Facebook censoring images of Tibetan monks who are self-immolating to protest China


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Does Facebook typically delete pictures/videos of people committing suicide? I would think that this kind of imagery is not something FB (or most companies) would want to be associated with, regardless of the political implications.


This isn’t true. Many of the immolations have occurred outside of the Tibet Autonomous Region. From a brief look at the list, it appears that most of them have occurred in historical Tibetan areas of Amdo and Kham, in the modern PRC provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, and Sichuan.

Edit: I see that the website addresses this issue, but I think that most people in the west would tend to think of the TAR when talking about Tibet, even if Amdo and Kham were traditional Tibetan areas. As the map below shows, almost all of the immolations occurred outside of the TAR.

FaceBook is still around?


Ahem, I believe those monks had nipples.


From the wikipedia:

The cover features a photo of the self-immolation of Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, in Saigon in 1963. The monk was protesting President Ngô Đình Diệm’s administration for oppressing the Buddhist religion. The photograph drew international attention and persuaded U.S. President John F. Kennedy to withdraw support for Ngô Đình Diệm’s government.

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The broader problem ultimately boils down to something that people are trying to use as a medium also being a single company’s monetization zone, your basic digital equivalent of the old ‘mistaking a shopping mall for a public space’ issue.

I imagine that the activists’ more immediate contention would be that viewing the images ‘regardless of political implications’ makes all but relatively banal political expression (or even information) difficult to convey and at a structural disadvantage relative to the status quo. Yes, Facebook isn’t in the business of being rotten.com, so they wouldn’t typically do suicides, or murders, or violent gruesome death in general; but without some minimal acceptance of political implications, that prohibition would apply equally to civil war documentaries and snuff films. If Facebook thinks that being SanitizedSpace™ will be best for their bottom line, petitions aren’t going to stop them; but they can certainly give it a shot.

Attempting to get Facebook to run their walled garden more like an idealized forum for civic discourse is…unlikely…to be achievable; but they might well get what they want in this specific case, given how well recognized burning buddhists are as a form of political expression.

In what seems like an ugly incongruity, the photo did not shock the US enough to prevent them from dropping ~350,000 tons of napalm on the place during the subsequent few years.

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Given that the issue would seem to be centred around a form of political censorship, highlighting that the picture drew the attention of the POTUS and had real political effects would therefore be relevant. I submit that you have missed the point.

I did catch the point; but I admit to having my attention subsequently drawn astray by a tangent.

This would make a lot more sense if their “free speech” response to complaints that their platform is used for bullying, hate speech, death/rape threats, etc.

Given your previous reply to Jerry_Vandesic, it did seem like kind of a weird digression.
If only any kind of political speech could stop kilotons of ordinance being dropped on a country.

Actually, I should be careful with that kind of pessimism. I bet there’s a perfect example of exactly that happening at some point in recent history.

It was definitely digressive; but something about the dissonance seemed more striking than usual, despite knowing that Kennedy(and Diem) would be too dead to be inconsistent by the time it happened, first being moved to action by an image of one person burning; soon enough burning them yourself, wholesale. Probably also had something to do with there being two iconic images associated with the topic. The one you posted and the one of the screaming child fleeing a napalm strike. I’m not certain.

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That’s an interesting association.

The strength of images of self immolation forces us to confront the sublimated implications of our neurotic behaviour. Whether it be complicity in waging war or through stifled inaction as we neglect to support their struggle.

The monks would have us see our shadow, cast by the light of their protest.

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The more I think of it… why is an image of a Buddhist protest inappropriate, but all the Swift Boat and Death Panel and Benghazi memes are just fine, although demonstrably false?


Aside from pure American exceptionalism, I imagine that it’s just business. Their user stats would not be improved were they to visibly align themselves against something that a pretty substantial percentage of Americans, and a nontrivial percentage of their customers, are for. The network affects would still help them hang on; but if some talk radio pundit decides that they are a pawn of the Democrat Party, and realizes that describing them as a ‘Socialist Networking’ site is almost clever and practically funny, some PR flack is going to have a bad day.

What I don’t know is whether the initial blocking of the Buddhist protest material was just their outsourced content-filter-peons and/or general risk aversion(in which case it will almost certainly be reversed once it becomes clear that they stand to lose more than they gain); or whether one or more of the foreign markets into which they hope to expand politely informed them, purely off the record and as a friendly reminder, that their…tactful…treatment of such socially discordant material would be a demonstration of good corporate behavior and self regulation of the kind that definitely wouldn’t hurt their chances.

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