Facebook Polices Religious Intolerance
Millions Have Viewed Pages Offensive to Sikhs
By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Wednesday, December 22, 2010 | 11:10 pm
’How long are these turban jokes on Faceboook gonna curry on for?’ is an example of a hate-mongering Facebook ‘page’ that has been taken off the most popular social networking Web site in the world.
Also deleted: ‘My turban brings the Taliban to the yard and they’re like we wanna bomb cars.’
Also deleted: ‘My Turban Only Comes Off During Sex ’
The most egregious ones are offline but many more remain.
Unlike the familiar Facebook personal profiles, where individuals input their personal information and communicate with friends by posting messages, public figures and organizations can create public profiles, called ‘pages,’ to attract Facebook users for commercial purposes. But some people create pages using fake profiles, and it is from these “trolls” that most of the hateful content originates, Facebook told the New York Times.
“first successful group! never gave up and now look at me! -im baaaaaaaaallin!!,” says the owner of the page, ‘Lsmmtuafimc = Laughing so much my turban unravels and falls in my curry.’ “I (explicative) love my fans - you've made me so much more popular at school … anyone got some funny jokes?!”
The page owner’s ‘info’ originally showed that he was a white male from the United Kingdom, but his info disappeared Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 21. The rest of his page is still available and still shows a nihang with an enormous pugree as his profile image. It also showed the identities of 679,097 users that have posted that they “like” his page. But that number went down to 679,012 by Wednesday evening, Dec. 22.
“There were a few people in the community who brought this to our attention,” said Jasjit Singh, associate executive director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund in Washington. “We did some research and found more (pages)… It was a very significant problem.”
Tabulating the number of fans on 45 offensive pages that SALDEF found this summer, the number of people viewing these pages added up to three million, Jasjit Singh said. Some pages, like Lsmmtuafimc, had hundreds of thousands of members.
Facebook may seem like a harmless forum for teens and young adults to fraternize online, but with 500 million users worldwide, it has become a powerful force of social influence. Through ‘friends’ networks, pages set up as innocuous jokes about turbans can direct the attitudes of millions of people, instantly. Every time Lsmmtuafimc, or any of his 679,012 friends, posts a comment, the rest of the group immediately sees that message on their personal pages.
SALDEF, which began as a media watchdog group in 1997, is now monitoring this and other social media Web sites, identifying harmful pages and tracking how many users are receiving these messages.
Lsmmtuafimc: “RIGHT so ive got some haters....its expected. evryone? its a joke okay? sorry to offend but you dont have to join....”
Some of the pages were just meant to be jokes with the intention to get as many people to join by spam, Jasjit Singh said. It is supposed to be a forum for people to exchange views, “that too under very unfortunate circumstances.”
Among the 123 images that users have posted in Lsmmtuafimc’s photos collection are photos of Sikhs with unusual turbans, unrelated pictures and cartoons, Sikhs at Darbar Sahib, a turbaned character from the Harry Potter film named Professor Quirinus Quirrel, Sikhs in the World Wars, white Sikhs, Sikh models and Osama bin Laden.
The photos with the most reactions were the ones with white men wearing a turban and beard costume, as a joke. Most of the comments were about how funny he looked.
But Sikhs are not laughing.
In fact, many Singhs and Kaurs posted reverse-racist and hateful comments on the photos, although most of them did not wear turbans. But by Wednesday morning, Dec. 22, many of those comments also were removed. A few were left.
Gursagar Singh: “(explicative) **** shite boy why u bein racist il pop a (explicative) cap up yru white ***
“u best be watchin it fatass white trash & btw i live in england to cuz u konw there are a lot of sikh's with turbans why dont u go say to them watch what they do to yu (explicative).”
The response was just as offensive.
Cory Anderson: “its people like this kid Gurgaasgaarasrafgtagf that make people think that all "Towel heads" are terrorists, which they are.”
Karunesh C. Talwar: “Dude, people just need to relax with the whole racism thing. We're more racist here in India, amongst ourselves, than people have ever been to us outside this country. And by the way, I laughed my *** off the first time I heard someone use the term, 'sand-******.' Please bring it back into fashion. We need to use it more here. Racism is hilarious if anything.”
As harsh as it may seem, this is a tame example of the hate match between communities that has resulted from posting images and comments about turbans.
POLICING THEIR OWN
“Social networks make you pick sides instantly, with no time to make logical decisions,” said Ben Lieu, associate director of the Department of Justice, Community Relations Service, which is a federal mediation service to improve communications, find mutual agreements and resolve tensions in communities. “These are the problems of our quick communications, of how to address these issues that come up that divide people.
“There’s a fine line between some of these things,” he said. “(Users) can’t put something overtly suppressive or inciting violence to any particular group, and a lot of these organizations know the fine line. (But) if it creates tension in a community, the department will work with the organization to police its own” activity and not publish the offending items.
Most of the time it’s a matter of contacting an organization like Facebook and having its internal review look at it and take it down, Lieu said. “We just have to bring it to light.”
That was SALDEF’s approach. Savraj Singh, the group’s Eastern regional director, contacted Facebook through friends who work there. The group explained that the pages posed significant misconception and can result in direct harm to the Sikh community. The most egregious pages were removed within two days.
Some of the removed pages seemed to be promoting Sikhi with beautiful pictures of Guru Nanak, Baba Deep Singh, Guru Teg Bahadur, Jasjit Singh said. “But the next picture would be something crazy,” like Osama bin Laden. “We were confused by what is the objective.”
Facebook has so far removed one-third of the 45 pages that were reported, preventing more than 700,000 users from viewing these offensive images and comments, SALDEF said in a news release.
“Facebook is trying to be the neutral entity,” Savraj said. “(But) when things get offensive they will remove it.”
And as users continue to press the ‘report’ link that appears below every post, abusive comments seem to disappear on a regular basis, especially on Lsmmtuafimc.
Ian Logan: “Where are the missing posts gone. Why are they missing?”
Users also have the option to ‘report’ offensive photos, videos and entire pages.
SALDEF said it is developing Web tools to monitor Facebook and other social networking Web sites such as Twitter, and blogs. It also has an online petition.
“There are a lot of people listening on line,” Savraj Singh added. “It’s critical to monitor social media channels because what people say online have broad influence. They are underlying subtle associations that create undercurrents.
“People making content are in the minority. Most people are consumers and absorb information. (They) do not adjust privacy settings, they become fans, their friends become fans, then you have millions of people who are fans,” he said. “If someone makes a comment and SALDEF is not there to correct its accuracy, it becomes truth to hundreds of thousands of people… Next time they see a Sikh on the street, they think crazy terrorist people.”