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Free Minds & Free Markets

Facebook Slams Independent Voices With Latest Political Purge

It’s time to move beyond the social media giants to a more decentralized world that’s harder to control

ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/REUTERS/NewscomELIJAH NOUVELAGE/REUTERS/NewscomIf Facebook is concerned about a growing chorus of accusations that the social media giant suppresses some voices and elevates others in accord with the company's prevailing political biases, that's not obvious in the firm's latest purge of political pages and accounts.

On Thursday, October 11, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's Head of Cybersecurity Policy and Oscar Rodriguez, Product Manager, announced the company was shutting down 559 pages and 251 accounts "created to stir up political debate." Allegedly, the targets were guilty of "coordinated inauthentic behavior" intended "to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing." The targeted pages and accounts included many pages, and their administrators, who have gained popularity by voicing ideas outside the mainstream—including skepticism of violent and intrusive police tactics and support for libertarian ideas.

"We lost a 190K page that we started in 2010," Matt Bergman, an administrator of Punk Rock Libertarians, told me with regard to the reach of the page Facebook shut down without warning. "I also [ran] the Daily Liberator page which had 95K people on there. Now we're starting over with a page that has less than 400 people on it."

Other purged pages included Cop Block, which is critical of law-enforcement practices, conservative Right Wing News, and progressive Reverb Press. Photography Is Not a Crime, which advocates for the right to record government officials in public places, was "severely restricted," according to former Reasoner Radley Balko.

Facebook accused the hundreds of pages it purged of distributing "spam," though the social media company used a curious definition of the word. Instead of flooding unwilling recipients with unsolicited ads, the company said, the targeted organizations posted "clickbait posts on these Pages to drive people to websites that are entirely separate from Facebook and seem legitimate, but are actually ad farms."

To the millions of supporters these pages draw, these organizations and the sites they publish almost certainly did "seem legitimate"—and still do. Perhaps Facebook doesn't like seeing readers depart its service for off-site publications that compete for eyeballs on content and ads.

In addition to the political pages themselves, page administrators' personal Facebook accounts were targeted, if only briefly.

"I was deleted for about 4 hours," Bergman messaged me. "Facebook told us all that we were deleted and asked us to upload photos of ourselves [to be restored] even tho I've been uploading photos of myself since 2008."

Like many of the other pages, Punk Rock Libertarians appealed being purged, but has yet to hear back.

The message that greeted administrators of the Punk Rock Libertarians Facebook pageThe message that greeted administrators of the Punk Rock Libertarians Facebook page

Facebook has long faced charges of political bias—with evidence to support the accusations. In 2016, former employees of the social media giant told Gizmodo that co-workers regularly prevented stories of interest to conservatives and libertarians from appearing in the "trending" news section while boosting other stories. Such selective treatment was reportedly a result not of official policy, but of workers marinating in a shared mindset that affected their judgment.

Concern over that shared mindset inspired senior Facebook engineer Brian Amerige to complain in an August 2018 message to co-workers that "We are a political monoculture that's intolerant of different views." He added, "We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack — often in mobs — anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology."

Interestingly, Amerige quit shortly before the purge, informing co-workers in a memo, "I care too deeply about our role in supporting free expression and intellectual diversity to even whole-heartedly attempt the product stuff anymore, and that's how I know it's time to go."

But the timing appears to have been coincidental, and perhaps just more evidence of the controlling direction in which the company is moving.

"I don't have much context on this one," Amerige told me about the purge, "and it wasn't specifically related to my departure, no."

But if earlier concerns were about left-wing bias, the latest purge seems to represent more of a bias in favor of establishment voices. The latest purged pages don't share an ideology, but they are generally non-mainstream voices critical of government policies and institutions, and of traditional media.

Facebook isn't answering my questions about the company's motivations or decision-making. But it looks like the social media giant, under fire for enabling a few Russian government trolls and a lot of free-wheeling (if not always temperate) debate in a politically volatile time, has thrown in with the powers-that-be. The establishment may be battered, but it's not out, and muzzling anti-establishment voices could well look like a safe bet.

"We've accepted the inevitability of government regulation," Amerige lamented in his resignation letter. "Our policy strategy is pragmatism—not clear, implementable long-term principles—and our PR strategy is appeasement—not morally earned pride and self-defense."

Photo Credit: ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • loveconstitution1789||

    New Purge movie?

    Purge: The Lefties Try and Silence the Silent Majority.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    Where "silent majority" struggles to reach 41 percent.

  • Dace Highlander||

    S.J.W. N.P.C. M.O.B.

