Far-right Vlaams Belang party leader Tom Van Grieken said Facebook has threatened to delete his page after he put up a message expressing his condolences to the family of Jürgen Conings, who was found dead on Sunday.
Van Grieken said the threat came following his post which said “much strength to his partner, children, family and friends. rest in peace,” following the announcement that Conings, who had been missing for one month, died after taking his own life, however, Facebook has said it only deleted the post.
“We have removed this post for violating our Dangerous Individuals and Organisations policy. Content, Groups and pages that praise or support terrorists, such as Jürgen Conings, are not allowed on Facebook or Instagram,” a Facebook Company spokesperson told The Brussels Times.
Under the interpretation of the Facebook policy, Conings has been designated as a Dangerous Individual, which means the organisation will remove any praise or support for him when it is made aware of it.
Depending on the type of content that is removed, Facebook can also apply strikes which could result in the loss of access to some features for a certain period of time.
Van Grieken argued in his statement on the Vlaams Belang website that virologist Marc Van Ranst, who was sheltering in a safe house for one month as Conings made threats against him in a letter he left before his disappearance, also expressed his condolences to Conings’ family, however, he did so on Twitter.
Mijn gedachten gaan uit naar de nabestaanden en kinderen van Jürgen Conings. Voor hen is dit bijzonder droevig nieuws, want zij verliezen een vader, een familielid of een vriend.
The tweet reads: “My thoughts are with the relatives and children of Jürgen Conings. This is very sad news for them, as they lose a father, a relative or a friend.”
“When expressing sympathy for the family of a deceased person is also categorised as hate speech, there is clearly something wrong with the arbitrary censorship by multimedia giants such as Facebook,” Van Grieken said in an article on the Vlaams Belang website.
“It is therefore urgent that national legislation puts a stop to the silencing of right-wing and nationalist politicians,” he added.
The party submitted a bill on this subject earlier this year, arguing that only those messages that are in contradiction with Belgian laws should be removed from social media, “not just what these companies don’t like,” Van Grieken said.
“Because when you can be removed from Facebook simply for expressing sympathy for someone, this has nothing to do with ‘hate speech’ or ‘protecting democracy’ anymore, but everything with pure dictatorial arbitrariness,” he added.