Facebook is no stranger to protests. But the protest that ripped through Facebook today may be the strangest – and the most pitched – to date. Here's a primer: Last month, under fire from Muslim groups in the US and abroad, the television network Comedy Central agreed to censor an episode of South Park that showed the Prophet Mohammad in a bear suit.
That didn't sit well with the Seattle-based artist Molly Norris, who created a cartoon lampooning Comedy Central's decision. Norris's cartoon features a fake poster declaring May 20th "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day." Norris insists she was not actually calling for a "Draw Mohammad Day," but within a few days, a few folks had taken up the cause, and created a Facebook group called – you guessed it – "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day."
The blowback was quick and furious. Norris was bombarded with angry messages; eventually, she posted a disclaimer on her personal site. "I am horrified! My one-off cartoon that was specifically about Comedy Central's behavior.... is not good for a long-term plan," she wrote. "The results have shown to be vitriolic and worse, offensive to Muslims who had nothing to do with the censorship issue I was inspired to draw about in the first place."
Norris encouraged the founders of the Facebook group to cancel the competition immediately.
Her words did little to quell anger. According to the Associated Press, a group of Islamic lawyers today won a court order requiring officials in Pakistan to block access to Facebook until May 31. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters flocked to the streets of Karachi, carrying placards denouncing both Facebook and the proposed "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day."
Of course, this being 2010, much of the fighting over the proposed event has been conducted on the Web – and more specifically, on Facebook. Two groups – one entitled "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day" and other called "Protest Against Draw Mohammad Day" – each have attracted thousands of fans.
By Wednesday afternoon, the tone of the comments on both group pages had grown so acidic that many users called for Facebook to take action. "Let us all unite against these elements that spread hatred and disrespect in the world. Let's report such pages and groups as abuse, that’s the least we can do to promote love and peace," one user wrote on the "Protest Against Draw Mohammad Day" page.
[Editor's Note: The original post incorrectly identified the artist behind the "Draw Mohammad Day" cartoon. She is Molly Norris.]