Facebook announced with much fanfare yesterday that the company had scrubbed 32 pages and accounts that they suspected "were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior." But as it turns out, an event sponsored by one of the pages they deleted was for a perfectly legitimate and permitted protest being organized by local activists in Washington, DC. According to the organizers, the event page was deleted because one one of the co-hosts was a page that Facebook suspected of being "inauthentic."
The event had attracted thousands of interested Internet users, and has now been effectively squashed by Facebook’s purge, just weeks before the protest, giving organizers little time to regain momentum.
"Arbitrary mass censorship is not the solution for the challenges democracy faces in the digital age," said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, "Calls for more censorship, whether they come from the left or right, pose a dangerous threat to legitimate freedom of speech and undermine the power of the Internet as a tool for people to organize, educate themselves, and challenge tyranny and corruption. Do we really want an Internet where giant tech companies like Facebook are the arbiters of what is ‘real’ and what is ‘fake’ and can censor whatever they want without oversight or accountability?"
"Dragnet censorship operations, whether related to copyright or political content, always come with serious unintended consequences, where legitimate content is taken down. Lawmakers who are concerned about the power that large tech companies have to spread misinformation should call for more transparency and more competition, not more censorship," she continued, "One simple policy decision on the table right now is restoring net neutrality protections, which allow startups and small businesses to thrive and compete with giants like Twitter and Facebook, leading to more decentralization that makes coordinated misinformation campaigns much harder."
Facebook has previously been exposed censoring content by groups on both the left and the right, as well as by marginalized communities. Fight for the Future condemns Facebook’s decision to censor a legitimate protest page because of a link to a single "inauthentic" account, and calls on the platform to cease any similar censorship plans, and instead focus on transparency initiatives to make it easier for Internet users to know who is paying for the content they’re seeing.