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Cartoon: Mail order crap for COVID quacks

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/08/2021 - 7:50am in

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Comics, Facebook

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Actually, Facebook Does Kill People

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/08/2021 - 10:30pm in

Photo credit: Phil Pasquini / Shutterstock.com _____ On July 16, a reporter writing a story about Covid-19 vaccine disinformation asked...

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Biden Administration Completely Kills The “It’s A Private Company So It’s Not Censorship” Argument

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/07/2021 - 12:41pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/ca35940cb6bb740c9b97b8d3c31b375d/href

In what’s surely the biggest “Imagine the outrage if Trump had done that” moment to date, the Biden administration has admitted that it is giving Facebook a list of accounts to censor for spreading “disinformation” about the Covid-19 response.

“We’ve increased disinformation research and tracking,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki told the press on Thursday. “Within the Surgeon General’s Office, we’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation. We’re working with doctors and medical professionals to connect medical experts with people, who are popular with their audiences with accurate information and boost trusted content. So, we’re helping get trusted content out there.”

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Psaki told the White House press corps that the administration has a list of accounts who produce most of the anti-vaccine information on Facebook, which civil libertarians are decrying as an obviously authoritarian government overreach.

“The Biden administration is telling Facebook which posts it regards as ‘problematic’ so that Facebook can remove them,” Glenn Greenwald said on Twitter in response to the news. “This is the union of corporate and state power — one of the classic hallmarks of fascism — that the people who spent five years babbling about fascism support.”

“If you don’t find it deeply disturbing that the White House is ‘flagging’ internet content that they deem ‘problematic’ to their Facebook allies for removal, then you are definitionally an authoritarian,” Greenwald said. “No other information is needed about you to know that. There is no circumstance — none — in which it’s acceptable for the White House or any other agency of the government to be providing lists to Facebook of ‘problematic’ content it wants removed, yet that’s exactly what Psaki says they’re doing. The White House is admitting that they’re compiling lists of people who they claim are posting content they regard as ‘problematic’ and that constitute ‘misinformation’ and are demanding Facebook remove them. This is authoritarianism.”

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The most common argument you’ll hear from those who support monopolistic social media giants controlling speech on their platforms is that these are private corporations, not the government, so it doesn’t count as censorship. Whenever you object to Silicon Valley oligarchs exerting total control over the political speech of billions of people, mainstream liberals instantly transform into an army of Ayn Rands defending the private property rights of those companies. The fact that these platforms are inseparably interwoven with the highest branches of the US federal government kills such arguments stone dead.

And if you were paying attention, that argument was already dead. All of these online platforms use censorship and algorithm manipulation to hide undesirable political speech from the mainstream public in direct collaboration with government and government-tied institutions.

In 2017 Senator Dianne Feinstein threatened social media platforms that alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election means they need to start utilizing more censorship or else face consequences, saying, “You created these platforms, and they are being misused. And you have to be the ones to do something about it — or we will.”

That same year representatives from top internet platforms were brought before congress and told they needed to adopt a “mission statement” expressing their commitment “to prevent the fomenting of discord,” because “Civil wars don’t start with gunshots, they start with words.”

In the lead-up to the 2020 election online platforms were openly coordinating with US government agencies to censor speech believed to compromise election integrity.

Facebook, the largest social media platform in the world where a third of Americans regularly get their news, openly enlists the government-and-plutocrat-funded imperialist narrative management firm The Atlantic Council to help it determine what content to censor and what to boost. Facebook has stated that if its “fact checkers” like The Atlantic Council deem a page or domain guilty of spreading false information, it will “dramatically reduce the distribution of all of their Page-level or domain-level content on Facebook.”

Google, which owns YouTube, has been financially intertwined with US intelligence agencies since its very inception when it received research grants from the CIA and NSA. It pours massive amounts of money into federal lobbying and DC think tanks, has a cozy relationship with the NSA, and has been a military-intelligence contractor from the beginning.

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“Americans deserve to know to what extent the federal government works with social media companies,” former congressman Justin Amash said on Twitter in response to Psaki’s incendiary admission. “Is there any quid pro quo? The First Amendment exists to keep the government from controlling what Americans hear. Free societies counter misinformation with information, not bans.”

