Facebook has purged more dissident political media pages today, this time under the pretense of protecting its users from “inauthentic activity”. In a statement co-authored by Facebook Head of Cybersecurity Nathaniel Gleicher (who also happens to be the former White House National Security Council Director of Cybersecurity Policy), the massive social media platform explained that it has removed “559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
This “inauthentic behavior”, according to Facebook, consists of using “sensational political content – regardless of its political slant – to build an audience and drive traffic to their websites,” which is the same as saying they write about controversial things, and posting those political articles “in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites.”
In other words, the pages were removed for publishing controversial political content and trying to get people to read it. Not for writing “fake news”, but for doing what they could to get legitimate indie media news stories viewed by people who might want to view it. The practice of sharing your material around in Facebook groups is common practice for most independent media content creators; I did it myself a lot in late 2016 and early 2017, and pretty much all my indie media peers at the time did too.
“For those of you who read what I write, you know that I did not violate any standards,” writes Terresa Monroe-Hamilton, whose personal profile and Facebook page for her political blog NoisyRoom.net were both deleted. “In fact, I don’t send out most of what I write. I send on big news links and a few memes. It was enough to get me banned and the pages are simply gone.”
“Facebook took down my page with nearly 70,000 followers, labeling it as ‘spam,’ when I have spent 4 years working to build that page up and using it to post the articles I wrote and videos of my reporting,” tweeted RT America’s Rachel Blevins. “This is so incredibly wrong and is affecting hundreds of similar pages.”
“And just like that 5 + years of hard work promoting ideas of peace and freedom have been erased,” wrote a Facebook user called John Liberty, who lost multiple pages about police accountability, cannabis legalization and libertarianism.
Two of the most high-profile pages which were shut down have probably been seen at some point by any political dissident who uses Facebook; the Free Thought Project, which had 3.1 million followers, and Anti-Media, which had 2.1 million. I’ve found useful information on both sites before, and despite disagreeing with them ideologically in some areas have found them both vastly more legitimate than anything you’ll find on Google News.
As if that wasn’t creepy enough, some of the accounts purged by Facebook appear to be getting censored on Twitter as well, bringing back memories of the August cross-platform coordinated silencing of Alex Jones. The aforementioned Anti-Media has now been suspended from Twitter just hours after tweeting about being removed from Facebook, along with one of its top writers Carey Wedler, and a Unicorn Riot activist named Patti Beers who had more than 30,000 Twitter followers has just been removed from both sites as well.
I have said it before and I will say it again: in a corporatist system, wherein there is no clear line between corporate power and government power, corporate censorship is government censorship. You can’t have a system wherein corporate lobbying and campaign finance amount to legalized bribery of elected officials, wherein massive Silicon Valley corporations form extensive ties with secretive government agencies in order to eclipse their competition, and then claim this is a matter of private corporations enforcing their own rules on their own private property. This is just what totalitarian government censorship looks like in a corporatist oligarchy.
Do you want a few Silicon Valley plutocrats determining what political speech constitutes “inauthentic activity” for you? Do you want a world in which the masses are herded into massive government-allied social media stables which are then regularly brought before the US Senate to pledge more iron-fisted censorship of problematic political speech? Do you want a world in which social media corporations are forced to make alliances with existing power structures in order to be allowed to grow? Do you want a world in which venues of political discourse are increasingly sterilized to favor the agendas of the ruling class? If not, the time to act is now.
Regardless of where you’re at on the political spectrum, if you oppose the status quo then opposing internet censorship of any political speech is now a matter of simple self defense. If this wasn’t obvious to you when they shut down Alex Jones, it should damn well be obvious to you now. If you want to change the existing system in any way which takes power away from those currently in power, your voice is next on the chopping block. They’re locking all the doors down as fast as they can to keep us trapped in this Orwellian oligarchy until they get us all killed by war or ecocide. If they shut down the public’s ability to share dissident information, they’ll have locked the final door. Don’t let them.
UPDATE: Free Thought Project has, like Anti-Media, now been removed from Twitter as well as Facebook. There definitely appears to be some kind of coordination or overlap between Twitter and Facebook censors.
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- Facebook, Google & Microsoft team up with the ADL as self-appointed internet censors to ‘curb hate speech and abuse’
- Silencing conservative voices: James Woods’ Twitter account suspended over satirical meme
- Meanwhile on Twitter: Libertarian accounts suspended, including Ron Paul Institute Director
- The great purge: Twitter suspended 58 million accounts in last quarter of 2017, 70 million in May and June
- Careful what you wish for: Facebook ‘fact-checkers’ censor left-wing site ThinkProgress
- Social media execs meet to plan “strategy” for 2018 election
Update: De-platformed sites hit back. RT reports:
Alternative voices online are incensed after Facebook and Twitter closed down hundreds of political media pages ahead of November’s crucial midterm elections. Facebook says they broke its spam rules, they say it’s censorship.
Some 800 pages spanning the political spectrum, from left-leaning organizations like The Anti Media, to flag-waving opinion sites like Right Wing News and Nation in Distress, were shut down. Other pages banned include those belonging to police brutality watchdog groups Filming Cops and Policing the Police. Even RT America’s Rachel Blevins found her own page banned for posts that were allegedly “misleading users.”
Journalist Glenn Greenwald hit out at those on the left who cheered Facebook and Twitter’s coordinated ‘deplatforming’ of right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones in August. “Those who demanded Facebook & other Silicon Valley giants censor political content…are finding that content that they themselves support & like end up being repressed,” he wrote. “That’s what has happened to every censorship advocate in history.”
Facebook claims that the accounts were shut down for “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” and, disturbingly, the company said in a blog post that it is working hard to root out pages, groups and accounts “created to stir up political debate.”
In America, Conservatives were the first to complain about unfair treatment by left-leaning Silicon Valley tech giants. However, leftist sites have increasingly become targets in what Blumenthal calls “a wider war on dissident narratives in online media.” In identifying enemies in this “war,” Facebook has partnered up with the Digital Forensics Lab, an offshoot of NATO-sponsored think tank the Atlantic Council. The DFL has promised to be Facebook’s “eyes and ears” in the fight against disinformation (read: alternative viewpoints).
With the Atlantic Council funded by a plethora of private donors, state institutions, and arms manufacturers, it is little wonder that some commenters on Twitter saw the group’s fingerprints all over the latest round of bans.
For now, Facebook and Twitter have been free to censor with impunity. This places alternative journalists and news outlets at the companies’ mercy: no viable competitors to Facebook and Twitter exist, save for twitter-clone Gab.ai, which has been slammed by mainstream media as a breeding ground for far-right extremism.
Citizen journalist Lee Stranahan called for a stockholder lawsuit against Facebook, arguing that repeated terms-of-service changes are killing the company’s business. However, until that happens, users will have to accept censorship as just another one of these terms.