In a move that comes as a shock to no one who pays attention to alternative voices and news online, Facebook has removed another round of dissenting Pages and profiles. The reason for the 810 new purges? Apparently, clickbait and sensationalism. And here we go further down the slippery slope. In short, Facebook says, “The “news” stories or opinions these Pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate...we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.” If you’re scratching your head at the whole “inauthentic” behavior, join the club!
Some have cheered on previous attempts by the Internet Powers-That-Be to hide the likes of Alex Jones’ Infowars, RT, Telesur, and more in dark corners of the internet for a variety of reasons (including the dangerous call-to-arms of Jones). But this latest round of Facebook purging is, to put it mildly, terrifying for independent media, activists, and those who dissent from the corporate, status quo.
Previously, the most attention has been paid to the purge of apparent Russian-meme-factory pages and links. Whatever your feelings are on whether or not Russia’s online activities influenced the 2016 election, that slope is even slippier with this latest round.
In a tweet that went viral, journalist Rachel Blevins, a correspondent for RT America who graduated from Texas Tech, revealed that her page was one of those purged.
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. This is so incredibly wrong and is affecting hundreds of similar pages.— Rachel Blevins (@RachBlevins) October 11, 2018
Blevins has noted that Facebook now seems to be targeting anyone and everyone that falls outside the mainstream—aka, deleting dissent.
Some of the other purged sites, some with followings into the hundreds of thousands and even millions, include:
Right Wing News
The Anti Media
Reasonable People Unite
Nation in Distress
Abby Martin, an American journalist previously of Telesur English and RT America, has had her work on The Empire Files targeted prior to this round of purges. As an anti-war voice, she’s been accused by the U.S. government of fomenting “radical discontent” on her former show “Breaking The Set.” This time, it was U.S. sanctions against Venezuela that forced The Empire Files to shut down before being revived by crowdfunding. This after having Telesur English purged from Facebook twice.
On the latest removals, Abby said, “Of 800 pages Facebook banned, several were police accountability orgs with millions of followers, like Cop Block & Police the Police. If this is about clickbait, why are Buzzfeed and HuffPo still up? The govt-tech purge of dissidents continues at a rapid pace with disturbing silence.”
Of 800 pages Facebook banned, several were police accountability orgs w/ millions of followers, like Cop Block & Police the Police. If this is about clickbait, why are Buzzfeed & Huff Po still up? The govt-tech purge of dissidents continues at a rapid pace w/ disturbing silence.— Abby Martin (@AbbyMartin) October 14, 2018
What’s perhaps scarier than so many independent voices and organizations being silenced is who’s being allowed to silence them. Facebook has enlisted help in vetting and purging from a few different, and dubious, sources. They don’t want to spread fake news, which we can all agree is a good goal. Facebook’s Campbell Brown says we ‘do have to agree on a shared set of facts.’ But whose facts are we talking about… and whose agenda?
Who decides which facts are allowed to come to light in the first place? Facebook has implemented a fact-checking system beyond their general algorithm, with the “deciders” being the Associated Press, FactCheck.org, Politifact, Snopes.com, and The Weekly Standard—yes, that same Weekly Standard that, along with the New York Times and Washington Post, put out faulty reporting that led us into the disastrous Iraq War.
Beyond that, The Weekly Standard can’t and doesn’t even try to be impartial. Their presence on the list has baffled many. The fact that The Weekly Standard, where neo-conservative, war hawk Bill Kristol is at the helm, is part of a very small pool of fact-checking organizations on Facebook, may have gone largely unnoticed if it weren’t for the scuffle that ensued after they labeled a ThinkProgress article titled ‘Brett Kavanaugh Said He Would Kill Roe v. Wade Last Week and Almost No One Noticed” as False.
This led a slew of journalists to stand up and take notice of the fact that Facebook is empowering the neo-con bible to dictate what’s true and not true.
It isn’t just individual articles that are labeled as false or not; we’ve now reached the point of purging entire pages and profiles. Not just Russian-bot pages and profiles, but the pages and profiles of everyday Americans who report independently and aren’t filtered through corporate conglomerates. Until now. The Weekly Standard as fact-checker isn’t what caused this latest round of page and profile purges, to be clear. The problem multiplies.
What did cause the purge is likely worse and also likely related. Facebook is in bed with The Atlantic Council, a thinktank with a truly stunning funding profile and board of directors that are transparently pro-war and anti-dissident. AC has an offshoot called the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), which was the driving force behind this latest set of purges.
DFRLab says their mission is to “identify, expose, and explain disinformation where and when it occurs using open source research; to promote objective truth as a foundation of government…[DFRLab] has operationalized the study of disinformation by exposing falsehoods and fake news, documenting human rights abuses, and building digital resilience worldwide.”
Why has Facebook hooked up with such a think tank? They say, “This partnership will help our security, policy and product teams get real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world. It will also increase the number of ‘eyes and ears’ we have working to spot potential abuse on our service—enabling us to more effectively identify gaps in our systems, preempt obstacles, and ensure that Facebook plays a positive role during elections all around the world.”
Eyes and ears.
Together, DFRLab and Facebook are purging independent voices—the voices of these 810 pages and profiles. And who knows who’s next.
Follow the money and the leadership for The Atlantic Council and you’ll find NATO, weapons manufacturers, and billionaires who don’t really care much about purging ‘fake news’ but do care about keeping the military industrial complex booming while diminishing dissident voices.
Under the guise of strengthening democracy, The Atlantic Council and Facebook are squashing dissent. They are crushing anti-war and anti-imperialist voices. This isn’t about Russian bots and fake news—it never was. It was always going to be this way.
Maybe you approved when social media sites seemed to coordinate a purge of Infowars. Perhaps you thought it was good and right and important when Russian meme-farm social accounts were exposed and shut down. Maybe you didn’t mind so much when a political page you disagreed with disappeared and was labeled ‘fake news.’ But it’s time to wake up. It’s the age-old truth that what you do care about will be next. If it doesn’t fit the narrative, if it dissents, if it is anti-war and anti-oligarchy—they’re coming for you next.
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