Open Letter to Facebook

Re: Protests against Policy Brutality in Macedonia (June 2011)
Dear Facebook,
We are writing to express our concern over the swift deletion policy that has been imposed on the facebook pages and events that we as participants in a protest against policy brutality in Macedonia are currently dealing with. We have been made aware by the press secretary for the Ministry of Interior that their administrators are responsible for reporting the groups for calls for violence and hate speech, but considering that we know the content of those pages and deny the allegations made by press secretary Kotevski, we wonder how your administrators confirm those allegations before you delete the pages. Do you confirm them at all?
The systematic deletion especially of events that bring people together in peaceful protests adds significantly to the climate of fear created by those we are protesting against, so we felt compelled to explain a few things which we hope you will take into consideration next time you receive a request from the Macedonian Ministry of Interior to kill one of our events or pages. We will try to explain in brief the background of the protests, as well as the nature of the protests with the hope that someone out there will realize how detrimental your policies are for our peaceful, non-violent cause.
In the early hours of June 6th, shortly after midnight, a 22-year-old boy was beaten to death on the main square in Skopje in front of hundreds of bystanders. Witnesses who were there believed that the perpetrator was a member of the special police forces, but found no evidence of it in the media the next morning. In fact, the only story that was published the next day by a Macedonian news agency merely reinstated what the Ministry of Interior had published in their morning brief: that a young man started feeling sick on the main square the night before and passed away shortly after.
The outraged witnesses and their friends called for a protest to demand more information. The first day was marked with confusion, as the boy’s identity had not been confirmed and no one was coming out with official statements, other than to say that they have no information on the case. Fortunately, enough people had come out on the streets that first day, in peaceful protest, to demand more information, so that more than 40 hours after the killing occurred, the police were left with no other choice than to admit it was one of their own who committed the crime.
The Protests:
The public outrage that followed the official confirmation from the Ministry of Interior helped the protest that occurred on the first day gain momentum. More people came out the next day and even more the next, culminating in a 5000 strong protest a few days later. We have now been walking and blocking the streets of Skopje for 11 days straight and have no intention of backing down until our demands are met. The protest has since turned into a massive protest against police brutality, marked above all by a peaceful, non-violent stance. Which brings us back to our original question: why are our pages and events being deleted? And why has no one in your camp bothered to check the facts before approving requests made by the Ministry of Interior – the same people we are protesting against? The Republic of Macedonia is by no means the best functioning democracy in the world, but we are a democracy nonetheless, and our people still have the right to peaceful protests. In these past 10 days police officers have been walking the city side by side with us, helping us exercise our constitutional rights. Our protests are not violent and we do not use hate speech, and yet our events and pages are still deleted. They are deleted after we have proven time and again that we CAN be peaceful, after various local and international news agencies have covered the protests, mostly in praise of the power of the people. Our protests have been legitimized by locals and foreigners alike, legitimized even by those we are protesting against, as evidenced by the fact that the Ministry of Interior has taken the time to respond (poorly, we have to add) to our demands.
If everyone has legitimized our protests, facebook, why haven’t you?
As a gesture of good will, we have decided to add descriptions in English to our events to make your decisions easier for you. We urge you also to get more informed on our protests  (I have added a number of links from credible news sources that confirm what is stated in this letter) and demand that our pages and events are left intact from this moment onwards. I can additionally confirm that the administrators of our pages and events have been very thorough in dealing with any posts or comments that violate the code of non-violence adopted by the protesters, which is a practice that we will continue to employ. By doing so, we are compliant with the provisions from the contract in which we have entered with you as individual facebook users. If there are any violations that we are committing unaware, we would appreciate additional information on what these are and they will be addressed immediately. If not, then let us be and let us plan peaceful protests uninterrupted by those who are powerless on the ground and have been using you to do what they cannot.

Learn more:
Washington Post:
Al Jazeera:
Global Voices Online:
More links in English and other languages:

PDF version of letter: Open letter to Facebook

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