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.”
Infowars’ own Paul Joseph Watson weighed in, arguing, “If you don’t support free speech for even your most ardent adversaries, you don’t support free speech.”
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.