Facebook has shocked hundreds of account holders by banning their accounts in a purge of pages centered on political themes this week. It appears that Google is not the only tech giant looking to put an virtual iron boot on the neck of free political speech and American freedoms.
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that the social media giant deleted more than 800 accounts and pages, accusing the page owners and accounts of flooding users with politically-oriented posts that the company claims violates its policies on “spam.”
In doing so, Facebook demonstrated its increased willingness to wade into the thorny territory of policing domestic political activity. Some of the accounts had been in existence for years, had amassed millions of followers, and professed support for conservative or liberal ideas, such as one page that billed itself as “the first publication to endorse President Donald J. Trump.” Facebook’s ability to monitor manipulation of users is under an intense spotlight in the weeks ahead of the U.S. midterm elections.
But Facebook only named five of the hundreds of pages it removed. Two of the page operators said that they were legitimate political activists, not profit-driven operators of clickbait “ad farms,” as Facebook claimed in a blog post. They said were still unsure which Facebook rules they had violated or why they had been singled out for behavior that is standard in online organizing.
The paper notes that one of the sites destroyed was a left-leaning site called “Reasonable People Unite.” The owner of the site said he was shocked because he is just an average, everyday left-wing activist, not a site owned by some shadowy global conspiracy.
But the social media leader also canned a large number of right-leaning sites including sites with names such as Clash Daily, Silence Is Consent, and Top Stories USA. One said that 12 of its other sites were also deleted.
Facebook’s Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy, and Oscar Rodriguez, Product Manager,released a statement that reads in part:
People need to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook. It’s why we have a policy banning coordinated inauthentic behavior — networks of accounts or Pages working to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing. This year, we’ve enforced this policy against many Pages, Groups and accounts created to stir up political debate, including in the US, the Middle East, Russia and the UK. But the bulk of the inauthentic activity we see on Facebook is spam that’s typically motivated by money, not politics. And the people behind it are adapting their behavior as our enforcement improves.
This news comes on the heels of a memo leaked to Breitbart News showing that Internet search engine giant Google is also considering the idea of censoring political content it does not like.
It increasingly appears that Big Tech is becoming a threat to our freedom of speech and our American values.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.
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