  • Kirk Solo||

    You are dumb.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Just in time to keep the Russians from hacking American brains for election 2018.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Fighting the Russians by blocking libertarian pages and ones that criticize cops. Yeah, sure, that makes sense.

  • JesseAz||

    Modern liberalism is an authoritarian political views. We see the same purging of counter voices in other left wing authoritarian groups like china and Venezuela. It's what the left does. Their arguments often don't stand up to base scrutiny, so they outlaw counter arguments. There is a reason one of the first steps of cultural Marxism (can I still use that term on reason?) is to infiltrate schools and media. They need to harness the avenues of communication and corrupt it. Shut down counter views as quickly as possible.

  • FlameCCT||

    Modern Liberalism aka Progressivism. The Progressive have worked hard to silence the old school Liberals and are now focusing more on the Conservatives and Libertarians.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Jessie, wait, wait, wait . . . "Their arguments often don't stand up to base scrutiny, so they outlaw counter arguments." What has that got to do with Facebook editorial decisions? Facebook isn't outlawing stuff. This is press freedom at work.

    Your solution? More press freedom. Just start your own website, and publish what you want. Take the VC as your model, why not? They advocate mostly right wing views, and sometimes block the left. Do that to your heart's content. Nobody is going to outlaw you, or try to stop you.

  • Conchfritters||

    Fuck Facebook - I'm shorting their fucking stock until that shit hits $120. At 23 times earnings it's still too expensive.

  • croaker||

    It will go lower than that after the platform faces civil forfeiture.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Civil forfeiture? What, did they find a single joint in Zuckerberg's desk drawer?

  • JesseAz||

    By the theory of many states.... If a single person sold weed over Facebook the whole company is forfeit. See states trying to take whole motels for drug use.

  • Jerry B.||

    Good. Then, no doubt, I'll stop seeing all the posts from organizations asking me to contribute to, or vote for, a Democratic candidate. Right?

  • JesseAz||

    Somehow I got on the text alert lists of a few DCCC lists, no idea how as I loathe democrats. But they have their lackies text out cries of support. I keep texting back to get a dialogue of their views started. They all end up blocking me the second they realize I'm not a democrat. Their most passionate supporters refuse to defend the views they are actively pushing.

  • FlameCCT||

    Unfortunately no. Although I have had fun with the Democratic party for years now. When I was in NM, the State Dem Party got their hands on all the voters info (Dem, Rep, Ind, etc.) and then sold/gave it to the Obama PACs.

  • Longtobefree||

    So they are now publishers? No protections as "merely a conduit"? Right? Right?

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    That should be what happens, and it should happen anyway. It's protection from Section 230 which clears the way for internet monopolists to act as giant internet vacuum cleaners, suck up all the traffic there is, and monetize it all. They can only do that because they don't have to read everything they publish, and becuase they don't have to worry about copyright. Take that privilege away, and monopoly time is over—meaning a gigantic loss of advertising clout. Lots of advertisers will then start looking for alternatives, and that will open the door to publishing diversity—more publications, more editors, more markets for more contributors, and more points of view. Even more jobs in publishing.

    See? It's a free market solution. Get government out of it, altogether. No need for censorship. No need for content oversight. Facebook doesn't have to be fair. Only the market has to be fair.

    Repeal Section 230. It was a gigantic mistake.

  • apedad||

    Private company that can make it's own rules and policies AND CHANGE THEM AT WILL.

    It's not breaking any laws.

    Go start you own site (well after you wipe the snot from your noses).

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Remember the good old days when proglydytes were suspicious of corporate, technocratic elites?

  • Cynical Asshole||

    They've only ever been suspicious of the ones they can't control through regulation, extortion, or just plain old threats. Facebook is showing itself to be a good little lap dog of the left-wing political establishment, so they're now considered one of the "good" corporate elites.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The right-wing bigots seem to be extra disaffected these days.

    Have they figured out that no one is falling for their faux libertarian costumes?

    Carry on, clingers.

  • Dace Highlander||

    S.J.W. N.P.C. M.O.B.

  • Trollificus||

    Ah, the "Carry on, clingers." close. You haven't used that for a while. Was it tired?* Need refurbishing, coat of paint? Still, not enough unexamined assumptions, unproved assertions and gratuitous insults packed into this short troll post.

    3/10

    *-yes, it was.

  • Kirk Solo||

    You are dumb

  • Hank Ferrous||

    Fuck off, slaver. Go back to twitter.

  • IceTrey||

    They receive government protection from libel as long as they remain a neutral platform. They are no longer such.

