Human-rights activists have called on Facebook to refuse access to its services to the political campaign of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, ahead of this month’s election in the country.

The Syria Campaign on Monday launched an online petition, calling on the social-media giant to cut off Assad’s Sawa (meaning “together” in Arabic) campaign.

The Sawa Facebook site, launched on 10 May, has so far attracted more than 200,000 “likes”. Advertisements for the Sawa campaign briefly appeared alongside some people’s Facebook pages, depending on their likes and interests; according to the activists, such ads have appeared alongside the pages of Syrians who stand against the Assad regime.

“Assad has been widely accused of war crimes,” said John Jackson of the Syria Campaign. “He’s using starvation as a weapon of war against his own people. He’s dropping barrel bombs on schools and residential districts, throwing out shrapnel against civilians. He has done things that most human-rights organisations have categorised as serious crimes.

“The fact that Facebook is allowing Assad to use its services for his campaign should be beyond the pale.”

Facebook said the ads had been placed from outside Syria and had been taken down, as they contravened the company’s advertising policy.

“The ads you referenced are no longer on our platform. We terminated these ads. As always, we take down ads that violate our policies,” said a spokesperson.

“We comply with all relevant Syrian sanctions and do not permit ads originating from or targeting Syria.”

The spokesperson said Facebook was not currently considering dropping the Sawa site.

“With over a billion users around the world, Facebook permits freedom of expression and we want to make sure people feel comfortable coming to Facebook to discuss what’s important to them, while making sure we maintain a safe and respectful community,” he said.

“When people see something they find offensive in our community, our goal is to give them the tools they need to handle this situation.”

Syria’s national election is set to take place on 3 June, with Assad running against two relatively unknown candidates.

Syrian opposition activists fighting to topple the Assad regime have denounced the vote as a sham, as it is taking place during a bloody civil war, with an opposition unrepresented and unable to participate owing to a recently passed law barring those leading the revolt against the regime from competing, which will almost certainly result in Assad’s re-election for a third seven-year term…. see more

source: Guardian UK