“Democrats have summoned tech executives to the Congress at least four times in the last year,” Greenwald replied to Amash. “The last time, they repeatedly and explicitly threatened regulatory and other legal punishment if they don’t start censoring more: the content Dems regard as disinformation or ‘hate speech.’”

In a corporatist system of government, where there is no separation between corporate power and state power, corporate censorship is state censorship. The actual government as it actually exists is censoring the speech not just of its own people, but people around the world. If US law had placed as much emphasis on the separation of corporation and state as it had on the separation of church and state, the country would be unrecognizably different from what we see today.

Only infantile narcissists and power-worshipping bootlickers want the most powerful government on earth controlling what people are allowed to say to each other about a virus response which affects everybody, and only those with no sense of self-preservation entrust worldwide human speech to an alliance of government agencies and powerful tech plutocrats.

We cannot keep heading in this direction.

_______________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here.

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Trump to the Barricades

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/07/2021 - 4:53am in

The former guys is suing Facebook, Twitter, and Google for violating his 1st Amendment rights by...

“Then And Now” - what a difference a few years...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/06/2021 - 3:29am in

“Then And Now” - what a difference a few years makes! My latest cartoon for The Boston Globe:

https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/06/22/opinion/what-difference-few-years-makes/

Panel Discussion: Israeli Intelligence Colludes with Facebook, Google to Censor Palestinian Voices

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/05/2021 - 4:00am in



The ongoing assault on Palestine has captured the world’s attention. The latest violence was sparked by an attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by Israeli security forces, resulting in over 300 casualties, as Muslims had gathered to celebrate Ramadan in the region’s holiest place of worship. Outside, far-right groups cheered as the mosque was damaged, and launched pogroms against non-Jews inside Israel.

In response, Hamas began firing rockets into Israel, which, in turn, spurred a massive Israeli retaliation that has seen hundreds killed, thousands injured, and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.

Images of worshippers suffocating due to Israeli tear gas, Gazan buildings being leveled in airstrikes, and mortally wounded children have gone viral, reaching millions. But perhaps not as viral as they should have been if we had an open and uncontrolled social media ecosystem.

Palestinians the world over have reported having their content being taken down and their social media accounts blocked on a host of platforms — including Facebook, Instagram and TikTok — for spurious reasons, including anti-hate speech violations. When pressed for comment by MintPress, Facebook told us that their widespread suppression of Palestinian content at a time of such tensions was merely a technical error, stating:

We know there have been several issues that have impacted people’s ability to share on our apps, including a technical bug that affected Stories around the world, and an error which temporarily restricted content from being viewed on the Al Aqsa mosque hashtag page. While both issues have been fixed, they never should have happened in the first place. We’re so sorry to everyone who felt they couldn’t bring attention to important events, or who felt this was a deliberate suppression of their voice. This was never our intention.

Yet, even as they insisted nothing suspicious was afoot, MintPress CEO and Palestinian rights activist Mnar Muhawesh Adley had both her professional and private Facebook accounts restricted, just as thousands were turning to her for information and views. Other American outlets suffered similar consequences. The Grayzone reported that their interview with Palestinian journalists in Gaza was removed without explanation by YouTube.

This is, unfortunately, all too common a story for activists the world over. During U.S.-backed coup attempts in Venezuela and Bolivia, progressive and antiwar voices in those countries found themselves locked out of their suspended social media accounts at precisely the time it was most crucial for their voices to be heard, suggesting some sort of collusion.

In recent years, social media monopolies like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit have developed increasingly close links to the U.S. national security state. In November, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and IBM signed a contract with the CIA worth tens of billions of dollars to provide the agency with tech solutions and intelligence support, instantly making the firms among the largest military contractors in the world.

Silicon Valley is well aware of this, and is even leading the charge to turn social media into a weapon for the West. “What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century, technology and cyber-security companies [like Google] will be to the twenty-first,” boasted Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen. All of this results in a situation where it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between big tech and big government.

