Facebook Removes Kadyrov Pages

Published: 2017-12-31

Jennifer Stisa Granick, Staff Attorney

American Civil Liberties Union

Speech, Privacy and Technology project.


Dear Ms. Granick,

We thank you for your comments quoted in the New York Times, December 29, regarding Facebook’s removal of the accounts of Chechen Republic leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Mr. Kadyrov’s accounts were taken down without notice or explanation on December 23.  Kadyrov had 4,000,000 followers.

You correctly call attention to Facebook’s vague set of rules dealing with the removal of accounts, usually for what Facebook deems violations of “community standards.”  Facebook seems to see itself as the owner of a popular bar; it allows patrons to converse and argue but reserves the right to instantly eject anyone who threatens its popularity as a meeting place. 

In the case of Kadyrov, Facebook claims that it was legally required to pull his accounts because of US financial sanctions laws.   As you also correctly point out, a law designed to block commerce or transfer of funds is being used as justification for blocking Kadyrov’s ability to speak to millions of people interested in what he has to say.

The fundamental issue seems to be the obligations of Facebook and other dominant Internet platforms toward their customers.   Is Facebook just a private bar serving whom it pleases or has it grown into something more like a public utility, with obligations to provide services neutrally to all?   We think that the matter should be clarified by Congress in favor of free speech considerations (but maybe after the 2018 elections.)

Thank you for your important work with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology project.   Happy New Year and best wishes for 2018.



David Merlin, 

Member of CODOH 

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): David Merlin
Title: Facebook Removes Kadyrov Pages
Published: 2017-12-31
First posted on CODOH: Dec. 31, 2017, 5:35 p.m.
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