It’s a good thing Facebook has been banned

Published: May 21, 2010

The writer is a standup comedian (sami.shah@tribune.com.pk)

Maybe it’s a good thing that Facebook has been banned. It might even be a positive development because the prohibition means that we may now see a reduced number of court cases on matters as inconsequential as corruption, rape and murder, and instead directions for bans on YouTube, Flickr and Wikipedia. Might I suggest that we also ban pencils and drawing.

Too long have our parents lamented our generation’s lack of passion and drive. Now, with this simple ban, the most apathetic mouse-clicking teenager of yesterday has been transformed into a politically active, enraged seeker of revolution. If nothing else, it certainly freed up my day. Maybe we can all take this enforced break from spreading our narcissism into the ether with status updates and instead enjoy some silent introspection.

Maybe we won’t waste our time mindlessly staring at videos of kittens falling over and instead learn something new like dancing the salsa, building model warships or playing the sitar. There is a risk of course. Maybe I will, instead, succumb to the same relief-from-boredom techniques used by the rest of Pakistan that never used the internet and go on to sire 13 children while burning a tire.

To the court’s credit though, the ban must be working. I definitely will not see any offensive website today compared to when Facebook was not blocked. Unfortunately, with the freed up bandwidth, I am also more likely to start downloading mass amounts of pornography since torrent speeds are fantastic right now.

The real unsung victim of this Facebook ban though, is poor old Musharraf. Since his exile he has been sitting with a team of analysts and strategists, carefully studying every aspect of the Obama campaign. “Social networking” one of them cried out, “that’s the key!” “What the hell is social networking,” was Musharraf’s response. The following year was spent teaching him how to set up a fan-page, how to upload video clips and how to set your privacy settings so the whole world can’t see the pictures of you in a swimming pool — known as “pulling a Taseer”.

Finally, after much training he was set to begin twofinger typing his call to revolution. And then Facebook got banned. Where will he find followers from now? What will this mean for his political career? And more importantly, does he know about the ban or does he think all of Pakistan is avoiding him on-line. YouTube, Wikipedia and Facebook are planning on a response but they should take the time out to be proud of themselves. On the internet, being banned by Pakistan puts you in good company. We only ban the best. YouTube was banned last year and Blogspot was banned the year before that. Oddly, blasphemy still exists despite these bans. Maybe that’s something I can think about in my new-found free time.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 21st, 2010.

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Reader Comments (50)

  • May 21, 2010 - 1:29AM

    Gotta love this, I swear to God. I don’t understand how this ban will work in any effective manner. The irony is that the site that hosts this campaign is still alive and kicking. Banning Facebook didn’t change anything. The social network is based on pay-per-click model with $.03 every hit. Pakistan has a small community of around 2 million users. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care if these users are off his domain for a few days or even a week. Also, the hypocrisy is simply disgusting. I got porn sites running like crazy, I got snuff sites up without any restriction. Where is PTA’s stance on Islam in terms of these issues?

    I gave my two cents on this redundant ban here.Recommend

  • Humayun M
    May 21, 2010 - 1:51AM

    likes this.Recommend

  • May 21, 2010 - 9:10AM

    This is excellent news that Pakistan has banned Facebook or any other anti Islamic websites. I agree with the phenomena that it doesn’t matter if smaller community doesn’t online on a particular website. But it makes a lot of difference when you need few people for your support. We can easily abstain from evil doings if we are not provided those opportunities.
    Mr. Author, I am sure you have open access on constructive contents rather than larger collection of porns.
    It always depends upon the person who’s using the tool – whether it is for construction or destruction. A man is wise if he knows when and how to use that tool for his future growth.
    Just take my few words “Leadership is the action; not position”.Recommend

  • May 21, 2010 - 9:33AM

    Sami, as usual, you kill it ;) *two thumbs up* !Recommend

  • Samina
    May 21, 2010 - 10:09AM

    Haha. Well said, Sami. In the aftermath of the ban, I find that there are other things I can do with my time now. Like read. And actually work!Recommend