  • Bubba Jones||

    This is all about killing pages that drive traffic off of Facebook.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    That and sucking up to Dianne Feinsteins of the world.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    "If Facebook is concerned about a growing chorus of accusations that the social media giant suppresses some voices and elevates others in accord with the company's prevailing political biases, that's not obvious in the firm's latest purge of political pages and accounts."

    Of course they're concerned. And they figure their best defense is a strong offense: Hand Democrats the House, and their worries are over.

  • croaker||

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    First they came for Alex Jones, but I was concerned about my rep with the cool kids, so I said nothing.....

  • croaker||

    I going to enjoy the day when Zuckerberg's compound is raided by SWAT and he gets to perform the "federal felon shuffle" for us on national television.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Facebook's is primarily an advertising platform. Its primary concern is selling advertising. Advertisers don't want their advertising sponsoring a video that's doing something like criticizing the police. There are a few advertisers that seek certain kinds of controversy (see Nike using Kaepernick), but, generally speaking, advertisers are paying to put out images that make their clients look good and avoid those that make them look bad (see every other advertiser's shunning of Kaepernick). That advertising platforms are highly sensitive to the concerns of advertisers shouldn't be surprising to any free market libertarian.

    If you don't want to be subjected to the logic of advertisers, seek out a platform that avoids them. I suggest looking at Steem it.

    "SMTs allow any website to financially reward content and comments created by the site's users and allow the definition of unique rules for the new SMT token that are independent of those affecting the original Steem tokens . . . . User actions such as upvoting facilitate Steem's Proof-of-Brain algorithm, which also factors in the Steem Power a user holds, to provide incentives for content creators and the community by transferring small amounts of the Steem token currency.[7]

    . . . .

    On July 4, 2016, Steemit, Inc. launched Steemit, a social media platform with virtual currency rewards that runs over the Steem blockchain. "

  • Ken Shultz||

  • Ken Shultz||

    Point being, when you have a system that depends on advertising, you get a lot of soft rock, Steely Dan, disco, and Lionel Ritchie.

    When you have a system that doesn't depend on that sort of thing, you can get across a lot of punk rock songs about things as ugly as necrophilia if you want.

    Broadcast television is so vanilla because it's so dependent on advertising.

  • JesseAz||

    So you're not familiar with the mtv heavy metal award winning steely Dan Necro album?

  • Robert||

    Whatever you do, don't go to empowr.

  • loki||

    Hate to say it but apedad has a point. It's past time a competitor stepped up to Facebook.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    It's past time a competitor stepped up to Facebook.


    Just think how much cash some sovereign patriot citizen will collect for creating Wingnutbook.
  • Trollificus||

    3/10.

    + for brevity, minor creativity, - for too much brevity, absence of lazy insults and 'clingers' worked into it somewhere.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    But if earlier concerns were about left-wing bias, the latest purge seems to represent more of a bias in favor of establishment voices. The latest purged pages don't share an ideology, but they are generally non-mainstream voices critical of government policies and institutions, and of traditional media.

    Facebook isn't answering my questions about the company's motivations or decision-making. But it looks like the social media giant, under fire for enabling a few Russian government trolls and a lot of free-wheeling (if not always temperate) debate in a politically volatile time, has thrown in with the powers-that-be.

    I can't entirely say I blame them given that several Congresscritters outright threatened them with regulation earlier this year. Sucking up to the government is never a bad idea when they're threatening you.

  • croaker||

    Just be sure you're sucking up to the right part of government. That "blue wave" may be the swirl you see in the toilet bowl.

  • Mock-star||

    Im fairly certain that neither the R or the D tribe is going to care that a bunch of anti-authoritarian pages got taken down.

  • Trollificus||

    +1, realistic

  • newshutz||

    No, it is smart for Facebook to brown nose the Ds. When the Rs are in power they will cave to the Ds, but the Ds will screw you.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    You know who else launched purges to silence all opposing political views?

  • Trollificus||

    Sauron?

  • cjcoats||

    To my mind, the false claim

    "coordinated inauthentic behavior" intended "to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing." T

    constitutes libel per se. And Facebook should be made to pay for that libel.

  • Stephen Lathrop||

    Please tell me why "coordianted inauthentic behavior," is defamatory. If an ordinary person can't even figure out what you are talking about, it can't be libel per se.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I agree, I don't think Facebook could even define that term. It's essentially saying "We kicked you off for shit we don't like...suck it."

  • cjcoats||

    "intended to mislead" is logically equivalent "written by a deliberate liar", which is definitely defamatory.

  • Trollificus||

    Epimenedes called to say he can't parse any meaning out of their "rationalization word salad" either. But then, he's a Cretan. Or a cretin...one of those things.

