"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

An open letter to Mark Zuckerberg Featured

Subject: Regarding the blocking of #Sikh

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

I hope you are well aware that some decisions that your staff at Facebook and Instagram has made can affect millions of people's lives. I am writing this letter to bring to your attention decisions by your staff that have affected and will continue to affect Sikhs negatively. In recent months, Facebook and Instagram have blocked the hashtag #Sikh, which is tantamount to blocking an entire religion and erasing them from your platforms.

Sikhs are a small (around 28 million worldwide) stateless minority that has gone through multiple cycles of genocide throughout their history, but particularly during the recent past. The first weeks of June and November hold special significance for the Sikhs as we commemorate two of the most painful events in our recent history: the Indian army's brutal assault on our holiest shrine Sri Darbar Sahib, Amritsar during the first week of June 1984 and the genocide of Sikhs in India during the first week of November of the same year. Both events are commemorated worldwide by Sikhs both online and offline. However, this year the commemoration became particularly painful as your platforms—Facebook and Instagram—blocked the #Sikh in June. Your platforms also deleted thousands of posts and blocked countless accounts this year in the first week of November. Now, your platform Instagram blocked the #Sikh again this week when Sikh farmers, along with farmers belonging to other religions all over India, are protesting against India's rights-wing Modi government's attempts to hand over their lands to the corporations.

I have a few straightforward questions for you: how can you justify blocking #Sikh, which is just the name of a religion and is not offensive in any way? How can your staff launch such a brazen assault on our freedom of expression and go undisciplined? How can the very invocation of our religious identity be deemed a provocation so serious that it must be censored at all costs? The denial of our voices amounts to an erasure of very existence. You must show accountability and make sure that it never happens again.

Our existence on your platforms has become so precarious that we no longer feel safe there. We use these platforms under the constant fear of being censored. I demand that you immediately launch an inquiry into why #Sikh is blocked and unblocked repeatedly and discipline those responsible for it. You have the moral responsibility to fully investigate this serious matter and make necessary changes to decision-making processes. I also want an assurance from you that it will not happen again. We want to use these platforms to raise awareness about human rights violations in India, and we have a right to do so. It is your job to make sure that we can do so without intimidation and censorship.

With regards,

Prabhsharanbir Singh

Ph.D., Interdisciplinary Studies

University of British Columbia

#Sikh #FarmerProtest

 

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