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Facebook Blocking Shifts to New Countries

Facebook is without a doubt the most popular social media site the world over. There are of course local favorites, and there always will be, but Facebook connects people all over the world like no other network does. They often use this free network to share ideas and information that they would not otherwise be able to. This is why certain governments hate Facebook and why blocks on the website have always featured in the news. This month, there have been a few changes to the standard list of Facebook-haters.

New Haters on the Block

So far, it has not been difficult to guess which countries are likely to perceive Facebook as a threat to their ruling powers. The list of countries where Facebook is blocked has some all-time die-hard haters, and a few new ones have been added to the list as well. Some of the blocks are not permanent, while you can bet on others that are here to stay. Whichever it is in your area, you know that Facebook blocks are a part of life and that we have few choices in the matter. That is, we can wait for the blocks to be lifted, use a VPN to regain access, or stop using the site altogether.

Over a billion people all over the world use Facebook. And nine countries are famous for banning these users’ access to the site, at least from within their borders. That isn’t too many haters if you compare the number to other countries that allow free access to Facebook. But when you think about the populations of these countries and their reasons for blocking the social media giant, tempers are bound to flare up.

Probably the biggest reason that governments give for banning access to Facebook is that the site poses a threat to the powers that be. Of course these ruling powers claim that they are trying to protect their people, but we all know, and they all know, that the real reason is to preserve their precarious hold over the nation. Facebook has been used for many years as a venue for voicing political criticism, sharing suppressed information, exposing government propaganda, and organizing political protests. These are all activities that authoritarian regimes hate because they threaten the status quo that keeps greedy, self-serving politicians in power. By ripping Facebook away from their citizens, they hope to squelch the freedom of expression that they know is a powerful catalyst for positive change.

These governments hate the voices of their people and are answering public clamor for justice and freedom by removing their venue for rightful interpretation and expression. The worst offender is the one country that is always on the top of the list for violating Internet freedoms. You got it: China. The Chinese government has developed their sophisticated content filtering system to help them to quickly and easily get rid of online material that they consider to be a threat. This of course includes social media sharing sites like Facebook, which was permanently banned from the mainland in 2009. The trigger for this case of Facebook blocking was information sharing that led to ethnic protests in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, which later turned violent. People who live in the Shanghai free trade zone are free to use Facebook, however.

The next worse offender is North Korea. A long time ally of China, it is not surprising that this repressive regime would also want to keep the free flowing ideas on Facebook far away from the population. In general, few North Koreans can access the Internet anyway, but Facebook has been banned to the public for as long as we can remember. In addition, the government implemented a total Facebook ban last year, aimed at embassy workers, humanitarian groups, and scientific researchers, who are granted Internet access so that they can work more efficiently. It seems that the government is afraid that foreign diplomats, human rights workers and various smart people are going to cause trouble by telling it like it is. Another country with similar Facebook blocking habits is Iran. The Iranian government has also blocked Facebook since 2009, and also because of protests, though in that country they were political in nature.

Vietnam is a country that can’t make its mind up about Facebook. Its bans have been on and off, and this may be because they want to catch detractors and impose their heavy fines rather than prevent criticism against the government. Syria has also imposed a temporary ban on Facebook, which ran from 2007 to 2011, to silence political dissent. At about the same time that this ban was lifted, Egypt imposed their own, albeit very short, politically motivated Facebook block. The following year, Tajikistan did the same to protect their president from criticism. Bangladesh and Pakistan banned Facebook for short periods in 2010 because of drawings of their prophet Muhammad. The governments found this religiously offensive and decided to block residents’ access to the site temporarily.

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