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    Facebook’s Blackout of ‘Disingenuous’ Event Censors Real US Activists

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    Facebook’s Tuesday ban on 32 pages and profiles for “disingenuous” activity supposedly consistent with the previous behavior of pages run by the allegedly Kremlin-operated Internet Research Agency (IRA) puts US activists’ safety at risk, Brendan Orsinger, an activist behind one of the nixed events, tells By Any Means Necessary.

    Facebook, for example, axed one event page — this one for a protest against an August 12 Washington, DC, rally arranged by neo-fascists to mark the one year anniversary of the deadly neo-Nazi protest in Charlottesville, Virginia — because just one of the administrators of the "No to Unite the Right 2 — DC" protest had been caught up in the ban. The Resisters Facebook page, one of six administrators of the protest page, once itself had an administrator for a whopping seven minutes whom Facebook says it had previously linked to the IRA.

    ​The 2017 protest in Charlottesville, dubbed "Unite the Right," saw one activist killed and 19 injured after a car plowed through a group of nonviolent, anti-racist marchers. A federal indictment against Ohio native James Fields says he "expressed support of the social and racial policies of Adolf Hitler and Nazi-era Germany, including the Holocaust," and intentionally rammed his Dodge Challenger through the crowd. Many others were injured in clashes or recieved beatings from neo-fascists as well.

    According to Facebook, five other "legitimate" accounts were also administering the protest against Unite the Right 2.0. According to the new event page made in the wake of the banned one, 35 activist groups endorse the counter-protest.

    Screenshot of the protest cancelled by Facebook.
    Facebook
    Screenshot of the protest cancelled by Facebook.

    Facebook admitted that its findings were incomplete but said it issued the bans because of "what we know today given the connection between these bad actors and protests that are planned in Washington next week."

    That's left local organizers seeking to counter the white supremacist rally "screwed over by Facebook," Orsinger, an anti-racist and police accountability activist in the District, told By Any Means Necessary host Sean Blackmon and producer Bob Schlehuber. Now they have to "start from scratch with an event they [Facebook] took down two days ago."

    Notice Facebook sent to users that RSVP'd to the No Unite the Right 2 - DC protest.
    Facebook
    Notice Facebook sent to users that RSVP'd to the "No Unite the Right 2 - DC" protest.

    Mainstream media reports have attempted to portray the protest as being organized by bots, forcing the activists actually behind the event into the Kafkaesque situation of having to demonstrate their actual existence. "I've been talking to a lot of reporters and trying to verify that I'm an actual human. I wish there was some kind of, like, audio captcha I could click on things to verify. But there is no silver bullet for legitimacy or determining legitimacy," Orsinger said. 

    Orsinger added that he respects Facebook's effort to eliminate illegitimate accounts but thinks it's "a little too late and ignoring a lot of other issues like pay-to-promote events and posts that allow alt-right folks to be reached out to by the Richard Spencers of the world and to stoke that hate within angry white folks, especially angry white men with their toxic masculinity and toxic whiteness that they bring into spaces that Facebook creates," he said. "Facebook does not challenge their legitimacy and their ideas of hate."

    The No to Unite the Right 2 — DC protest had some 3,000 interested parties and a ton of RSVPs, Orsinger said. When its page was taken down, "we had to start from scratch. All that labor of local DC organizers was wasted. It was thrown down Facebook's little black hole."

    "They never let us know — when they take down pages and events — why they did. That thinking is internal, and that thinking is based on shareholder value, stock value and keeping those predominantly white male shareholders happy at the expense of DC local organizers who can't keep up with the resources and money that [are available to] the Unite the Right or a Nazi organization funded by billionaires," Orsinger said.

    While Facebook has not said who was behind the 32 now-dead pages, most of which had zero to fewer than 10 followers, mainstream media and a number of US officials placed the blame squarely on Russia.

    As the Unite the Right 2.0 counter-protests are now being linked to foreign influence ahead of the event, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen made the same allegation against "both sides" of last year's protests in Charlottesville, Sputnik News reported.

    Now, some of the organizers behind the Charlottesville, Virginia, anti-racist protest in 2017 are pushing back against censorship of anti-racist, anti-fascist voices. The activist group Solidarity C'ville put out a statement declaring that "White supremacy is homegrown," and "so is resistance."

    "It is incredibly insulting that mainstream media has taken Facebook's act of censorship as an excuse to reduce the real traumas of August 11 and 12 to 'Russian interference' or 'bots,'" Solidarity C'ville said. The Unite the Right 2.0 organizer's white supremacist ideology "was informed by centuries of homegrown violence against black and indigenous people and migrants," the group said. "Just as white supremacy is rooted in US history, so is the movement to end it and create a free world."

    Orsinger also said that Facebook's move only exacerbates the trauma from the first Unite the Right rally. "It's coming up in me. I was there at the intersection, I saw the car run through our protest and have been living with that and trying to work through that."

    "I think it's important to recognize that we do carry that trauma still, and it is reactiviated and retriggered when a group delegitimizes our event and our pain and everything that will lead up to August 12 this year and everything we've been reflecting on and working through," he told By Any Means Necessary.

    "Will it have the maximized amount of people there to give marginalized communities the safety and numbers that we need to ensure the safest environment possible for our folks? No, because Facebook decided to delete our event after we put a lot of time in, and now we won't have as much reach," he said.

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    antifascists, US neo-Nazis, fascism, censorship, Facebook, Charlottesville
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