Video of a Tibetan monk’s self-immolation was deleted by Facebook this week, sparking accusations that the social media site is censoring political content, especially anything that speaks out against China.
A video of the self-immolation was shared by Tsering Woeser, a prominent critic of Chinese policies in Tibet and a noted author. She wrote a post about Kalsang Yeshi, a monk who lit himself on fire in China’s Sichuan region on December 23.
Woeser’s post included a video of the self-immolation, which Facebook took down citing its “community standards.”
On Sunday the social media site offered a more detailed explanation, saying the Tibetan monk self-immolation video was too graphic for its users:
“Facebook has long been a place where people share things and experiences. Sometimes, those experiences involve violence and graphic videos. We work hard to balance expression and safety. However, since some people object to graphic videos, we are working to give people additional control over the content they see. This may include warning them in advance that the image they are about to see contains graphic content. We do not currently have these tools available and as a result we have removed this content.”
The self-immolation was part of a wider protest against Chinese rule in the Himalayan region. Last week, Chinese police opened fire on monks outside a police station in the Sichuan province, leaving one monk shot in the arm.
Human rights groups say that China is trampling on religious freedom and culture in Tibet, though China denies the charges and says it has brought an end to the backward practice of serfdom in the region.
The self-immolation video removed from Facebook has continued to draw controversy. Tsering Woeser said she “couldn’t believe her eyes” when she saw it was removed, and thought, “How is it that this has become like a Chinese website?”
The removal of the Tibetan monk self-immolation video could have larger implications for Facebook. The company’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has expressed interest in expanding into China, where the site is currently blocked.
[Image via AsiaNews]