  • Khalid Hassan
    May 21, 2010 - 10:20AM

    things have become more Commercial.. therr is no values no scoial thoughts at all.. just a lust for money..ppl have become damn materialistic, just take an arial view of this conspiracy you will find an EXTENSIVE FLOW OF MONEY all around the muslim community itself even…

    huh! CRAP..! Recommend

  • arzoo
    May 21, 2010 - 11:04AM

    I support Ban on Facebook and Youtube
    People like you can only play with words to criticize every single thing which is labeled religious and can go to any extent to support those who celebrated “draw Muhammaad day” and those who supported them Recommend

  • Mahrukh
    May 21, 2010 - 12:39PM

    Seriously?! Downloading porn is quicker now?!
    Can I somehow thank the PTA for that, without having them ban this too?!Recommend

  • May 21, 2010 - 12:40PM

    Dear
    Mehreen Ali Kasana,

    Around the world about 40% Facebook users are Muslim, if we all distinct ourselves from it… Then Facebook surly will take notice… Isn’t it??? Recommend

  • Sana
    May 21, 2010 - 1:15PM

    @ arzoo and mirza
    whatever rock you live under

    opposing the ban on our freedom to browse the internet does not put us on the side of the offensive facebook group. Sami is commenting on the irony of the fact that the govt thinks its solving a problem but in reality is creating more by making a spectacle of itself infront of the world. close YOUR accounts and stay off the internet, that would have been the thing to do. LOTS of offensive hate sites on the internet and guess what -they’re not facebook groups! By their own logic, the LHC should ban the internet and the news and all media, do it thoroughly. Also Mirza, its heartening to see that facebook had such a hold over you that you were forced against your will to stay on it, and ignore sites like the tribune, despite tribune articles circulating on facebook itself. I’m glad people like you have found your calling now crawl back under the rock you came from and have a nice mediocre life.Recommend

  • May 21, 2010 - 1:38PM

    I agree with Mirza on his views. And I have observed that the ones who object to the ban are usually the ones who are not at all close to their religon. Some might argue that its not true, that we still pray and read the Quran, but feel that banning facebook(a Jewish owned social networking website that doesnt give a crap about its user’s privicy and cares less about offending Muslims) is too much, then I say again that you are not close to your religon.
    This is an insult to the Muslims and I for one will stop using Facebook altogether. I do find it weird that as Muslims we should object to the cartoons of all the Prophets but dont.Recommend

  • Sana N
    May 21, 2010 - 2:09PM

    @ lifeinpk
    The Prophet (P.B.U.H.)would have practised tolerance unlike what we’re doing, this is not a religious issue, its a moral one and Muslims are behaving in the worst way possible. The group is more famous than it should have been now because of our reaction to it. Who are you to judge whether people who oppose the ban on our freedom are close to their religion or not? Are you judging people? I sure hope not, because you know that’s a sin right? Wouldn’t want you to end up in hell or not be close to your religion because of your observations.
    the best reaction to such a group would have been no reaction. we only fuelled their purpose. You don’t like it, don’t look at it, by all means close your account and don’t spread word about it. If people go mad around you doesn’t mean you validate them by reacting to them. Recommend

  • Mirza
    May 21, 2010 - 2:33PM

    @ Sana

    just an FYI i was on facebook hoping that the world might just be changing and we muslims and others might just be on the verge of co-existing. apparently i was wrong. as for freedom? how do you define freedom? let me hear your perspective on this. as for hold over me? well i am a busy business man and facebook seemed an entertainment demanding less effort on my part also it was a way to keep in touch with the fam and all in the west, guess i was naive, then again last time i checked i was only human! as for other sites on the web, i bet there are bajillions, i bet you any money none of those sites have millions of muslims frequenting everyday.

    i suggest you come live under my rock, it will be fun to have you there.Recommend

  • Mirza
    May 21, 2010 - 2:38PM

    alright just to wrap it up,

    Sana, do you have any idea what would have hapenned if PTA had not banned the site? if the illiterate masses of Pakistan had gotten their hands on the images and caricatures on the website what do you think the response would have been? do we really need more of the ** thats going around?

    PTA’s bid on banning the site is called “Containment” they contained the devastating effects of the stupid virtual event.

    **** has hit the fan. Wake up!Recommend

  • Farhad
    May 21, 2010 - 2:39PM

    Honestly, don’t you think its odd that no mention of minorities has entered into this particular debate. It is a clear indication of the white portion of the flag really being incorrectly bleached in this day and age.

