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In Some Places, Deleting Facebook Would Mean Erasing Opportunity


Here's a hashtag you don't want trending on social media if you're a social media company - #DeleteFacebook. This follows a scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. The data company reportedly gathered information from millions of Facebook users without their permission. But what does deleting Facebook mean in places where there's censorship over the media or where it's used to communicate because it's hard to move around? NPR's Diaa Hadid reports from Pakistan.


DIAA HADID, BYLINE: You're listening to drums beating at the first ever International Women's Day March in Pakistan. It happened on March 8.

NATASHA JAPANWALA: One of the most beautiful things about it is it brought together women. And they all marched together side by side.

HADID: Natasha Japanwala is a writer. And, yes, her last name is unusual.

JAPANWALA: (Laughter) OK. So my last name, Japanwala, means from Japan.

HADID: Japanwala says the Women's March - the first ever - was mostly organized through Facebook. She says middle-class women here rely on Facebook a lot because it's hard to go places - literally. Women face sexual harassment on the street and on public transport.

JAPANWALA: You do sort of spend a lot of time constricted - and I think especially if you're a woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking Urdu).

HADID: There's also a lot of censorship in Pakistan. Think about this. In January, an aspiring model was shot dead by police. He belonged to Pakistan's ethnic minority of Pashtuns. And they protested, thousands of them, in front of the Press Club in the capital. But the media didn't cover the story. So the activists turned to Facebook. This is Mohsin Dawar. He's an activist.

MOHSIN DAWAR: If there was no Facebook, there wouldn't have been any opportunity for us to convey our message to the people.

HADID: And in the past few weeks, Dawar and other activists created a movement for Pashtun rights using Facebook. And in Pakistan, having Facebook is a privilege. Most people here are poor. They don't have Internet or computers or smartphones.

We meet Haq Mohammed in a bazaar. He sells guavas. Like a lot of people in Pakistan, he can't read.

HAQ MOHAMMED: (Foreign language spoken).

HADID: He shows us his battered, red mobile. It's not a smartphone. It's used for calling people.

MOHAMMED: (Foreign language spoken).

HADID: Mohammed says he's heard of Facebook. And he says it's the future. And he feels left behind. Diaa Hadid, NPR News, Rawalpindi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.
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