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Oversight board rules against Facebook on post criticizing Emmanuel Macron

Oversight board rules against Facebook on post criticizing Emmanuel Macron
The Facebook sign is shown at its campus in Menlo Park, Calif. on May 18, 2012. Its oversight board overturned a decision to ban a tweet that criticized French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo by Terry Schmitt/EPA-EFE | License Photo

Feb. 12 (UPI) -- An international social media watchdog said Friday Facebook acted too hastily and should reinstate a post criticizing French President Emmanuel Macron and urging Muslims to possibly turn to violence.

The 40-member Oversight Board, made up of human rights and legal experts around the world, said the post did not represent an imminent threat and deleting it was a disproportionate restriction.

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The same board will decide whether Facebook was right in banning the account of former President Donald Trump, a ruling that could come next month.

The post placed in a forum for Indian Muslims in October 2020 referred to Macron as a devil, called to boycott French products and included a meme that read in its English translation: "If the tongue of the kafir starts against the prophet, then the sword should be taken out of the sheath."

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Facebook initially ruled the post violated its "Violence and Incitement Community Standard."

"While a minority viewed the post as threatening some form of violent response to blasphemy, the majority considered the references to President Macron and the boycott of French products as calls to action that are not necessarily violent," the board said in its ruling.

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"Although the television show character holds a sword, the majority interpreted the post as criticizing Macron's response to religiously motivated violence, rather than threatening violence itself. The board notes that its decision to restore this post does not imply endorsement of its content," it said.

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The board said human rights standards allow for people to express ideas and opinions, even those that "maybe controversial or deeply offensive," as well as the right to express offense "at such expressions."

The oversight board was created to help Facebook address questions around freedom of expression online on its platform, with its decisions binding. In January, it overturned Facebook's decision on four decisions to remove posts.

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