This post is for my friends and followers on Facebook who don't know what happened to my profile.
On October 11, 2018, my verified, and very active, Facebook profile was disabled among a purge of 800 pages (559 political pages and hundreds of personal profiles). I received no warning and had no idea why I lost my page. A colleague of mine lost his profile a week earlier and was forced to show proof of his identity. After two days, his profile was restored. I figured the same thing was happening to me, so I provided my driver’s license and phone number, but today I’m still waiting to find out if my profile will be restored. No one from Facebook has contacted me to explain why this happened.
The Washington Post reported Facebook purged hundreds of accounts for pushing “political spam.” Both conservatives and liberals were targeted for what was described as “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
I’ve come to learn those three words mean that people like me were posting similar content to a variety of political pages, but it’s quite a stretch to extrapolate all of this from three words buried among thousands in Facebook’s terms of service.
I was an admin on three different feminist pages, so, for the past four years, I’ve scoured social media to find content to fill those pages and keep them active—which is very tedious and time-consuming. I’d collect four or more articles (including blog posts I’d written) and four or more memes, and would schedule that content in advance for the following day for years. Every. Single. Day.
Despite Facebook’s bewildering response, my main goal has always been to inform, educate and inspire voters. I’m passionate about educating the public on the fact that the Constitution does not have an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). If I wrote an article on the subject, or found one written by another writer, I would post it on every possible page available to me. I would also post it in groups. Facebook decided this was spamming. How would anyone know this was considered “inauthentic” behavior? How was I to know that what I’d been doing for years was now considered spamming?
One of the casualties of the purge was the high-profile political page, Reverb Press. One its founders, James Reader told me, “It's an anti-trust issue. Facebook has become the de facto internet and the fifth estate is doomed without it. They swallow up any competition, and then institute arbitrary rules that punish tertiary publishers. If you're not a major corporation you don't have a seat at the table.” Reader added, “It's pay to play. If you don't have a massive Facebook budget, you don't survive. But in end it's a moving goalpost. They are happy to take your money to grow Facebook properties but then they shut down your traffic and extort more money for you to even reach that following. The fifth estate is a critical part of any open and free democracy.”
This Buzzfeed article, "Everything I Wrote Was True And Accurate. So Why Did Facebook Purge My Work?" written by Reverb Press's Marc Belisle breaks it down even further.
The Post explained some Facebook admins were using multiple fake accounts to distribute content. I was not, I always used my profile to post and schedule. There were also admins who were sending users to ad farms. I never have. In fact, I wasn’t aware there was such a thing until my page was disabled and learned about it in the Post. I also had no idea that spreading information by both established mainstream and independent blogs was considered spamming.
For the past eight years Facebook has encouraged users and admins to rely on its platform to build our brands, to pay to build those brands with advertising or boosting posts, to communicate with friends and colleagues, to organize events and to share articles we’ve written.
Like everyone else, I took advantage of the free platform and I did what I was encouraged to do by Facebook. And then, without any strikes or warnings, they decided to punish the very people they courted. They didn’t give us a choice. That’s the worst part of all of this. If I’d been aware that Facebook frowned on what I was doing, I would’ve welcomed the option of halting that particular behavior. I would’ve stopped because my profile page is important to me. I set it up in 2010 and as of October 11, 2018, I was verified (blue check), and I had built an audience of five thousand friends and over sixteen thousand followers. As a political activist, my profile has been a great tool for thoughtful discussion, education and debate.
One can only surmise why this punitive action was taken by this social media megacorporation and while I have no proof to offer, I can connect some dots. Last year it was reported that during the 2016 election season, Facebook accepted Russian money—rubles— from political operatives to spread propaganda for the sole purpose of manipulating the outcome of the presidential election. When this information was made public, founder Mark Zuckerberg was forced to address what happened and he appeared before Congress to answer for his actions. Perhaps this latest non-partisan purge was an effort to show Congress there’s no need for government regulation—that Facebook is on it and we can all relax now. What really happened is that bloggers and activists have paid the price because Zuckerberg accepted rubles to spread fake news.
Additionally, on October 12, The Washington Post reported on a data breach affecting millions of Facebook users:
“An online attack that forced Facebook to log out 90 million users last month directly affected 29 million people on the social network, the company said Friday, as it released new details about the scope of an incident that has regulators and law enforcement on high alert.
Through a series of interrelated bugs in Facebook’s programming, unnamed attackers stole the names and contact information of 15 million users, Facebook said. The contact information included a mix of phone numbers and email addresses.
An additional 14 million users were affected more deeply, having additional details taken related to their profiles, such as their recent search history, gender, educational background, geolocation data, birth dates, and lists of people and pages they follow.”
Whether or not the data breach had anything to do with the purge is unknown, but it’s certainly curious timing. Furthermore, we learned last week that Facebook actively sold our two-factor authentication information to third-party advertisers.
While some admins were scamming users by sending them to ad farms, many like me were simply trying to engage Facebook users, and we’ve been silenced. Our voices have been taken out of the equation just before a vital midterm election.
I may or may not get my profile back, and I have no choice but to wait and see. Facebook is a privately-owned business, so they have the authority to act however they wish.
While I resent Facebook’s blatant hypocrisy and shady practices, there is no other platform that affords me the opportunity to communicate with other activists and voters in the way Facebook has. Losing my page was a real blow and it’s been an upsetting experience because my motives have always been pure.
As someone who uses a variety of social media platforms, I’ve read other people’s anger about how Facebook has been conducting business and felt that anger myself, but it doesn’t change the fact that my profile page was the best way for me to get out a message I believe to be important. I’ll bet the thousands of friends and followers I’ve accumulated over the years would agree.
All of my political activism is on that profile. My friends, photos, contacts, my colleagues...all vanished in the blink of an eye. I hope that any of my Facebook friends who are reading this will consider following and supporting me here. The right side of this page shows you various options for subscribing. Some of what I write will be free, other content requires a subscription. You can read more about what I'll be writing on this site HERE.
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