In Central Asia, Facebook and YouTube adjust to political censorship

Facebook would have done well without the advertising by the Kazakh government. 1is November, the Ministry of Information of Kazakhstan, a state whose Internet is classified as non-free by the American NGO Freedom House, announced that it had signed a “Joint statement” with the Californian social network “To cooperate closely on harmful content”. The statement said that Facebook granted the authorities “Direct and exclusive access to the Content Reporting System [“système de signalement de contenu”], which can help the government flag content that may violate Facebook’s overall content policy, and local Kazakhstan laws ”.

The Ministry of Information proudly points out that the country is ” the first (…) of Central Asia to benefit from such exclusive privileges ”. Already at the center of a scandal in the United States and in Europe, Meta (the company owning Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp), being notably accused of “Put profits before safety” of its users, immediately denied any special arrangement with the regime, which has not known democratic alternation since its independence in 1991.

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“We follow a consistent process around the world to assess individual claims, independent of any government, and in accordance with Facebook policy, local laws and international human rights standards. This process is the same in Kazakhstan as in other countries of the world ”Meta spokesman Ben McConaghy said in an email to Reuters.

Package of laws

According to the specialist site Statcounter.com, Meta has a 23% market share (by adding Facebook and Instagram) in this country of 19 million inhabitants, on par with the Californian image-sharing site Pinterest. Facebook’s direct competitor is the Russian social network VKontakte (both have a 15% market share), which, since 2014, has been fully accessible to Russian security services. Largely inspired by Russian legislation, the Kazakh power has been pushing since this autumn, in front of a docile Parliament, a package of laws intended to strengthen control over foreign social networks.

The latter will have to appoint employees in Kazakhstan, who will be held personally responsible for complaints lodged by the authorities. The government of Nursoultan (the Kazakh capital) justifies the new regulations by the need to protect minors. Demanding the abandonment of these laws, a petition launched on September 29 and signed by more than 10,000 Kazakh citizens calls « manipulation » the “Tactic of introducing laws under the pretext of protecting children’s rights”.

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In Central Asia, Facebook and YouTube adjust to political censorship

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