Naming of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Yemeni Nobel Prize winner Tawakkol Karman as a member of Facebook’s first oversight board has sparked widespread public anger among opinion leaders in Arab countries, who strongly rejected the censoring by those known for their support for extremist ideology.
Social media users launched a hashtag of “#RefuseTawakulKarman” demanding the withdrawal of her appointment as she is known for her lack of neutrality as well as her extremist views. They also questioned the standards and foundations adopted by the company in appointing the leadership in Al Islah Party, the Yemeni arm of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Prominent political science professor Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, said on Twitter: “Tawakkol Karman does not deserve to be on an international council to supervise Facebook content. Hate speech and Karman are just like branches on a tree,” Abdulla said.
Emirati writer Ola Al Shaikh said, “This news is a major catastrophe, because her appointment to this position enables her to pass judgment on Facebook policies regarding the region.”
The new oversight body includes four chairs: Former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Stanford Law School Professor Michael McConnell, Columbia Law School Professor Jamal Greene and Dean of the Universidad de los Andes Faculty of Law Catalina Botero-Marino.
Apart from Karman, other members include Kenyan human rights activist Maina Kiai, Pakistani digital rights activist Nighat Dad and former editor of the Indonesian publication Jakarta Post, Endy Bayuni.
Started too early
Emirati writer Maryam Al Kaabi said that it appears from the appointment of Karman that the new world order they are talking about has started too early.
Dr. Hani Raji, said: “Facebook made a high ethics committee, in which Tawakkol Karman was included to oversee posts related to our region. This means giving supervision to Facebook Egypt directly to the Brotherhood!
Ali Saleh Al Khulaki, professor of Islamic history at the University of Aden, Yemen, confirmed his total rejection of the Facebook company’s decision, calling on the company to retract it.
For his part, John Talaat, a member of the Egyptian Parliament’s Communications Committee, called on parliamentarians from various Arab countries to take urgent action under the umbrella of the Arab Parliament to object to the appointment of Kerman, describing this decision as a “farce” and “a provocative step.”
Axis of moderation
The Egyptian parliamentarian held the Yemeni activist, who also holds Turkish citizenship, responsible for “hatred and bigotry towards Egypt and the countries of the axis of moderation in the Arab world,” considering them “one of the tools used by the Qatar-Turkey alliance to implement its plans to destabilise the region.”
Facebook said it selected the four co-chairs who in turn helped choose the rest of the 16 members.
“The Oversight Board is an external body that members of our community can appeal to on some of the most significant and challenging content decisions we face,” announced Facebook.
The social media company pointed out that it expected the members “to make some decisions that we, at Facebook, will not always agree with — but that’s the point: they are truly autonomous in their exercise of independent judgement.”
The decisions by the oversight board are expected to influence “content moderation guidelines” for Facebook and Instagram.
Brent Harris, Facebook’s director of public policy, said the company “will implement the board’s decisions unless doing so violates the law.” Over the next few months, the body expects to grow to around 40 total members.
Radicalisation experts believe that by choosing Karman for the influential role, Facebook failed to recognise the link between the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideological advocacy and extremist activity.
A number of countries in the region, including UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, have branded the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation. The terrorist links of the organisation are under investigation in several Western nations. Many Al Qaida leaders have initially been active with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Facebook has repeatedly come under fire for failing to adequately address the proliferation of extremist ideologies on its platform. After being assailed by critics, including European legislators, Facebook declared last year its intent to update its policy on “combating hate and extremism.”
But ironically, a clarification it issued last September seemed to discount the link between terrorism and extremist ideology.
“We are always looking to see where we can improve and refine our approach and we recently updated how we define terrorist organisations in consultation with counterterrorism, international humanitarian law, freedom of speech, human rights and law enforcement experts,” Facebook said. “The updated definition still focuses on the behaviour, not ideology, of groups.”
When Karman won the 2011 Nobel Peace prize for her “role in Arab spring protests,” the Muslim Brotherhood’s website, Ikhwanweb, released a statement on Twitter identifying her as a “Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood member,” sparking widespread speculation and criticism about her connection to the group.
Despite tactical disagreements about alliances in Yemen’s war, Karman is a leading figure of Yemen’s Islah Party, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate.
Karman has repeatedly defended the Muslim Brotherhood, even describing the group as “one of the victims of official tyranny and terrorism in the region, which Trump gives his supports and assistance.” She has said she believes the movement’s role in the region will “necessarily” grow in the future.