The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent


Testing Facebook's censorship engine

Day 3


Has the Facebook censorship engine finally caught up with Facebook's censorship ambitions? My day 2 post, when it first went up, resolved to a deep link on Infowars about US unemployment reaching a 50-year low. When I reposted it with public access, though, the link resolved to a "Page Not Found" message—on

I thought maybe Facebook engineers had finally got their censorship engine up and running, but first I checked to see if Infowars had dropped the story. Nope, it still seems to be on the Infowars site, here:…/

But if this is the result of the censorship engine, it's still coughing and backfiring. More likely, the answer to this mystery lies in the details of ad tracking URLs. When the link went up, Facebook rewrote it to include a prefix: "fbclid=IwAR1P6by_S5-lBYmb6vbkhnLVohyIFZfgLqvFegLwIYfUApVNzI5CxogVp-s". I assume that the purpose of the prefix was to make sure Facebook could identify everyone who clicked on the link as they left Facebook's site. But for whatever reason, the prefix stopped working and stopped delivering people to the deeplinked story. The link still went to Infowars, but that site didn't recognize the prefix and therefore said that it couldn't find the page, once again dropping Facebook readers on the Infowars landing page, where they are exposed to the Full Alex Jones Paranoia Package—probably not what Facebook engineers intended.

I'm thinking maybe there's a new IT law in all this mess, something like: "Censorship is hard. Leave it to the Chinese."