21. Aug 2020 12:17
Anarchists, Activists, and Left Publishers Respond to Facebook Censorship and Bans of Independent Media from Social Media Platform
Activists Charge that Ban Reflects Facebook’s Alignment with Trump and Justice Department’s Attempts to Exert a Chilling Effect on Dissent and Protest Movements
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On August 19, Facebook deleted profiles promoting the websites of independent publishers and media outlets crimethinc.com, itsgoingdown.org, and dozens of other similar projects, citing their anarchist politics as a justification for banning them. While acknowledging that these groups have no role in organizing violence, a statement from Facebook broadly alleges that they are “tied to violence” or “have individual followers with patterns of violent behavior.” Facebook publicly announced that they are targeting over 520 pages that oppose fascism or that promote militia organizations, but the company intentionally refused to distinguish between these two opposing categories or to account for how many of the banned accounts fall into either category.
“Facebook’s ban has nothing to do with stopping violence and everything to do with cracking down on protest movements. The banning of CrimethInc., It’s Going Down, Truthout author Chris Steele, musician MC Sole, and other left media outlets and journalists in the name of opposing violence is disingenuous. Facebook continues to host and profit off of right-wing media outlets like Daily Wire that regularly promote violent racist ideology and conspiracy theories that have catalyzed and influenced violent fascists and white supremacists on the right. “This is political censorship, plain and simple,” says Agency spokesperson, scott crow, an author and longtime anarchist organizer.
For years, itsgoingdown.org, crimethinc.com, and other independent media outlets, journalists, and activist groups targeted by Facebook’s decision have covered anti-war and anti-racist demonstrations in the United States and popular uprisings in Hong Kong, Belarus, and elsewhere around the world. Since May, Donald Trump has posted a series of tweets explicitly blaming anarchists for the countrywide wave of protests precipitated by persistent police violence in the United States. While Facebook once touted its role in Egypt’s 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising, the decision to ban publishers who cover protest movements in this country shows that the company is eager to take cues from Trump to suppress dissent in the U.S.
In its statement, Facebook explicitly categorizes anarchists with far-right militias that support the Trump administration. This echoes Attorney General William Barr’s decision to create a Department of Justice task force focused on “anti-government extremists” that targets self-proclaimed fascists and anti-fascists alike, attempting to draw a false equivalence between those who organize white supremacist attacks and those who organize to protect their communities from them.
After a self-proclaimed fascist murdered anti-racist organizer Heather Heyer during the “Unite the Right” mobilization in Charlottesville in August 2017, tremendous grassroots pressure arose to remove fascists and white supremacists from social media platforms. Now, by contrast, the push is coming from the very top of the hierarchy, at a time when protest movements and the publishers that give them a platform are essential to creating a nationwide dialogue about violence and oppression. This is a counterattack from those in power against websites that publish perspectives from those who mobilize against fascists. It is not a coincidence that it occurs on the heels of Trump mobilizing federal forces to Portland, Oregon, precipitating weeks of street conflict, and just a matter of days after spokespersons for the extreme right referred specifically to itsgoingdown.org and crimethinc.com in prepared testimony to the Senate.
In fact, Facebook has no objection to providing a platform for those who promote and engage in violence—the platform gladly hosts police departments, military groups, sheriffs who carry out evictions, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers who separate children from their families, and individuals who support those institutions and activities, many of whom have demonstrated “patterns of violent behavior.” The publishers that Facebook has banned have shared the stories of those who seek to protect their communities from the violence that both white supremacists and state institutions perpetrate. Facebook’s partisan decision to prioritize banning publishers while hosting pages that promote militia organizing or spread misinformation about COVID-19 speaks volumes about the kind of violence the company does support and the kind of society Facebook aims to foster.
“CrimethInc. are the poets and intellectuals of a truly free society,” said David Graeber, author of Debt: The First 5000 Years and professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics, in response to the news of the Facebook ban. “If anarchist publishing has any common theme, it is to dream of a society in which organized violence and the threat of systematic violence would not exist, where there would never be a situation in which groups of men with sticks and guns and bombs would be able to threaten others. This is not just a legitimate political position, it’s a vital, essential, necessary one. Nothing could conceivably be more violent than to tell us—and particularly our young people—we are forbidden to even dream of a peaceful, caring, world.”
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