The German office of social media giant Facebook located in Hamburg was attacked by a group of vandals on Sunday, The Hindustan Times reports. The vandals attacked the building housing the office of Facebook by smashing glass, smearing the walls with paint, and spray painting “Facebook dislike” on a wall within the office compound. Initial reports say that the attack was carried out overnight by a group of 15 to 20 people who wore black clothes. They were also wearing hoods in order to escape from being identified on surveillance cameras. Officials have yet to assess the extent of the damage caused and refused to divulge the financial loss that has happened due to the damage caused. It is also unclear at this stage if the attackers were caught on surveillance video.
Local police officials have started investigating the incident, reports The Local. They also confirmed that the attack was harmless and that no injuries were reported. This has also been confirmed by a Facebook spokesperson. While it is clear that the attack was carried out by a group that doesn’t seem to be happy with Facebook, the actual cause of the attack remains a mystery.
— FACEBOOYKOTT (@WAFEFACEBOOK) December 13, 2015
— Insurrection News (@InsurrectNews) December 13, 2015
The attack, however, comes at a time when Facebook is facing an investigation in Germany over its failure to remove racist posts and hate speech from the website. It was in November that several German celebrities and politicians alike raised their concerns over the increasing number of comments that were directed at foreigners. The issue was compounded following a massive influx of immigrants from Syria who were fleeing the ISIS.
Even before the Syrian refugee crisis, several online privacy advocates had criticized Facebook for its policies on racial and vitriolic comments. They had also demanded Facebook act more stringently on nudity and sexual content.
These problems led to an investigation in which the European head of Facebook, Martin Ott, is currently being investigated by the German agencies. Ott, who is the managing director of Facebook for northern, central and eastern Europe, is based out of Hamburg.
In a statement issued to the press last month, Facebook maintained that the allegations against it by the authorities “lack merit” and that it has not violated any German law. A Facebook spokesperson did not elaborate further and declined to comment further as the matter was settled.
Facebook has a long history of troubled relationships with Germany and the German authorities. In the recent past, the social media giant had a long drawn-out battle with German privacy watchdog firm, the Hamburg Data Protection Authority. The authority had issues with Facebook’s policy of not allowing the usage of fake names and aliases on Facebook. After a complaint from a Hamburg woman whose name was altered without her permission, it ordered Facebook not to prevent users from using fake names. The HDPA also ruled that Facebook did not have the authority to unilaterally change user’s chosen surnames. It was also disallowed from asking for official identification documents for account creation for people who wished to use fake usernames. The woman in her complaint had claimed that Facebook had asked her for official identification papers in order to reinstate her account.
Prior to Germany, the Belgian privacy watchdog had taken Facebook to court over another privacy-related issue. The Belgian firm asked for more clarity from Facebook in the way the social networking giant uses the data and the activities of its users.
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