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Prominent Tibetan Writer Takes On Facebook

  • Jim Randle

FILE - Tibetan and activist Poet Tsering Woeser appears on computer screen, top, during online video chat with The Associated Press, Beijing, March 1, 2012.

FILE - Tibetan and activist Poet Tsering Woeser appears on computer screen, top, during online video chat with The Associated Press, Beijing, March 1, 2012.

A prominent Tibetan writer is accusing Facebook of politically motivated censorship after the social media site removed her post about a Tibetan protest.

Tsering Woeser says her Facebook account's link to a video of a monk setting himself on fire in front of a police station in Sichuan province earlier in December was deleted.

The International Campaign for Tibet said 136 people have used self-immolation during the past few years to draw attention to complaints about Chinese rule of Tibet.

Woeser writes that Beijing has taken strong steps to end these drastic protests and to keep word of them from spreading inside China or around the world.

Facebook is the world's largest social networking site with more than 1 billion users, so its policies have implications for free speech in many nations.

A note from the company said "some people object to graphic videos" and Facebook lacks the tools needed to warn members that "the image they are about to see contains graphic content." The social media site said it works hard "to balance expression and safety."

Woeser has been a member of Facebook since 2008, and has often posted material about Tibetan self-immolation. She said this is the first time such material has been removed.

Calls Facebook inconsistent

The author said Facebook is inconsistent and unreasonable in removing her post because it allows posting of other "graphic" images, including the 9-11 terrorist attacks in the United States or beheadings by Islamist militants. She is asking Facebook to restore her material on the monk's self-immolation.

China operates the most elaborate Internet censorship operation in the world and goes to great lengths to control what its citizens can read, watch or write.

Inside China, Web searches for "persecution," "Tibetan Independence" or "democracy movements," for example, produce no useful results. The same searches would lead to page after page of articles for users outside of China.

Beijing blocks or sharply limits the way many Web companies operate in China.

Officials recently blocked the widely used Goggle email program called Gmail. It blacked out the popular photo-sharing service called Instagram during recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and bans Facebook in most of the country.

China has 600 million Web users, making it an important online market.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appears to have stepped up efforts to enter this huge market recently by meeting with key Chinese officials and displaying his newly learned Mandarin language skills to a Chinese audience.

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