  • Jerryskids||

    They post clickbait posts on these Pages to drive people to websites that are entirely separate from Facebook and seem legitimate, but are actually ad farms.

    The bastards! How dare they steal Facebook's business plan!

  • Rossami||

    I never did understand the fascination with Facebook. It's not like creating and hosting your own HTML pages is hard.

  • Bubba Jones||

    It's not the hosting. It's the audience.

  • JesseAz||

    Boring people thinking their lives are relevant equals Facebook.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    Network effects; Sure, I could host my own website, but at Facebook I've got the websites of all the relatives I had to leave behind when I moved down South.

    I might start hosting my own site anyway, I'm expecting the censorship to keep ramping up.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It's that Facebook is a destination and has a back end algorithm that shares and connects people together. Just putting up some pictures on a website doesn't do that.

  • Trollificus||

    However "hard" you deem "creating and hosting your own HTML: pages" to be, it's still probably more learning and work than signing up for facebook is. For a very large subset of the population likely to include grandparents, great aunts and old school friends who just want to see the damn new kitten.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "created to stir up political debate."

    And if there's one thing we don't want... it's political debate.

  • Trollificus||

    Yeah, but...they were "STIRRING IT UP"!! I guess the implication is that the 'stirring' is problematic. See, that's a reference to domesticity, food preparation for a family (UNPAID food preparation!) while wearing makeup and a dress and...and...an APRON! This is an alt-right dog whistle for the subjugation of women in the role of non-working housewives, and is, literally, MISOGYNY!!!! REEEEEEEEEEEE!!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    explore a broader, more decentralized world in which it will be harder to suppress voices that criticize the establishment.

    Which, by the way, used to be called "the internet" circa 1998.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Interestingly, Amerige quit shortly before the purge, informing co-workers in a memo, "I care too deeply about our role in supporting free expression and intellectual diversity to even whole-heartedly attempt the product stuff anymore, and that's how I know it's time to go."

    That's good, because I'm guessing he'd have been fired shortly thereafter.

  • Trollificus||

    Or, "Damored" in the current jargon.

  • ||

    Let the diaspora begin.

    Facebook basically amounts to bunch of illiterate punks running a billion dollar operation to big for their brains.

    Fuck Zuckerberg. Fuck off and die. You and the jerk offs at Twitter for the damage you're doing to freedom of speech and expression.

  • ||

    What happens if the GOP maintain power at all levels and then some?

    Will the moonbat progressives and their merry band of ignoramus illiterates call for the shut down of the internet?

    God, how I've come to loathe these assholes since 2016.

  • Trollificus||

    Weren't those dumbass conservatives pretty much in charge of Congress and the executive branch (with an unreliably compliant SCOTUS) back in that era?? I seem to remember that, and I never felt much threatened by their evil plan of "Internet? What's that?"

  • JFree||

    it's time to move beyond the old social media giants and explore a broader, more decentralized world in which it will be harder to suppress voices that criticize the establishment.

    Yes it is. But it won't work until those new platforms are actually able to solve the old problems of:

    How to make money to keep the platform going (the establishment) with users owning the data they themselves generate (the critics of the establishment).

    How to verify identity while also protecting it - pierce it while protecting it from being pierced.

    Back in Web 1.0 there was a notion that online communities that were both narrow and deep might be able to do that. Turns out that that just turns into comment boards like - this one here.

  • Rob Misek||

    The plan is divide and conquer.

    Your plan to ignore the censorship by the social media giants and "go your own way" is the best they can hope for.

    The majority of clueless and duped are segregated from the minority that have seen behind the curtain.

    It's a war that's going to coerce you.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Purges are to totalitarians as water is to fish.

  • Trollificus||

    Yup. As fish don't really notice that they're wet, lefties don't even know when they're doing a purge, or why any of their actions would be objectionable.

  • zenbuddha77||

    Abbie Hoffman, a surreal anarchist, performance artist and one of the greatest political activists of the late 60's and early 70's once said, "When fascism comes to America it will come under the guise of LIBERALISM!" And after watching scores of blog posts deleted or never allowed to be posted on such fascist sites as the Court TV Forum and of all things the one time site calling itself The Freespeach TV Forum I fail to be shocked by what Facebook has done. And if anything, I am overcome with sheer rage to suddenly see people who I am sure never voiced an objection to someone else political rants however manic pissed that their . Both of which had the alleged backing of the

  • zenbuddha77||

    WTF? You can't post links here to the most horrific of Crimes Against Nature committed by every presidential regime going back as far as Papa Bush and including Uncle Tom Obama AND you can not edit or delete a post after it was accidentally posted. Ahhh fuck it! I am sure it will rise to the height of deserving to be burned by the ever present thought police who have personally taken it upon themselves to protect your eyes from even glancing at the abyss much less gazing into the very depths of it.

