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Facebook briefly deletes popular Pakistan support group for women: founder

By AFP

April 5, 2024 09:10 PM


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Facebook briefly deleted a women-only group in Pakistan with more than 300,000 members who used it to freely discuss taboo topics, its founder Kanwal Ahmed told AFP on Friday.

Soul Sisters Pakistan, created in 2013, acts as a support group for women who share information about sex, divorce, and domestic violence -- issues often deemed inappropriate to discuss publicly in conservative, Muslim-majority Pakistan.

According to Ahmed, Facebook deleted the group late Wednesday after warning her of an unspecified "intellectual property violation" linked to a post.

"They didn't even show which post it was," said Ahmed, who Facebook made a community leader in 2018 for her work on the group, adding that it is devoted to "personal stories and anonymous posts."

The group was reinstated late Friday, Ahmed said.

Facebook did not immediately reply to AFP's request for comment.

The group enables members to offer each other informal help, ranging from legal advice to emotional support, on topics that might otherwise draw abuse if posted about publicly.

"The suspension of Soul Sisters Pakistan speaks to the arbitrary and non-transparent ways in which social media platforms operate and subtle ways in which community guidelines of these platforms can work against users in the Global South," Shmyla Khan, a digital rights researcher in Lahore, told AFP.

Soul Sisters Pakistan has previously come under fire from critics who accused it of promoting divorce and "wild" behaviour challenging tradition and patriarchal norms.

Digital activists have long complained of creeping censorship in Pakistan.

The country's telecommunications agency (PTA) has taken down more than one million pages from TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for obscene or indecent material.

The shutdowns were revealed after petitioners challenged PTA to do more to control "objectionable" material and were confirmed to AFP by one of the agency's lawyers, Jahanzeb Mahsood.

Social media platform X has been disrupted consistently by the government since shortly after the national election in February, which was marred by rigging allegations.

TikTok has twice been banned by the telecommunications authorities over "inappropriate content", lifted only after assurances that the platform would better moderate content.

More than 18 million videos were removed between October and December, according to latest data from TikTok, while YouTube was banned between 2012 and 2016 over content deemed blasphemous.

 
 

AFP


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