Is Facebook Censoring Journalists?

September 28th, 2016

When you create one of the world’s largest social networking sites, you probably don’t do it expecting to stop people talking yet that’s exactly what Facebook is being accused of.

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Over the last few weeks Facebook has disabled the personal accounts of several journalists based in Palestinian news publications. The social media company has since apologised stating that the accounts were accidentally suspended after community standard reports. This could well be true but it does sound rather suspicious, and the worry is that all you need to do to censor your opponents on Facebook is report them for breaking some guideline.

The accounts belonged to editors and executives at the Shehab News agency and the Qud News Network. Both these publications report largely on the occupied territories in Palestine. They both have significant presences on Facebook although it should be noted that the official pages were not affected just the personal pages of the particular employees.

No explanation of the suspension was given and Facebook didn’t make those involved aware of whatever guidelines they were supposed to have infringed. It is clear however that Facebook needs to tighten up these procedures if it wishes to remain a fair center for discussion and free speech.

Many organisations, countries and governments try and target social media sites simply because of their worldwide reach. It’s not the first time that Facebook has been accused of censorship in the past either. Their problem is that they are under pressure from all sides of the debates – Western Governments are keen for the extremist content from terrorists be removed from the site quickly.

Fortunately in this case it does seem as though it was a legitimate mistake, certainly Facebook has issued an apology and reinstated the accounts, stating that they do in fact process millions of these reports every week and sometimes make a mistake.

John Simpson

Online Anonymity