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Facebook denies Kazakh claim of exclusive access to content reporting


ALMATY – Facebook owner Meta Platforms on Tuesday denied a claim by the Kazakh government that it had been granted exclusive access to the social network’s content reporting system.

In what it called a joint statement with Facebook, the Kazakh government had touted the move as a compromise solution on Monday, after the Central Asian nation threatened to block Facebook for millions of local users.

The Nur-Sultan cabinet had said an agreement, which would have been the first of its kind in the post-Soviet region of Central Asia, would streamline the process of removing content deemed illegal by Kazakhstan.

But in an email to Reuters, Ben McConaghy, Meta Platforms director for policy communications in Asia-Pacific, said, “Firstly, we did not issue a joint statement with the Kazakh government – instead, the Kazakh government released their own statement based on discussions we’ve had with them about our global process for requests from governments to restrict content that violates local law.”

He added that the process “is not an exclusive to Kazakhstan and is the same process that governments have around the world”.

The oil-rich nation’s parliament in September started working on a bill that would let the government block social network and messaging apps unless their developers open offices in the country and appoint executives personally responsible for reviewing the authorities’ complaints.

Deputy Aidos Sarym, one of the bill’s developers, said on his Facebook page on Monday that the bill had paved way for talks with tech giants and the authorities were now ready to soften its provisions.

Critics of the bill have accused the authorities of the autocratic nation of 19 million of seeking to gain new censorship tools, while the bill’s authors say it aims to prevent cyber-bullying and the spread of other dangerous content.

The government has said there were at least 3.2 million Facebook users in Kazakhstan. Other Meta Platforms applications such as Instagram and WhatsApp are even more popular.

Facebook has long faced criticism from rights group for being too compliant with government censorship requests.

The service has mostly avoided shutdowns outside of countries such as China, where it has long been blocked, but has faced pressure this year in a number of countries including India, Vietnam and Myanmar. – Reuters

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