Nel's New Day

March 13, 2019

Facebook Controlled by U.S. Government

Everything on Sue Hardesty’s Facebook page disappeared today, and she couldn’t post anything. Gone were all her writings and photos about marine life, dredging, a trip along the Oregon Coast, and much more. Disclaimer: I have never liked Facebook from its founding for misogynic cruelty through its formation via fraud and theft to the peak of aiding the election of a U.S. president. Now the ultra-wealthy Mark Zuckerberg, worth over $65 billion, has plans to take over the world by controlling everything that you do online—messaging, commerce, payments, etc. FB has destroyed self-esteem with the concept of “defriending” and eliminating privacy, especially for young people. Some people think it’s a nice way to make friends and keep in touch, but Facebook has a much darker side. Hardesty’s FB page may be back—temporarily—but my research shows how Zuckerberg’s company is controlling what you read.

Recently FB removed advertising information from Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren about breaking up Amazon, Google, and Facebook giants to unwind “anti-competitive” tech mergers, including Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram. Her ads read:

“Three companies have vast power over our economy and our democracy. Facebook, Amazon, and Google. We all use them. But in their rise to power, they’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field in their favor.”

The message on the ads read: “This ad was taken down because it goes against Facebook’s advertising policies.” FB claimed that it took down the ads because it used their “corporate logo” but returned them after public protest. Warren responded:

“Curious why I think FB has too much power? Let’s start with their ability to shut down a debate over whether FB has too much power. Thanks for restoring my posts. But I want a social media marketplace that isn’t dominated by a single censor.”

FB keeps material supporting Israel—including a page from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—while removing pages about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with “a strong bias in favor of Palestine.” In 2016, the Israeli Justice Ministry in 2016 bragged that FB removed 95 percent of content according to their requests and proposed a bill to allow government to remove content from the internet based on its preferences. Israel’s National Cyber Directorate announced that FB removed “thousands” of accounts ahead of municipal elections. The same thing could happen in the U.S.

Gone is the Hebrew @Polcartoons. Zuckerberg has partnered with the Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Lab (DFRLab) to decide what should be removed, and it claimed “curated cartoons from various Israeli news outlets that lampooned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and conservative Israeli political sentiment.” DFRLab told FB to remove @StopMEK for promoting views against the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, an Iranian group opposed to the country’s clerical leader because it was “the largest and most active political opposition group against the Islamic Republic of Iran leadership.” Yet the FB of the Majlis, a coalition critical of President Hassan Rouhani much larger than the MEK, has 2.1 million followers, far more than the tiny MEK.

Atlantic Council, FB’s new partner to vet its content, has been described as a neoconservative “think tank,” directly funded and composed of groups connected to big pharma, the military complex, and government. Contributors include the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and multinational giants like energy titan such as Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, weapon-makers Raytheon, and banks such as JPMorgan Chase. Many foreign countries supporting Atlantic Council lack a strong belief in human fights and press freedoms. FB gave Atlantic Council almost $1 million. Now, Atlantic dictates who is permitted on FB and who is “removed,” and the federal funding takes away FB as a “private” company classification.

Immediately before midterm elections, FB purged years of hard work and six million followers for The Free Thought Project (TFTP) that now follows the government involvement in FB. Under the leadership of Nathaniel Gleicher, FB removed another 800 “pages” with missions of “anti-corruption” or “protest” movements at the same time, many of them antiwar and pro-peace—immediately before last fall’s midterm elections. FB claimed that they were spam. Top adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jamie Fly, took credit for the massive purge of antiwar pages.

Matt Taibbi, a highly respected investigative journalist, reported on the FB purges in December. He began his piece on James Reader, San Diego resident whose pro-Democratic site, Reverb, was judged “high for factual reporting, as all news is sourced to credible media outlets.” With 30 contributing writers, four full-time editors, and an IT specialist, the site reached 13 million people a week on FB and social media. He paid $2,000 to $6,000 a month to FB and followed their suggestions to grow the page. Starting in 2016, Reader’s articles went to right-wing FB groups with negative comments and reports to FB that his stories were spam. Traffic dropped, sales declined, and his investments in FB’s boosting tools weren’t successful. He couldn’t find a human at FB so that he could address these problems. On October 11, 2018, Reverb was taken offline, as an example of “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” That day saw the first of two purges with no leading announcement. Twitter accounts also disappeared. All on the same day. Reader was never told why his site wasn’t published. Also gone were his Everlasting TOP Stoppers blog and his America Against Trump with 225,000 followers. He said, “Everything I’d worked for all these years was dead.”

Liberal America from Tiffany Willis Clark was removed on November 2, 2018. With 750,000 followers, the site is about “raising conscious kids who are aware of the suffering of others.” The most political she got was the list “87 Things Only Poor Kids Know and Conservatives Couldn’t Care Less About” including “We go to the doctor when we’re sick, but mom doesn’t.” She put her life savings into boosting readership on a platform that “seems to be redefining its mission minute to minute.”

By claiming to be a “private” company” FB can censor at will, but its connection with official or quasi-official groups creates a problem with “soft censorship,” according to Eric Goldman of the Santa Clara University School of Law. “We’re seeing removal of content that isn’t illegal but the government doesn’t like. It’s a backdoor form of censorship.”

When U.S. senators met with representatives of FB, Google, and Twitter, they supposedly answer outrage about the Russian” fake news” that had been influential for the 2016 presidential election. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) expressed concern about content “intended to worsen racial tensions” with stories about law enforcement abusing blacks. Google revised its search tools that resulted in deep drops for reputable alternative progressive news sources such as Common Dreams and Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now as they almost disappeared from the search sources. Traffic for a dozen anti-war, progressive-leaning sites dropped 67 percent, and Alternet went down 63 percent.

A major critic of FB, The Free Thought Project has suffered under fact-checking, but two of its four “false” ratings were later overturned. Yet the FB page was eliminated with no explanation. The methodology for removing pages is opaque. Many removals come from user complaints, another method of information suppression. As Taibbi wrote:

“We’ve empowered a small cadre of ex-spooks, tech executives, Senate advisers, autocratic foreign donors and mainstream-media panels to create an unaccountable system of star-chamber content reviews—which unsurprisingly seem so far to have mostly targeted their harshest critics.”

In the past day, FB apologized for banning content from Zero Hedge, a conservative anti-finance website that predicted the 2008 recession. Complaints have also come about censorship of cannabis content. FB blocks anything about sale or use of the product despite its legality in Canada and many states in the U.S.

After the “paranoia” about being removed from FB with no notice, people finally discovered—with no notice—that FB has been down for much of the day in both Americas and Europe. Nobody knows why, but it bodes ill for using FB for more than social media.

Hardesty has saved much of her beautiful FB posts, some of them in hard copy. Losing the record of her “friends,” many of them school classmates and other writers, would have been sad, but she could recreate some of the material on a new page. On the other hand, my eighth anniversary of writing posts for this blog is April 30, 2019. Publishing almost 400,000 words a year on Nels New Day, I have about 3 million words—far too many to copy. I sometimes use past posts for historical reference and illustrations that have been removed from the internet for political purposes. People like James Reader and Tiffany Willis Clark lost not only years of work but also hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We are all at risk; our history is being “removed.” I’ll subscribe to the saying, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you.” The loss of FB for a day or two may not be a problem to most people, but it should have been a wake-up call about what would happen if FB decided to take you off its social media.

1 Comment »

  1. FB=Big Brother

    Like

    Comment by Lee Lynch — March 13, 2019 @ 11:33 PM | Reply


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