Facebook has long worked alongside the NATO-cutout organization The Atlantic Council in order to determine what content is appropriate and what isn’t, effectively giving the national security state control over the world’s news feeds — the most influential source of information and news globally. And in 2019, a senior Twitter executive was unmasked as an active-duty officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade — a unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations. Mainstream media almost completely ignored the revelation, and Gordon MacMillan is still head of editorial for the Middle East and North Africa on Twitter.

The Israeli state, too, has many deep connections with the social media giants. Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked boasted that she worked closely with Facebook to censor Palestinian voices, with the Silicon Valley corporation agreeing to take down around 95% of the content she asked them to. Today, former Director General of the Ministry of Justice Emi Palmor sits on Facebook’s advisory council, the board ultimately responsible for content moderation on the world’s largest news and social media platform. In her previous role in the Israeli government, Palmor directly oversaw the systematic ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the stripping of the Palestinians’ legal rights.

Discussing the big-tech censorship of Palestinian voices and the collusion between Israel and Silicon Valley are Mickey Huff, Suhair Nafal and Jessica Buxbaum.

Mickey Huff is Professor of Social Science and History at Diablo Valley College, California and is director of the media freedom foundation Project Censored. He hosts the Project Censored Radio Show. His latest book is “Project Censored 2021: State of the Free Press.”

Suhair Nafal is a Palestinian-American activist living in California. Earlier this year, she was taken to court by an IDF soldier who sought $6 million in damages after Nafal called her “evil” in a Facebook post. Bizarrely, the prosecution attempted to get the California judge to apply Israeli law to the post.

Jessica Buxbaum is an Israeli-American journalist based in Jerusalem and a contributor to MintPress News. Her latest article is “Facebook, Social Media Giants Admit to Silencing Palestinian Voices Online.”

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

MintPress News is a fiercely independent, reader-supported outlet, with no billionaire owners or backers. You can support us by becoming a member on Patreon, bookmarking and whitelisting us, and by subscribing to our social media channels, including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Subscribe to MintCast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and SoundCloud.

Also, be sure to check out the new Behind the Headlines channel on YouTube.

Mnar Muhawesh is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups.

The post Panel Discussion: Israeli Intelligence Colludes with Facebook, Google to Censor Palestinian Voices appeared first on MintPress News.

Facebook, Social Media Giants Admit to Silencing Palestinian Voices Online

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 15/05/2021 - 12:35am in

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM — In a video posted on activist organization Jewish Voice for Peace’s Twitter account, Muna El-Kurd explained why social media is so vital for the Palestinian cause.

“We rely on the honorable people standing in solidarity with us, people who tweet #SaveSheikhJarrah everyday,” Muna El-Kurd said. “Even a short tweet or post is a treasure.”

El-Kurd and her family are under threat of forcible displacement by Israel settlers and Israeli government forces from their home in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem. Over the past week, Palestinians on the ground have documented both Israeli police brutality and settler violence.

In response, the world rallied behind Palestinian home defenders online by sharing information related to Sheikh Jarrah, al-Aqsa Mosque, and Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine. However, activists claim their content was met with censorship from the very platforms with which they’re engaging.

Instagram disabled Muna El-Kurd’s account last week and her brother, Mohammed El-Kurd, had several of his Instagram stories removed and was threatened with account deletion.

 

A flurry of content removal and banning

Activists reported that social media companies have been removing their content, stating it violated community guidelines or deeming it “hate speech.” Reports also included suspended and deactivated accounts and text-only content labeled “sensitive,” a designation usually reserved for photos and videos containing violence, gore or derogatory images. The “Save Sheikh Jarrah” Facebook group was also deactivated, according to Mohammed El-Kurd.

Reports were largely centered on Instagram and Twitter, with some restrictive behaviors conducted by Facebook and even TikTok.

https://twitter.com/safaatiya/status/1390865739209494532

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Over the weekend, hashtags related to al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem could not be found on Instagram.

According to internal employee communications provided to Buzzfeed, al-Aqsa — the third holiest site in Islam — was flagged by Instagram as associated with “violence or dangerous organizations.” The label is typically reserved for terrorist groups.