    How is this ban fair on the Zoroastrian/Parsi, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish and other communities of Pakistan? Can someone explain that to me?

    We have wine shops in Pakistan, but you are allowed to get a permit if you are a minority, in this case, as a minority I don’t get any rights. How does that make any sense or has the Government not yet issued the petition/form required for Social Media and Free Expression via the internet for minorities yet?

    Can someone PLEASE talk about minorities and what this ban means for them?????Recommend

  • Naeem Akhtar
    May 21, 2010 - 2:52PM

    I am sad and I am trembling, not because the facebook is banned but because our nation is doing the blasphemy now. How ?? Let me tell you before all this controversy started the number of people were around 350 and now it is 45000 + , so who promoted them ? We the Pakistanis, yes its just Pakistan who is crying on all this. Come on the Prophet (SAAW) taught us tolerance. Was it not him who went to see the Women who used to through garbage on him and cleaned her house?? Can’t we remember? We ONLY Say that the best Practices are given by Muhammad (SAAW), but when its time we just forget all those things why ? I know the people who started boycott by making groups on facebook, just to increase the number of fans on their own groups they promoted their groups and EDMD Group.

    So now I am asking you all whom should we Ban?? Facebook or ourselves ??

    P.S. If somebody thinks I am writing this just because I am not able to use facebook, No, I am Not, I am in UAE (where facebook is not blocked contrary to our Muslim Lawyer Federation Stand who probably forgot that Prophet (SAAW) has forbidden to tell a LIE)Recommend

  • Sana N
    May 21, 2010 - 2:57PM

    Haha! Calm down tiger,
    freedom is our right to condemn, ignore and boycott what WE want to not what we’re forced to. Bajillions you say? Twitter’s just joined the list of almost 500 sites banned since morning. I guess any other social networking sites you naively use to ‘keep in touch with the fam and all in the west’ should be reported too, won’t you be a good citizen and run along and do that? Or do you prefer others to build that boat too then jump in it? Clean your rock of intolerance, violence and fanaticism and maybe I just might join you there and share my proxy server too.Recommend

  • Hussnain Shah
    May 21, 2010 - 2:57PM

    Not Impressed!
    Amature article!Recommend

  • Saleem
    May 21, 2010 - 3:06PM

    hahahahaha! @mirza
    uncle, You might want to have a look at sami’s porno collection now that you don’t have entertainment on facebook, this madness isn’t going to end till pakistan bans the entire internet. goodluck saying hi to ur phupi then! samis right, now we can look into more blasphemous content, trust me, millions of muslims frequent those if you know what i mean!
    rock on sami!Recommend

  • TAW
    May 21, 2010 - 3:13PM

    BAN EVERYBODY DRAW MUHAMMAD DAY
    The only word that is the muslim nations voice in the above mentioned statement is “BAN”. That’s all we’re capable of. The first thought and the most instinctive neuronic trigger is the solution to all our problems. Our motto; never think anything through.

    So wherever people have upped the ban of such events, they’ve actually regulated and added to the already flowing current of the whole EDMD river.

    Thanks a lot guys! You’re really doing a lot for religion here. You have restored the image of muslims all over the world as peace loving, humble people.

    I’m on my feet giving you all a big round of applause. Really proud of my country. Recommend

  • Irfan
    May 21, 2010 - 3:38PM

    @Hussnain Shah Can you do better? Let’s see you do it then. Otherwise be constructive.Recommend

  • Khalid Hassan
    May 21, 2010 - 4:48PM

    @ SANA…..

    AGREED.. .. One right approach..

    Keep it up!Recommend

  • Farhan
    May 21, 2010 - 4:56PM

    Is there only One Platform in th shape of Facebook on the Internet to connect with each other
    We Shouldn’t critices on the government nor other, We should Critice ourselves,
    Why?

    Because none of anyone from us created any mail Service Yet.
    We can type a thousands of words efficiently in a day in many Social Networking, But never Make a forum and always rely on other

    we have the strength, ability, skills, and ideas and much more but we are not interested to make their on platform but as I said we always rely on other. Why?

