Is Facebook Responsible For Honor Killings?

When we’re browsing our favorite social media platforms, most of us don’t stop to consider the full scope of what we’re doing. Who are we talking to, and what effect are we having on those we correspond with? What are the consequences of our actions, both seen and unseen? Those questions are experiencing dynamic shifts as we begin to search for the answers in a rapidly advancing age of connectivity and higher technology. Here’s a new one: are there honor killings over the use of Facebook?

In some Middle Eastern countries, arranged marriages are tradition. Straying from the path set forth by your parents is a dangerous option that few would exercise, but some choose to anyway in hopes of finding greater freedom through the outside world. When one Saudi Arabian woman was caught perusing Facebook by her father, she was beaten for her curiosity–especially because she had been speaking with a man she had met online. After the beating she was forced to endure, her father shot her.

This isn’t a complete surprise because many religious leaders in the region are convinced that Facebook and other social media platforms just like it are an unprecedented source of evil–and they work tirelessly to convince others of this odd belief as well. When people fall prey to these beliefs, their actions can transform into a kind of extremism that most people in more developed regions of the world can’t even fathom.

These same religious leaders believe that women shouldn’t be allowed to use Facebook or any practice management software at all because it supposedly leads them towards a life filled with lust. Even so, there are nearly 8 million Facebook users residing in the country out of a population with only 32 million people. That’s a gigantic swath of people who are giving into temptation–if you believe in that sort of thing.

In the past, many of these profiles used aliases and fake pictures in order to avoid discrimination. Saudi officials have also moved to block Facebook entirely, but the measure did not pass. In 2016, Facebook Messenger was successfully banned because of privacy concerns.

The use of Facebook in Saudi Arabia and similar countries today is very different than it is in other regions throughout the world. If you share someone else’s post or tag them in content which they could find offensive or embarrassing, then you could end up the target of a defamation suit–or much worse. Even drinking is illegal in the country, and so photos of such behavior could get you in big legal trouble.

It’s important to realize how enormously different traditions are in other regions of the world, and we need to take a moment to consider how we can best implement meaningful change to make the lives of citizens who live in those regions a whole lot better. Facebook might be the first step towards reducing the number of honor killings, but only if we can effect change the right way.