricting this freedom of expression. If this freedom has been misused, we have the courts’ doors to knock on. The manner in which Facebook has cited its own rules to defend its action against National Dastak amounts to unauthorized intervention on our Constitutional right to freedom to expression, and we condemn it. We would also like to know how many of Facebook’s employees in its India offices believe in Phule, Ambedkar and Periyar’s ideology.

Facebook has said that it has taken action based on its “community standards”. What this would mean is that the number of complainants against National Dastak might have been significant. It’s common knowledge that various social, religious and political outfits that trample on the democratic interests of the deprived have set up their own cyber cells and are working aggressively on Facebook, Twitter and other social medial platforms.

Forward Press holds the view that in a nation as diverse as India, where there are social, educational and economic inequalities between different castes and communities, there cannot be one set of impartial community standards. Hence, we, at Forward Press, would like to request Facebook to immediately lift the ban imposed on National Dastak, and to set up a cell representative of India’s social diversity to take a call on the so-called community standards and to encourage freedom of expression. -Editor, Forward Press

Forward Press also publishes books on Bahujan issues. Forward Press Books sheds light on the widespread problems as well as the finer aspects of Bahujan (Dalit, OBC, Adivasi, Nomadic, Pasmanda) society, literature, culture and politics. Next on the publication schedule is a book on Dr Ambedkar’s multifaceted personality. To book a copy in advance, contact The Marginalised Prakashan, IGNOU Road, Delhi. Mobile: +919968527911.

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