Facebook’s censorship of left must be fought

Dandelion Salad

By Melinda Butterfield
Jul 16, 2010

The U.S.-based social-networking monolith Facebook has begun an all-out assault on its members, deleting three active groups that advocated for progressive and radical causes, permanently banning the accounts of four individuals who administered one group, and sending threatening messages to others.

The groups deleted include Boycott BP, a campaign against the Big Oil company responsible for one of history’s worst ecological disasters; the PFLP Solidarity Group, based in New Zealand with members around the globe, in support of the Palestinian resistance movement; and Free Ricardo Palmera, a group advocating support for a leftist Colombian guerrilla leader who is imprisoned in the U.S. in violation of international law.

Facebook is carrying out its censorship campaign against the left under cover of its arbitrary “terms of service.”

Josh Sykes, administrator of the deleted Free Ricardo Palmera group, received this message: “The group Free Ricardo Palmera! has been removed because it violated our Terms of Use. Among other things, groups that are hateful, threatening, or obscene are not allowed. We also take down groups that attack an individual or group, or advertise a product or service. Continued misuse of Facebook’s features could result in your account being disabled.”

None of the affected groups was hateful, threatening or obscene in any way. And as anyone who is familiar with Facebook knows, truly hateful, racist, anti-Muslim, anti-women, anti-gay, pro-cop, pro-imperialist and pro-Zionist apartheid groups abound and their members post freely.

Marika Pratley, PFLP Solidarity Campaign coordinator and group administrator, said, “This was clearly a political attack against the PFLP and an attempt by Facebook to censor and shut down the solidarity campaign.

“The PFLP advocates a single secular state in all of Palestine, with equal rights for all, regardless of race or religion, and is the second largest group in the PLO. Facebook has deemed that support for the PFLP violates its terms and conditions while allowing many blatantly racist anti-Palestinian groups to continue to exist without such censorship.”

Facebook is well-known for invasions of personal privacy, but it also has a reputation for censoring leftist causes and national liberation movements. Since 2008, pages and groups supporting Cuba have sometimes been deleted without warning, including one administered by this writer. My personal account was also temporarily suspended.

Another Cuba supporter, an Egyptian-born student activist living outside the U.S., had her account permanently banned. So did a Palestinian student activist from New Jersey whose pro-Palestine liberation group was deleted.

While Facebook is notorious for making its members’ personal information available to U.S. corporations, police agencies and the U.S. government, it guards its own contact information zealously. Not only do members sign away their right of appeal to Facebook’s censors, but it is almost impossible to lodge a protest. Difficult-to-access options that existed a couple of years ago, at the time of the earlier shutdowns, have been removed.

Boycott BP restored, big battles remain

The 700,000-member Boycott BP group was restored after a huge public outcry, including coverage on CNN. Facebook now claims the group was disabled “in error.”

While this is an important victory — and shows that Facebook can be pushed back — it is a harder road for lesser-known cases like Palmera’s or more controversial causes like the Palestinian resistance movement.

It’s important to ask, which groups will Facebook target next? Supporters of political prisoners like Mumia Abu-Jamal? Supporters of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla? Opponents of U.S. wars on Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea and Iran? Supporters of the revolutionary movements in Venezuela, the Philippines and Nepal? Abortion-rights advocates?

Facebook may try to cover its censorship of groups like the PFLP Solidarity Campaign by pointing to the terrible June 21 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which criminalizes free speech under material support statutes related to groups the U.S. government falsely deems “terrorist” — including longstanding national liberation movements in Palestine, Lebanon, Colombia, Nepal and the Philippines.

But the fact is, Facebook and other U.S. corporations benefit from and hold enormous sway over the decisions of the Supreme Court — which, like the other branches of U.S. government, exists to preserve and strengthen the rule of capitalists. The bogus and unconstitutional decision of the Supreme Court must not become an excuse to let Facebook and its ilk off the hook.

Social networking sites have expanded to the point where they are an important and necessary component of all sorts of progressive social advocacy, from modest reforms to revolutionary social change. People all over the world rely on them, so it is especially ludicrous for Facebook to impose the rules of U.S. imperialist foreign policy on its members.

Social networks should belong to the people, not to U.S. corporations. Taking the fight to Facebook now is an important step in that direction.

What you can do

On July 7 the profiles of the three administrators of the Ricardo Palmera group — Josh Sykes, Angela Denio and Tom Burke — were disabled by Facebook with no reason given. Ivan Enrile, an activist from Manila, reported that his profile was disabled because he set up a Facebook page in solidarity with the Peruvian Sendero Luminoso movement. City University of New York students were warned that a group they set up to support prisoner Fahad Hashmi was a “threat to national security.” The list continues to grow.

On Facebook, a group has been set up called Stop Facebook Assault on Progressive Causes. Join and invite your Facebook contacts. Help them get informed and involved. If you have been censored or threatened, let the group know.

Repost this article. Blog and email about the issue. Contact local and national media and let them know what you think about Facebook’s campaign against radical and progressive causes.

Call and write Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to demand an end to the censorship of left groups and progressive causes, and to threats against individual Facebook members: 156 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301; 650-543-4800. (If you come across better contact information for Zuckerberg and other Facebook bigwigs, please spread the word.)

The struggle continues!

Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

See also:

Stop Facebook Assault on Progressive Causes

From the archives:

One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists by Chris Hedges

What is Socialism? (archive of posts)

4 thoughts on “Facebook’s censorship of left must be fought

  1. Pingback: Facebook’s censorship of left must be fought (via Dandelion Salad) « OntheWilderSide

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