Friday, May 14, 2021

Facebook sparks anger after shutting down socialist pages

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Facebook said it had mistakenly deleted a number of far-left political accounts, citing an “automation error,” sparking outcry from socialists who accused the social media platform of censorship.

Last week, the social media company eliminated a group of groups, pages and individuals involved in socialist politics without explanation. These included the Socialist Workers Party and its student wing, the Socialist Worker Student Society in the UK, as well as the University of Michigan’s International Youth and Students for Social Equality chapter and Genevieve Leigh’s page. , National Secretary of IYSSE in the United States.

A Facebook spokesperson said on Monday it had “restored the Socialist Workers’ Party Facebook page and several accounts after an automation error”, adding: “We apologize for the mistake.”

Facebook did not respond to requests for clarification of how the error occurred and why it affected the personal accounts of socialist figures as well as larger groups.

But the abrupt moves have spawned accusations of bias against left-wing voices by the social media company, with activists alleging a pattern of deliberate efforts to undermine their voices. The SWP, whose page was closed Friday and restored the same day after a backlash on social media, said Facebook previously closed accounts belonging to its activists “in error” last December.

“They don’t even provide a means by which you can recover [the account]Said David North, who chairs the editorial board of the World Socialist Web Site. “It’s like the police are breaking in and taking over everything in your house.”

Niles Niemuth, the site’s editor who ran for vice-president of the Socialist Party for Equality in 2016, was among the accounts that were suspended and then reinstated.

The snafu raises questions about Facebook’s enforcement of its content moderation policies, which critics have called ad hoc and random. In the wake of the U.S. Capitol Riots, civil rights groups accused the platform of failing to repeatedly curb the spread of disinformation about electoral fraud and incitement to violence despite promises to do otherwise.

On January 11, he announced that he would remove all content containing the phrase “stop the theft” – the slogan used by Conservatives alleging Democrats rigged the election – as an “emergency measure”.

Facebook has generally been accused of anti-conservative bias, more recently after suspending the account of former US President Donald Trump ”indefinitely”Following the attempted insurrection of his supporters, fearing that he could use it to incite further violence. The newly created company independent supervisory board must review the decision on his first big test.

The exact number of people affected by the latest incident remains uncertain, Mr. North said. Accounts including IYSSE at the University of Michigan, a registered student group, were suspended until Monday and were not reinstated until after the Financial Times reported the situation to Facebook.

“Even though this particular prohibition was [reversed], it’s a warning that we don’t know what might come next, ”he added.

“Social media… Is privately owned but for all intents and purposes it is [become] what was once the market place, ”said Chris Marsden, national secretary of the Socialist Equality Party in the UK. “They are using their power in a totally undemocratic way.”

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