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Speak your brains, Colombia – Facebook chief to walk among you soon

Zero per cent chance of telling bossman to bog off in Bogotá

A no doubt carefully-selected bunch of Latin American Facebookers will get to quiz the free-content ad network's kingpin Mark Zuckerberg during his first "Townhall Q&A" session away from Menlo Park.

The billionaire, copper-haired boydroid, who has been extra chatty about freedom of expression this week, will be present at a heavily stage-managed Facebook event in Bogotá, Colombia on 14 January.

Zuck appealed for questions from netizens via his Facebook page on Friday, just hours after he attempted in a separate post to claim that his company supported "different voices" on the network across the globe.

His comments came in light of the atrocious terror attacks in Paris this week.

Zuck went on to claim that he had been targeted by "an extremist in Pakistan [who] fought to have me sentenced to death because Facebook refused to ban content about Mohammed that offended him."

He added:

We stood up for this because different voices – even if they're sometimes offensive – can make the world a better and more interesting place. Facebook has always been a place where people across the world share their views and ideas. We follow the laws in each country, but we never let one country or group of people dictate what people can share across the world.

Yet as I reflect on yesterday's attack and my own experience with extremism, this is what we all need to reject – a group of extremists trying to silence the voices and opinions of everyone else around the world. I won't let that happen on Facebook. I'm committed to building a service where you can speak freely without fear of violence.

However, as Facebook itself pointed out in November last year, the ad giant has long way to go, given that it routinely hits the censorship button in countries around the world.

In its most recent "Global Government Requests" report in November last year, Facebook said:

[W]e’ve seen an increase in government requests for data and for content restrictions. In the first six months of 2014, governments around the world made 34,946 requests for data – an increase of about 24 per cent since the last half of 2013.

During the same time, the amount of content restricted because of local laws increased about 19 per cent.

But once in Bogotá, will Zuck accept any difficult questions from the floor about censorship on his network? Unlikely. Afterall, he would then potentially be opening up Facebook to more thorny issues around publishing and the legal headaches associated with that tag. ®

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