During the last days of Ramadan, worshippers at al-Aqsa were attacked with stun grenades and rubber bullets by Israeli police in riot gear. More than 170 Palestinians were injured. Social media users hoping to publicize the state violence instead found their content removed from search results.

Twenty-four rights organizations signed a statement demanding that Facebook and Twitter reinstate affected accounts and explain their actions:

The removed content and suspended accounts on both Instagram and Twitter are involved in documenting and reporting what is happening in Sheikh Jarrah, as well as denouncing Israel’s policies of ethnic cleansing, apartheid and persecution. These violations are not limited to Palestinian users, but also affect activists around the world who are using social media to raise awareness about the grave situation in Sheikh Jarrah.

Nadim Nashif, founder and CEO of 7amleh, one of the letter’s signatories, said the digital rights organization had received approximately 200 cases of social media censorship related to the recent events in Palestine. However, he believes the actual number could be well into the thousands, as many users experiencing censorship may not report it.

“Actually, 99 percent of our [content removal] appeals to social media companies were put back, with no questions asked. And this is clearly because these posts did not really violate their community standards,” Nashif told MintPress News. “What’s basically happening is the Israeli Cyber Unit is abusing the system of so-called voluntary takedown.”

When reached for comment, a Twitter spokesperson said “Our automated systems took enforcement action on a small number of accounts in error by an automated spam filter.”

“We are expeditiously reversing this action to reinstate access to the affected accounts, some of which have already been reinstated,” Twitter said.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, responded to requests for comment from MintPress by issuing a statement that reads in part:

We know there have been several issues that have impacted people’s ability to share on our apps, including a technical bug that affected Stories around the world, and an error which temporarily restricted content from being viewed on the Al Aqsa mosque hashtag page. While both issues have been fixed, they never should have happened in the first place. We’re so sorry to everyone who felt they couldn’t bring attention to important events, or who felt this was a deliberate suppression of their voice. This was never our intention.

 

Corporate and government collaborative censorship

As previously reported by MintPress, social media suppression of Palestinian media is not a new phenomenon. 7amleh’s research unveiled significant cooperation between social media behemoths and Israel in targeting Palestinian content: According to a 2020 7amleh report on the systematic erasure of Palestinian content, the Israeli Ministry of Justice’s Cyber Unit is responsible for submitting removal requests to tech companies based on purported violations of domestic law and the companies’ community guidelines.

7amleh wrote in their report:

The Israeli Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked, stated that ‘Facebook, Google, and YouTube are complying with up to 95% of Israel’s requests to delete content that the Israeli government says incites Palestinian violence.’ This shows a significant focus on Palestinian content and efforts to label Palestinian political speech as incitement to violence.

The Israeli government and non-governmental organizations also encourage citizens to participate in these censorship efforts by making their own content removal requests with regard to Palestinian information.

“The big issue of the voluntary takedowns is that there aren’t any legal or bureaucratic procedures to clarify them,” Nashif said.

In 2019, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) filed a joint petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice against the Cyber Unit on the grounds its mechanisms violate the constitutional rights of freedom of expression and due process. Last month, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected that petition.

“As usual, the Supreme Court supported and validated the actions of the Cyber Unit,” Nashif said. “And now they’re trying to suppress the Palestinian voice by intensifying these requests for takedowns.”

Nashif could not confirm that Israel’s Cyber Unit is behind the latest alleged censorship. But through Adalah and ACRI’s use of the Freedom of Information Law, 7amleh knows the government entity made more than 15,000 requests last year to social media platforms. Nashif explained:

We don’t have evidence about what’s happened in the last week because neither the Cyber Unit nor Facebook is transparent about the takedowns. But it’s clear from following them, researching their policies, speaking with people working in Facebook and from the different appeals in the court against the Cyber Unit, we know that this is obviously happening.”

 

Escalating violence, growing grassroots action

Tensions in Jerusalem and throughout Palestine have intensified in recent days. At the time of writing, Israeli airstrikes have killed 87 Gazan Palestinians, including 18 children, and rocket fire from Hamas, the resistance movement governing Gaza, has killed six Israelis and one Indian national. More than 530 Palestinians have been injured and 28 Israelis wounded.

