FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Secular Coalition for America Joins Member Organization in Calling on Facebook to Reverse New Policy
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On July 6, Facebook’s Director of Content Policy Stakeholder Engagement, Peter Stern, wrote to Sarah Haider, Director of Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA), a member organization of the Secular Coalition for America (SCA), outlining the platform’s new policy banning “attacks” against religious institutions. The email came on the heels of EXMNA expressing concern that ex-Muslims were being systematically and maliciously targeted by extremists who falsely flagged content critical of Islam.
Rather than address these concerns, Facebook has doubled down on this practice, recently creating a community standard that bans “content attacking concepts, institutions, ideas, practices, or beliefs associated with protected characteristics, which are likely to contribute to imminent physical harm, intimidation or discrimination.” This is a departure from the previous policy, which rightfully protected individuals, but allowed for persecuted groups, such as ex-Muslims, to speak out against the harmful or discriminatory practices of religious institutions.
While the new community standard purports to apply only in extreme cases, Facebook’s past practice of enforcing complaints has been overreaching and draconian. “By attempting to prevent future, hypothetical incitement or discrimination, Facebook will be silencing the voices of ex-Muslims and other apostates—many of whom have experienced severe discrimination at the hands of the very institutions that the new standard protects,” said Sarah Haider. She noted that just recently, a broad coalition of secular groups organized by EXMNA (including SCA, Arab Atheists, Lebanese Atheists, and Black Nonbelievers) had also met with Facebook to express concern over their enforcement.
“For persecuted minorities, the internet has long been a refuge and safe haven for forbidden speech,” said Haider. “Many of our members have suffered threats of violence and intimidation for leaving their faith. This policy opens the door for the dissolution of Facebook networks where so many ex-Muslims find community and support.”
SCA will continue to support EXMNA in working with Facebook and engaging with lawmakers who regulate social media.While individuals must be protected, penalizing those who speak out against institutions and concepts or beliefs sets a dangerous precedent that run contrary to our coalition’s values of freedom of expression. It’s time for Facebook to go back to the drawing board regarding this harmful community standard.
A copy of the policy is attached to this release.
Andrew McCarty Grossen
July 15, 2021
The Secular Coalition for America is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to amplifying the diverse and growing voice of the nontheistic community in the United States. Our 19 voting member organizations are established 501(c)(3) nonprofits who serve atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and other nontheistic Americans.