    Why we will make a statement in favour or against Facebook, It’s we, It’s muslim and the author of this topic who is just wasting his time, ideas and energy but cannot advice or lead the people to use their own skills rather than depend on other.

    Today I have no faebook but I feel proud that I am writing through tribune.com before this I have never visited this site,

    Now it’s a time to make a platform by us. Recommend

  • Eddy
    May 21, 2010 - 4:57PM

    hahah i like the “pull a Taseer” :) good job man. As to what is going on with this whole fiasco which has been blown out of proportion, i think we as a nation are over reacting to this and doing what those who made the cartoons and caricatures want us to do. This is more than just hate towards Muslims, its a method to invoke and provoke. Someone draws a caricature of the Prophet and in reaction to that a whole country goes off much of the frequented websites. You’ll probably start seeing people that are already on the streets, start rioting and damaging their own country and killing others like it happened in 2005. 50 people died last time and as far as i can recall none of them drew the cartoons or caricatures, they were all Muslims killed by Muslims.

    Banning social media sites is not the answer, first of all it should be everyone’s CHOICE not something “enforced” by the government. Those who really feel they should boycott facebook can deactivate their accounts. I feel that none of these defamatory images can cause so much as a speck of difference to the character of the Prophet (PBUH). So why over react. If this had gone unnoticed by no reaction at all, many people would not have even known what was going on. But now, the way things are people just want a piece of the action and here we are protesting against something (facebook) which im sure 80-90% of the people out on the street dont even know what it is. Many positive sides of it are being ignored and people who were using it for business and education are suffering too.

    While facebook should also make a change in its terms & conditions against hate speech and remove all hate content. This is not the right way to protest.Recommend

  • annoyingorange
    May 21, 2010 - 5:02PM

    *slow rising applause*Recommend

  • Amir Hamza
    May 21, 2010 - 6:08PM

    you get better and better with every new problem we face[book].Recommend

  • Bangash
    May 21, 2010 - 8:08PM

    VERY FUNNY! Thanks for this post and also the hilarious Musharraf angle ! I am actually part of Mr Musharraf’s page and even he was supporting the 1 day boycott, but now his page is banned totally in Pakistan. Perhaps Mr Ex-President still doesn’t understand the cunning and skull-duggery of Pakistani politics !

    This ban only deprives Pakistanis of these websites, it makes no difference to the world.Recommend

  • NAWAZ
    May 21, 2010 - 9:02PM

    PTA has done a great job by banning these sites. proud on PTA, no person in pakistan uses facebook for a research person. proud on lahore high court, pta. Recommend

  • Sascha Akhtar
    May 21, 2010 - 10:38PM

    Sami Shah is a master of the art of double-entendre…Recommend

  • Ayze
    May 22, 2010 - 1:48AM

    pretentious and predictable. typical of liberal western educated 25-35yr olds in Karachi. think about that whilst downloading your porn.Recommend

  • FREEDOM TO SPEAK
    May 22, 2010 - 4:37AM

    A politician may attack an opponent scathingly across the floor of the House and earn plaudits for his robust pugnacity. But let a soberly reasoning critic of religion employ what would, in other contexts, sound merely direct or forthright, and it will be described as a shrill rant.My nearest approach to stridency was my account of God as “the most unpleasant character in all fiction”. Society’s lamentable habit of labelling small children with the religion of their parents. You’d never speak of a “Marxist child” or a “monetarist child”. So why give religion a free pass to indoctrinate helpless children? There is no such thing as a Christian or muslim child: only a child of Christian or muslim parents. Without Freedom of thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such thing as public Liberty, without Freedom of speech.If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.The most important aspect of freedom of speech is freedom to learn. All education is a continuous dialogue – questions and answers that pursue every problem on the horizon. That is the essence of academic freedom.Recommend

  • Farhan
    May 22, 2010 - 10:43AM

    We are Improving our way of Protesting day by day.
    Thanks this time We hasn’t destroyed our hotels, factories, Shops, Viechels and e.t.c.
    But this time we are just close towards “Hit the Nails on the Head”Recommend

  • Qazi
    May 22, 2010 - 11:04AM

    Musharraf might be furious but think about Hamid Mir! Won’t he be jubilant with the ban on Youtube? :)Recommend

  • Noor
    May 22, 2010 - 4:23PM

    Long live PROXY Servers…Recommend

  • Faisal
    May 22, 2010 - 4:48PM

    I dont want to comment on other issues whether this ban is productive or not, but one thing it has shown that how big Facebook addicts exist in our society who can’t take their time off from Facebook for a while just to support the voice of nation (It is arguable whether the voice raised is just or not but still…)

    Bans,boycotts dont work ? If they hadn’t worked , then in first place they wouldn’t have emerged from pretty obvious European culture isn’t it ?

