On August 19, 2020, Facebook published, “An Update to How We Address Movements and Organizations Tied to Violence,” saying:
Today we are taking action against Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts tied to offline anarchist groups that support violent acts amidst protests, US-based militia organizations and QAnon. We already remove content calling for or advocating violence and we ban organizations and individuals that proclaim a violent mission. However, we have seen growing movements that, while not directly organizing violence, have celebrated violent acts, shown that they have weapons and suggest they will use them, or have individual followers with patterns of violent behavior. So today we are expanding our Dangerous Individuals and Organizations policy to address organizations and movements that have demonstrated significant risks to public safety but do not meet the rigorous criteria to be designated as a dangerous organization and banned from having any presence on our platform. While we will allow people to post content that supports these movements and groups, so long as they do not otherwise violate our content policies, we will restrict their ability to organize on our platform.
Facebook had already banned some significant QAnon groups earlier this month, but this new move marks the first time that anarchist groups have been included in the censorship. Specifically, the ban affects 790 groups, 100 pages, 1500 ads, and 300 hashtags relating to QAnon; by comparison, Facebook has banned 980 groups, 520 Pages, 160 ads, and over 1400 hashtags allegedly relating to “antifa” and anarchism. Another 1950 groups, 440 pages, and 10,000 accounts are facing additional restrictions while remaining on the platform.
Popular anarchist news sites CrimethInc and It’s Going Down have released a joint statement on the situation, claiming that it’s Facebook cowtowing to bad faith “both side-ism” to appease Donald Trump for his demonstrably-false claims about “antifa violence.” From both sites:
This has nothing to do with stopping violence and everything to do with suppressing social movements and the publishers that cover them.
For months, Donald Trump has demanded this crackdown in a series of social media posts explicitly blaming anarchists and anti-fascists for the countrywide wave of protests precipitated by persistent police violence in the United States. A decade ago, Facebook representatives proudly touted their role in the Egyptian uprising. Today, their decision to ban publishers who discuss social movement activity shows that they are eager to play a role in ensuring that the only forms of activism that can emerge are the ones that are beneficial to the current authorities.
The defining of violence is not neutral. The way Facebook currently defines violence, it is legitimate for police to kill a thousand people per year while evicting, kidnapping, and imprisoning millions—it is legitimate to drop bombs on civilians, so long as the aggressor represents an official government—but it is “violence” to prevent a white supremacist from assaulting a crowd or return a smoking tear gas canister to the police who shot it. Suppressing the voices of those who seek to protect their communities from institutional and white supremacist violence is an intentional decision to normalize violence as long as the ones employing it hold institutional power.
Lumping anarchists and anti-fascists together with far-right militias who explicitly support the current administration is a strategic move to muddy the issue.
This new Facebook ban affects 790 groups, 100 pages, 1500 ads, and 300 hashtags relating to QAnon; by comparison, they’ve banned 980 groups, 520 Pages, 160 ads, and over 1400 hashtags allegedly relating to “antifa.” Another 1950 groups, 440 pages, and 10,000 accounts are facing additional restrictions while remaining on the platform.
Image: Public Domain
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