In February 2016, ten of the largest Arabic-speaking atheist groups, with a total of about 100,000 members, have been deactivated for the same reason: heavy reporting campaigns that are organized by âcyber jihadistâ fundamentalist Islamic groups, especially for the removal of any anti-Islamic group or page. In such coordinated campaigns, very large numbers of people, and possibly automated scripts, simultaneously file reports falsely claiming that a page, group, or personal account has violated Community Standards.
Representatives of AA-MENA petitioned Mark Zuckerberg demanding that Facebook reactivate the removed groups. The petition was shared on most major atheist groups in the Arab world, the US, and the UK, and it has been supported by many prominent social media activism organizations such as Atheist Alliance International and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain .
AA-MENA has adopted #FacebookVSFreeSpeech as the hashtag of its Facebook event, Atheism: Campaigning to regain the right to free speech within Facebook Pages.
The Alliance has three goals for the free speech campaign:
1. Reactivate the pages that were removed due to intensive, unfounded reporting activities;
2. Convince Facebook to respect the rights of irreligious individuals and groups in the MENA region as well as respect the freedom of thought and expression; and
3. Convince Facebook to reform its standard procedures in collecting and addressing reports in a way that ensures a just evaluation of any alleged violation of Community Standards.
For irreligious people of the MENA region, social media outletsâespecially Facebookâhave become the only platform that they can safely use to express their thoughts and opinions, share their stories, and come together without feeling threatened.