    Ban might be promoting people to join those pages, but this will also at same time, creating an impression of blasphemous social networking site in minds of many who haven’t yet seen it.

    See the both sides of picture !

    Regarding what was my point here, sympathy with all Facebook addicts ! Goes to show how divided our society is, one group has worries regarding their lunch,dinner,breakfast that where to get from and one side cares about Facebook !

    Bring 2012, this world is so unbelievably crazy !Recommend

  • Kashif
    May 22, 2010 - 8:28PM

    The issue is that someone was insulting our Prophet (SAW).
    How can you sit on the sidelines and ignore! You can rationalize it with all your stupid moral relativism nonsense, but an affront to the Prophet needs to be protested..it is as simple as that! Recommend

  • Syed Shajee Husain
    May 22, 2010 - 8:44PM

    WOW they have blocked FB and now our imaan and taqwa will rise on the double………….we always protest about the insulting behaviour from west (which is infact north), but when will govt. ban those who ruin “Aswa – Husna” daily and with every passing second infront of our very eyes, dont you think it is more dangerous than making a caricature of Prophet (PBUH), we draw practical cartoon network of Prophet’s (PBUH) preaching and no one raises voice against thie ;-|Recommend

  • Zaki
    May 23, 2010 - 12:55AM

    Thumbs up!Recommend

  • Rizwan
    May 23, 2010 - 1:51PM

    Listen Mr Sami It is stated in Hadees that “One can not be a muslim until and unless he loves Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) more than his/her parents”.

    In accordance to the hadees stated above it is a very small gesture that we muslims are doing of boycotting facebook, If there is no facebook it doesnt mean its end of the world, but if there is no love for Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) then it will surely be end of everything for muslims. Just for the sake of such websites you can not risk your whole “Emaan” and main essence of Islam that is loving Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H). You can play with words that ban Pencil and Paper blah blah but sorry mate your reasoning has no login because the use of pencil and paper depends upon a person how to use it and if someone uses it against our Prophet then we have to boycott them a very very small gesture of love for Prophet.

    And great example you gave of downloading porno keep it up and keep downloading!!!! you are actually linking banning of facebook and youtube to downloading porno and bandwidth speed 2 wrongs doesnt make 1 rite Mr. Mind It.Recommend

  • Taimur Nawaz
    May 23, 2010 - 2:07PM

    FACEBOOK sucks!!!Recommend

  • Kashif
    May 23, 2010 - 2:25PM

    @Rizwan, Totally agree! Recommend

  • Ali Wahab
    May 23, 2010 - 3:23PM

    I am happy to note that the Government blocked the sacrilegious websites as soon as the Lahore High Court ordered banning of the websites. We have previously seen in 2005 the impact of the riots that happened after the publication of caricatures of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in Danish newspapers. Rioters ran amok in Lahore burning cars and banks and looting shops. No impact was seen on the Danish economy but only our economy suffered and the image we received was that of an intolerant nation. I am not a big fan of banning content, however, this has to be seen in positive light as it has avoided giving miscreants a chance.Recommend

  • Fatma
    May 23, 2010 - 8:04PM

    Funny article Sami…however, it’s fine and dandy to say ‘the Prophet PBUH encouraged tolerance’ etc…but there are hadiths that clearly tell us that the Prophet encouraged killing those who insulted him, such as in poetry. Many sahabah killed those ppl (jews or kuffar) who blasphemied the Prophet in poetry or speech. This nips it in the bud, instead of exacerbating it. Remember the teenager who killed Rajpal? That led to a law forbidding blasphemy of the Prophet.
    No doubt, its hypocritical of the Pakistan government to allow all sorts of indecency and vices in the country, and not banning porno sites. But at least they voiced a concern, unlike other Muslims countries.
    However, ours is a reaction and not a solution. A solution would be for all Muslims to drop off FB, and for some Muslim techie to create a social networking site like FB, for Muslims, that doesnt allow such nonsense. Anyone w/ the know-how, interested?Recommend

  • Rizwan
    May 23, 2010 - 8:48PM

    Thanks kashif
    and who says its not a solution of banning FB, if it was not a solution then facebook page would have never been removed but it is removed now because of a boycott of FB by Pakistan and muslims..

