Facebook’s censorship of left must be fought
Published Jul 16, 2010 9:17 PM
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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