By Jan Oberg
March 9, 2018
This short article documents how Facebook – in a non-dialoguing way – practices censorship. This and many other cases was a major reason that TFF launched The Transnational – a new multidimensional peace platform and try to push the debate about our issues out of Facebook and over to our own platform (hosted by WordPress.com) so that Facebook cannot influence over and above our heads, what it wants to disseminate and what not.
I come across an article that I find both worrying and trustworthy, “Google is helping Pentagon building AI for drones” in the Gizmodo online magazine. Like I do several times a day, I post it to Facebook (my profile, public figure page and TFF’s page), to Google+ and to Twitter. In one go, via a service called Sendible.
About 30 minutes later this arrives:
I of course click “This isn’t Spam” and begin write in a field for replies when suddenly in the midst of a sentence it’s closed. All I have gotten off to Facebook is that I don’t consider it spam.
Almost three days later, they have not come back so it has been evaluated by humans and they obviously maintain that this is spam according to Facebook’s “Community Standards”.
Facebook also took down the post from people who had shared it – while neither Twitter nor Google+ touched it – the latter being particularly interesting.
It belongs to the story that I had found the Gizmodo article as a link inside a BBC article about this Google news. Hardly a spam article…
Now, how does Facebook define spam?
That is spelled out here: “Spam involves contacting people with unwanted content or requests. This includes sending bulk messages, excessively posting links or images to people’s timelines and sending friend requests to people you don’t know personally.
It should be pretty obvious that the post about the Gizmodo article can not possibly be categorized as spam.
The Community Standard page starts out: “Our mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Well, without a word of explanation, Facebook here actively prevents sharing, openness and connections.
Facebook is by far, history’s biggest media and social media with about 2 billion users. Unlike other media, it doesn’t have to follow normal journalistic practices and doesn’t have an editorial board to which one can complain. It seeks monopoly, argues that it has the copyright to everything you publish and that it’s entitled to snoop in our privacy, everything we do and say being stored.
And I have no recollection that I have ever had an exchange with a human being at Facebook, only standard messages that they may not respond – as this one above. Always “we cannot respond to everyone but trust we read your message…” However:
“Facebook brought in $10.3 billion over the last three months, a 47 percent increase from the year prior. It also now has more than 2.07 billion monthly active users. Facebook employs 23,165 people, a 47 percent increase from the year prior” – Mashable wrote in November 2017.
A company with such a global reach and fantasy profit margins ought not get away with just telling us that it doesn’t have (enough) staff to take care of us clients, should it?
So why was this censored – because censorship is the word?
Was it the text I wrote? Hardly – why would Facebook go out of its way to show loyalty to Eric Schmidt and Google (while Google+ itself doesn’t bother with the exact same post). Here are the posts about it on Google+
Was it the picture – the photography from the air and Gizmodo’s insertion of the G (for Google) in the middle as if using Google for military targeting? Well, could be – but that is exactly what it is about. However, neither the aerial photo nor the stylized “G” can be judged to be classified military information.
Another possibility is that they see Russian agents, infiltrators and fake news-makers in every corner.
If you don’t know anything about security politics, this was an article, clearly negative to Google’s work with Pentagon, so it must by definition be a pro-Putin/Russian activity. And better be on the right side (although wrong), right?
What else? I don’t have a clue.
Facebook has lots of security-cleared people as staff and it is known that it, like Google and YouTube, complies with 95% of the complaints from the Israeli government which means taking down posts it doesn’t like, according to Fortune/Reuters in 2016. So it could be that it is either practicing censorship about certain selected, sensitive or controversial military issues (not because it is a violation of security per se but) because it is urged to not boost sensitive, debate-provoking issues by, say, the US government too.
Another, realted, possibility is that some youngster who doesn’t have a clue about international politics, defence matters etc. “evaluated” this post and wanted to be on the safe side and not make it free for re-posting.
We’re living in the post-literate and post-truth era, or “Zeitgeist”. Perhaps we should invent a new word for correct/truthful information being blocked because ignorant people judge that it is propaganda? It results in the same censorship but deliberate censorship with political motives and blocking truthful materials because of being uneducated or overly loyal are two different things.
In conclusion, the whole thing is unacceptable, non-social and authoritarian. It can also be seen as an example of how human intelligence has already given up vis-a-vis artificial intelligence.
TFF and I will never be dependent on Facebook but we’ll keep using it until it has lost its appeal worldwide. If it continues changing algorithms, play political games, block truthful stuff and diminish the organic reach in order to force us all to pay more for boosting – well, then it will probably not take so long. And in the meantime more and more people begin to use the Russian VK and the Chinese WeChat (allegedly already 900 million users) either as a supplement or as an alternative. And there are many alternatives – see here and here for examples.
People aren’t stupid. We see what you do, Facebook!