More Facebook Censorship

Are Foreigners Seeking to ‘Exacerbate Divisions” in America?

Dear Friends of the Ron Paul Institute:

You may have missed it, but this week Facebook made a big announcement in its ongoing struggle against Russian influence in American society. On Tuesday they announced that they had identified and terminated 32 accounts (out of more than 2.2 billion users) that Facebook believes to be “inauthentic.” Though Facebook admitted that they “don’t have all the facts — including who may be behind this” they hastened to add – admittedly without facts – that “it’s clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past.”

You saw what they did there, didn’t you? They have no idea who did it…but come on – it’s the Russians!

It turns out these were not Russian meddling attempts, as the big headlines would have us believe. One of the groups banned by Facebook in this curious sweep was very real — and organizing a counter-protest against a planned white nationalist rally in Washington, DC. Said an angry web admin for the group:

“We are not bots. We are not influenced by any Russians. We are local organizers,” said Andrew Batcher, an organizer with Shut It Down DC, a group mobilizing against white supremacists in the nation’s capital. “It’s ridiculous when you know who you are and what you’re doing and you’re still accused of being a Russian puppet.”

Facebook’s breathless announcement of its inept take-down sounded like something coming more from a military command than a social media website most often used to post pictures of kittens and cute grandkids:

We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics. It’s an arms race and we need to constantly improve too. It’s why we’re investing heavily in more people and better technology to prevent bad actors misusing Facebook — as well as working much more closely with law enforcement and other tech companies to better understand the threats we face. (emphasis added)

So why does it sound like Facebook has militarized social media? Because it has. Back in May, Facebook announced that it would combat “bad actors” using its services by contracting with the super-hawkish foreign policy “think tank,” the Atlantic Council. In this case, Facebook was open about the role of “the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, a research organization that helps us identify and analyze abuse on Facebook.”

The Atlantic Council crowed about its role in taking down the Facebook pages, claiming “[t]he accounts suspended by Facebook…sought to exacerbate divisions and set Americans against one another.”

The explanation itself seems highly suspicious and even un-American. The implication is that any divisions in American society, any tough debates on issues, are somehow unhealthy and must have been stoked by a foreign power. This level of paranoia has become pathological. “Divisions” – i.e. differences – among those with different opinions are the hallmarks of a free society, where debate can be rollicking but is extremely healthy! How do you keep people from disagreeing? How to make sure no one holds “wrong” opinions? You censor and punish those who do not conform. This is nothing new. Authoritarians and totalitarians have plenty of practice doing this. Is this what we want? It is certainly what the Atlantic Council and Facebook want.

Indeed, there is something deeply troubling about the Atlantic Council serving as Facebook’s chief censor. What is the Atlantic Council? It is staffed and directed by some of the most dedicated pro-war, pro-empire Washington insiders.

More troubling, the Atlantic Council is largely funded by the United States government through various US government entities! Think about how troubling it is that a US government funded organization has been given the power to determine what we see and do not see when we open our Facebook (and other social media). Facebook may be a private company, but how is its partnering with a US government entity to censor what we see any different than the kind of censorship the Chinese government demands?

But here is the most disturbing and ironic aspect to the Atlantic Council as the gatekeeper of what media we are allowed to consume: The whole Facebook operation to hunt down foreign influence in American political life has led the company to rely on an organization that itself is extremely well-funded by foreign governments! That’s right! As‘s Justin Raimondo pointed out today, the Atlantic Council – hired to sniff out foreign influence on Facebook – is itself funded by foreign governments!

And not just chump change! According to its own website, the Atlantic Council enjoys the largess of the government of the United Arab Emirates to the tune of “above one million dollars.” Remember, the UAE has been a major funder of the jihadist rebels in Syria and a major participant in the genocidal war on Yemen. No wonder with the  UAE-funded Atlantic Council as the watchdog, the Ron Paul Institute (strongly opposed to the Syria and Yemen wars) has seen its Facebook reach plummet more than 80 percent!

It’s not only UAE that provides foreign funding for the Atlantic Council. Ponying up with truckloads of cash are the governments of, Norway, Sweden, Japan, Taiwan, Latvia, Montenegro, Cyprus, Slovakia, Lithuania, Finland, Poland, Luxembourg, and more.

So a foreign government funded think tank is the gatekeeper for identifying and eradicating foreign government influence on Facebook. Really, you can’t make this up.

Also big Atlantic Council funders are virtually every major (and minor) Beltway military-industrial-complex member. No wonder they suppress our antiwar articles!

This deserves to be repeated: The US government is “partnering” with a media company to decide what we are allowed to read. Does this bother you? It certainly bothers us. In fact it bothers us enough that we are dedicating this year’s Ron Paul Institute Peace and Prosperity Conference to the topic.