Pakistan's PM asks Facebook to ban Islamophobic content

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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan makes a brief statement to reporters before a meeting with U.S. House Speaker Nancy PelosiImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Imran Khan has called on Facebook to ban all "messages of hate"

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has written a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, asking him to put a ban on Islamophobic content.

In a letter, Mr Khan said "growing Islamophobia" was encouraging "hate, extremism and violence... especially through the use of social media".

It comes a day after Mr Khan accused French President Emmanuel Macron of "attacking Islam".

Facebook already has a policy of removing hate speech on its platforms.

It defines hate speech as "a direct attack on people" based on protected characteristics including race, ethnicity, national origin and religious affiliation, through "violent or dehumanising speech" or "harmful stereotypes".

In a letter which he published on Twitter, Mr Khan referred to a recent decision by Facebook to ban any content that denies or distorts the Holocaust.

He called for a similar policy to be put in place for anti-Islam comments.

"Given the rampant abuse and vilification of Muslims on social media platforms, I would ask you to place a similar ban on Islamophobia and hate against Islam for Facebook that you have put in place for the Holocaust," he said.

"The message of hate must be banned in total - one cannot send a message that while hate messages against some are unacceptable, these are acceptable against others."

On Sunday, Mr Khan accused the French president of "attacking Islam".

His comments came after Mr Macron paid tribute to a French history teacher who was murdered after he showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

Mr Macron said the teacher "was killed because Islamists want our future", but France would "not give up our cartoons".

In a tweet, Mr Khan responded: "It is unfortunate that [Mr Macron] has chosen to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who carry out violence."

Mr Khan, who is currently under pressure from a coalition of opposition parties, has been known to court the religious vote to strengthen his base.

Shops in several Middle Eastern countries have also boycotted French goods in protests at Mr Macron's defence of the right to show cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Depictions of the Prophet Muhammad are widely regarded as taboo in Islam, and are offensive to Muslims.

However, state secularism is central to France's national identity, and the state argues freedom of expression should not be curbed to protect the feelings of one particular community.

France's foreign ministry called the calls for boycott "baseless", adding that they should "stop immediately".

This is not the first time Pakistan has asked Facebook to help investigate content on its site.

In 2017, Mr Khan's predecessor Nawaz Sharif called on the social media giant to investigate "blasphemous content"- it is unclear what exactly this might have been, but in the past, blasphemy accusations ranged from depictions of the Prophet Muhammad to inappropriate references to the Koran.

But critics said then that blasphemy laws, which allow the death penalty in some cases, are often misused to oppress minorities.