Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, responding Friday to the Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo, vowed to make Facebook a place where people can speak freely without fear of violence.
Zuckerberg said that a Pakistani lawyer petitioned to have him sentenced to death in 2010 because Facebook was hosting blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad. But he argued that different voices, even offensive ones, can make the world a “better and more interesting place.”
“Yet as I reflect on yesterday’s attack and my own experience with extremism, this is what we all need to reject — a group of extremists trying to silence the voices and opinions of everyone else around the world this is what we all need to reject — a group of extremists trying to silence the voices and opinions of everyone else around the world,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
In one of the worst terrorist attacks in France’s recent history, several masked men stormed the headquarters of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo Wednesday, killing 12 people, including two policemen. The gunmen reportedly shouted that they were avenging the Prophet Muhammad, whom the publication had frequently mocked.
Facebook has refused to take down content deemed offensive by religious groups several times in the past. Pakistan blocked Facebook in 2010, after the company refused to take down a contest prompting visitors to draw the prophet, which is considered blasphemy in many Muslim communities. However, the Pakistan ban was lifted weeks later, after Facebook blocked the content for Pakistani users. The service is blocked in several other countries, including Iran and China.
Facebook, however, does respond to government requests to remove content deemed anti-religious or blasphemous, and increasingly so. According to a report published by Facebook in November, censorship on the social media site in the first six months of 2014 was 19% higher than in the last six months of 2013.
Zuckerberg ended his post with the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag, used as a show of support for Charlie Hebdo. “My thoughts are with the victims, their families, the people of France and the people all over the world who choose to share their views and ideas, even when that takes courage,” he wrote.
Some companies and publications have pledged to support Charlie Hebdo financially, including Google’s Press Innovation Fund, which donated €250,000 ($296,000) to the newspaper. Zuckerberg did not mention a financial contribution in his post.
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