    United we stand divided we fall!!!

    and Fatma you are rite there is a tolerance lesson given by Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) but it is not in the case when someone try to make fun of our Beloved Prophet, there is no tolerance in this case it is clearly mentioned in many places…Recommend

  • May 23, 2010 - 10:57PM

    Well done again Sami, I believe no one has the answer that IF PTA holds the power of blocking websites why they don’t order blocking porn websites ? or Why none of our ‘Ultra’ Islamic active political organizations ever file a case in any HC all over the country ?

    Banning Facebook was never the solution and those who think Facebook removed the page..Wake up ! they didn’t. They had said earlier “We might make the page inaccessible in Pakistan.” so those who supported the ban shouldn’t be so proud of it :)

    I read a comment earlier which said ‘IF a shop in a market gives you a bad experience you leave that shop, Not the damn market !’

    Instead of telling the world..Instead of clearing the misconceptions, We did exactly what they expected us to do..and do you think this will stop ? Thanks to the reaction, I am sure they will make pages..and do a lot more than what they did. what will we do ? Block Google ? Block Yahoo ?

    I am sure IF this continues to happen..One day PTA will pop up and say BAN the Internet in Pakistan :)..Damn.Recommend

  • Rizwan
    May 24, 2010 - 12:11AM

    and those pages are removed from facebook, first do research and then speakRecommend

  • Mazhar
    May 24, 2010 - 12:15AM

    You all are right that we are sending a wrong message to the world as intolerant society.
    But just give it a thought are not all the Western societies sending the same message of intolerance by
    (a). Conducting competitions like “Draw Muhammad…”
    (b). Banning of wearing hijab
    (c). Killing so many innocents in wake of war against terrorism
    (d). Banning of minarets?
    (e). Danish PM not meeting the Ambassadors of the Muslim World over cartoon issues?

    Is the responsibility of being tolerant only tied to Muslims? Why not for them? Do these Westerner powers not send the message that they are unwilling to absorb the Muslims within their societies?

    My belief is that we have been forced to believe that this only Muslims’ responsibility to have the “Soft Image”. Why do not they all disapprove the all four things that i have pointed out. What message they are sending to the Muslim World? We need not not be worried about our image abroad as the West is not worried about their image in our eyes. Be mindful of the fact that”What you see is not what happens”. The matter of the fact is that they secretly sell all you data to the US government and the same is used wrongly.

    Just to share with all.

    Google saves the each word that you type in their data base along with you IP for indefinite period and shares the same with FBI? Why?
    AOL saves all the emails, chats and online activities of all the members and shares the same with FBI?
    Yahoo shared the emails a Chines national who was wanted by Chines authorities and he was sent to jail. WhyRecommend

  • Omer Majeed
    May 24, 2010 - 5:18AM

    Nice article, though I think you are outdated on Musharraf. Within hours of the ban on FACEBOOk, Musharraf joined the ban himself and has decided not to use facebook. ALso he now has a Twitter account and so his followers can access his post there. Recommend

  • Saba Kamran
    Jun 10, 2010 - 12:15PM

    Great post Sami! :) Very entertaining and quite true! Recommend

  • Jun 18, 2010 - 12:09PM

    look I’ve got no problem bout banning facebook or youtube as such, I just dont approve when the instigators say they’re doing it under the pretense of religion. Now that is just lame. Why hasn’t anyone banned or asked to ban all the adult entertainment sites?

    Its b/c these so called mullahs contribute to 87.61% of the traffic on them all. Thats the fact, but if any of you disagree, please tell me why the so called religious leaders and activists have not called for an outright ban on these sites. Excuses such as satisfying a need are lame. This world isn’t for us, its for us to serve HIM. We, my dear fellows, come last. Thats not what she saidRecommend

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