  • Ewood||

    Oh geez, so that explains why your post read that way. I was confused. Did your links get deleted, or something?

  • Uncle Jay||

    Ah, the word "purge."
    I'm sure that will put a smile on all the socialist idiots on this site.

  • Ralph Fucetola JD||

    JDT writes a balanced analysis, but I suspect some libertarians may have been gulled by the idea that Facebook is a "private actor" and can do what it wants with its own platform. In a libertarian world, without its corporate franchise and special privileges under the copyright law, that might be true and we all should rally around its private status to defend it from anyone telling them what it can do with its own property.

    Alas, that just isn't so in our historic reality. The social media giants are as much "creatures of the state" acting "under color of law" as any government agency. They are funded by, and cooperate with, much of the Deep State and ought not be seen as private actors with inalienable property rights.

    I've written about the privatization of tyranny and suggested that targets of coordinated banning by the social media giants, such as Alex Jones, ought to sue the companies. More about that here: http://www.opensourcetruth.com.....te-shills/

  • Eratosthenes||

    Facebook is for these things, in order of importance:
    Keep in touch with immediate family - How are the twins doing, great picture from the last BBQ, camping trip was awesome (with pictures!)
    Keep in touch with close friends - How are your families doing, send me some pictures, we going fishing soon?, etc.
    Keep in touch with old friends or acquaintances - These are the 'I haven't seen you since 1978 but your family looks great and glad you are doing well' kind of interactions. Or the 'I friended everyone in my senior class that I could find' kind of things. Almost nostalgic.
    Groups - Have an interest in crypto, there are many groups for you. There is a group for your neighborhood. There is a group for your favorite hobby. If you have an interest, there is a group.
    Politics - for me mostly memes, but do follow a few people who have political views that I align with. I can also find there work in other places, including old fashion Web 1.0 sites. Least important interaction.

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    The First Amendment is not about suppressing speech that the "mainstream" opposes, but is about the protection of speech that falls between the boundaries of political debate, and provokes that debate.
    Fakebook is wrong, as is Goolag, and Twithead.

  • Hagios||

    I don't understand how libertarians could be upset about this. Libertarians are the ones arguing for privatization over having shared common spaces. Facebook is a private company and they have the right to set their policies however they see fit. There is no freedom of speech on Facebook. On what ground does a libertarian coherently object to this?

  • Matthew Becker||

    I did not see anyone here saying that FB should be regulated (forced) by government to provide a forum for libertarians to speak. The closest anyone comes to that is to say that the public justification for the bans is a post saying:

    "coordinated inauthentic behavior" intended "to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing." T

    constitutes libel per se. And Facebook should be made to pay for that libel."

    Nothing about libertarianism says that libel is an unactionable offense. I am not endorsing that this particular statement from FB constitutes libel. I am not sure whether it crosses that line or not without doing substantial research that I am unwilling to do here. But even this comment isn't saying that FB can't ban all conservative or libertarian pages. It just indicates a perspective that the publicly posted justifications for such bans might cross a line.

    Private competition includes a right of the corporation (FB) to offer services as it wishes to whom it wishes... and a right of the consumer to choose a different competitor if it doesn't like FB or is banned by FB. I see a lot of people here wishing ill on FB, but not through acts of force.

  • Hagios||

    I see Ralph trying to argue against this upthread: "In a libertarian world, without its corporate franchise and special privileges under the copyright law, that might be true and we all should rally around its private status to defend it from anyone telling them what it can do with its own property."

    Facebook has it's power because of network effects. We could abolish all copyright law tomorrow and the power of Facebook would not be in the least diminished. What you want is a world where human beings use "exit" but not "voice". It seems ironic that libertarians, who often object to the fuzzy-headed liberals who wish human nature were different, to object to human nature.

  • Ralph Fucetola JD||

    Interesting thought Hagios. I find this a difficult issue for libertarian analysis. That's why I'm seeking some understanding of what is "really" happening. Probably its my conspiracy theorist self being particularly wary of deep state corporate shills.

    I also note Matthew Becker's comment regarding the possibility that Facebook's justification "coordinated inauthentic behavior" intended "to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing." may itself be libel (or, I might add, tortuous interference with valuable commercial rights). I'm just not sure that libertarians' hands are tied by Facebook's nominal status as a private (corporate) person.

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