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Facebook Polices Religious Intolerance
Millions Have Viewed Pages Offensive to Sikhs

By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Thursday, December 23, 2010 | 12:10 am

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Photo Source: Sikh News Network

This picture was the butt of many jokes on many of the offensive Facebook pages. It was the profile picture on a page called: Lsmmtuafimc = Laughing so much my turban unravels and falls in my curry. Fans: more than 678,400. It was also on the page: LMTO - Laughing My Turban Off! Fans: more than 199,200.

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Photo Source: Sikh News Network

Big pugrees are the butt of many jokes on Facebook pages that are offensive to Sikhs. This particular resulted in racist and hateful attacks between Sikhs and non-Sikhs. The page is called: "LMTO" - Laughing My Turban Off! Fans: more than 199,200.

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Photo Source: Sikh News Network

This particular photo on the Facebook page, By Lsmmtuafimc = Laughing so much my turban unravels and falls in my curry, also resulted in racist and hateful attacks between Sikhs and non-Sikhs. Fans: more than 678,400.

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Photo Source: Sikh News Network

White men with turban costumes often were the source of racist and hateful attacks between Sikhs and non-Sikhs on Facebook. This page: DON'T YOU JUST HATE IT WHEN YOU GET CURRY ON YOUR TURBAN?! Fans: more than 131,800.

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Photo Source: Sikh News Network

This is an example of an image that connects Sikhs with terrorism. Facebook page: DON'T YOU JUST HATE IT WHEN YOU GET CURRY ON YOUR TURBAN?! Fans: more than 131,800.

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Photo Source: Sikh News Network

This is an example of an image that connects Sikhs with terrorists. The image is from a SALDEF news release, origin unknown.

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Gursagar Singh: “(explicative) paki shite boy why u bein racist il pop a (explicative) cap up yru white ass

“u best be watchin it fatass white trash & btw i live in england to cuz u konw there are a lot of sikh's with turbans why dont u go say to them watch what they do to yu (explicative).”

The response was just as offensive.

Cory Anderson: “its people like this kid Gurgaasgaarasrafgtagf that make people think that all "Towel heads" are terrorists, which they are.”

Karunesh C. Talwar: “Dude, people just need to relax with the whole racism thing. We're more racist here in India, amongst ourselves, than people have ever been to us outside this country. And by the way, I laughed my ass off the first time I heard someone use the term, 'sand-nigger.' Please bring it back into fashion. We need to use it more here. Racism is hilarious if anything.”

As harsh as it may seem, this is a tame example of the hate match between communities that has resulted from posting images and comments about turbans.

POLICING THEIR OWN

“Social networks make you pick sides instantly, with no time to make logical decisions,” said Ben Lieu, associate director of the Department of Justice, Community Relations Service, which is a federal mediation service to improve communications, find mutual agreements and resolve tensions in communities. “These are the problems of our quick communications, of how to address these issues that come up that divide people.

“There’s a fine line between some of these things,” he said. “(Users) can’t put something overtly suppressive or inciting violence to any particular group, and a lot of these organizations know the fine line. (But) if it creates tension in a community, the department will work with the organization to police its own” activity and not publish the offending items.

According to its terms of use and safety policy, Facebook users cannot “bully, intimidate or harass.” Users also cannot post content that is “hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”

Most of the time it’s a matter of contacting an organization like Facebook and having its internal review look at it and take it down, Lieu said. “We just have to bring it to light.”

That was SALDEF’s approach. Savraj Singh, the group’s Eastern regional director, contacted Facebook through friends who work there. The group explained that the pages posed significant misconception and can result in direct harm to the Sikh community. The most egregious pages were removed within two days.

Some of the removed pages seemed to be promoting Sikhi with beautiful pictures of Guru Nanak, Baba Deep Singh, Guru Teg Bahadur, Jasjit Singh said. “But the next picture would be something crazy,” like Osama bin Laden. “We were confused by what is the objective.”

Facebook has so far removed one-third of the 45 pages that were reported, preventing more than 700,000 users from viewing these offensive images and comments, SALDEF said in a news release.

“Facebook is trying to be the neutral entity,” Savraj said. “(But) when things get offensive they will remove it.”

And as users continue to press the ‘report’ link that appears below every post, abusive comments seem to disappear on a regular basis, especially on Lsmmtuafimc.

Ian Logan: “Where are the missing posts gone. Why are they missing?”

Users also have the option to ‘report’ offensive photos, videos and entire pages.

SALDEF said it is developing Web tools to monitor Facebook and other social networking Web sites such as Twitter, and blogs. It also has an online petition.

“There are a lot of people listening on line,” Savraj Singh added. “It’s critical to monitor social media channels because what people say online have broad influence. They are underlying subtle associations that create undercurrents.

“People making content are in the minority. Most people are consumers and absorb information. (They) do not adjust privacy settings, they become fans, their friends become fans, then you have millions of people who are fans,” he said. “If someone makes a comment and SALDEF is not there to correct its accuracy, it becomes truth to hundreds of thousands of people… Next time they see a Sikh on the street, they think crazy terrorist people.”

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