Israeli forces have fired skunk water and stun grenades at crowds demonstrating against the expulsions of Sheikh Jarrah residents. Armed groups of Israelis are currently storming Palestine’s streets—chanting “Death to Arabs,” destroying Palestinian properties, and attacking Palestinians.

Palestinians Gaza

Palestinians carry the body of a child found in the rubble home destroyed by a precision Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, May 13, 2021. Abdel Kareem Hana | AP

Palestinians Gaza

A relative mourns over the bodies of four young brothers from the Tanani family killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, May 14, 2021. Khalil Hamra | AP

Palestinians Gaza

A wounded boy lies on a stretcher following an Israeli attack in Beit Lahiya, Gaza, May 10, 2021. Mohammed Ali | AP


An paramedic checks the blood pressure of a young Israeli girl after her building was hit by a rocket in Ashkelon, May 12, 2021. Tsafrir Abayov | AP

Israeli soldier

The body of Israeli soldier Omer Tabib,21, killed by an anti-tank missile near Gaza, is carried during his funeral. Sebastian Scheiner | AP

The Israeli Supreme Court postponed a court hearing on the possible dispossession facing Sheikh Jarrah families, including the El-Kurds. The court is expected to set a new date in 30 days.

While the Israeli authorities continue crushing Palestinian dissent on the ground, Nashif said Palestinian voices remain silenced online as well.

“Our feeling is that it’s less now because we are getting fewer requests to appeal. But it is still happening,” Nashif said, referring to how the Israeli Cyber Unit, artificial intelligence, and pro-Israel internet communities like Act.IL are all part of the campaign to diminish the Palestinian perspective on social media.

“You have to understand that this is a fight on narrative,” Nashif said. “There is a strong attempt to suppress the Palestinian narrative.”

Feature photo | Relatives of 11-year-old Hussain Hamad, who was killed by an Israeli airstrike mourn during his funeral in the family home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, May 11, 2021. Khalil Hamra | AP

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

The post Facebook, Social Media Giants Admit to Silencing Palestinian Voices Online appeared first on MintPress News.

Cartoon: Facebook's oversight orb

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/05/2021 - 7:50am in

Tags 

Comics, Facebook

Facebook’s oversight board made some news this week for issuing a toothless decree about kicking a certain ex-president off their platform. A shame actual regulations don’t apply to them and they get to make up their own on the fly.

What Facebook Unwittingly Reveals in its Ban of LifeSiteNews for Covid Misinformation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 08/05/2021 - 3:12am in

Facebook’s ban of LifeSiteNews a notoriously ultraconservative website that regularly spreads disinformation about abortion—for its...

Between Nazis and democracy activists: social media and the free speech dilemma

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/04/2021 - 12:55pm in

Once hailed as the great democratizers, social media platforms are now under fire for failing to moderate hate speech.

On June 6, 2020 I participated in Berlin’s Black Lives Matter demonstration. Thousands of people turned out, despite the pandemic, in solidarity with those who were demonstrating across the United States to protest the police killing of George Floyd—and to protest police killings of people of color in Germany. The mass gathering in the middle of the city’s historic Alexanderplatz was a powerful sight; standing there, wearing my mask and face shield, I felt for a moment as though things might change.

Exactly 10 years earlier and halfway around the world, another act of horrific police brutality occurred and changed the course of history. Khaled Saeed, a 28-year-old Egyptian man who lived in Alexandria, was sitting in a cybercafé when plainclothes police officers barged in and demanded to see everyone’s identification. Saeed refused. In response the officers, who almost never encountered defiance from the cowed citizens of the authoritarian state, began to beat him. They dragged him outside, continuing to batter him in full view of numerous witnesses. At one point, Saeed cried out, “I’m dying!” to which an officer responded: “I’m not leaving you until you are dead.” They drove off with Saeed’s lifeless body and returned 10 minutes later to dump it at the same place they had attacked him.

I was finishing my book, Silicon Values: The Future of Free Speech Under Surveillance Capitalism on the day a teenage shop clerk in Minneapolis called 911 to report a customer he suspected of having passed him a counterfeit $20 bill. Derek Chauvin was one of the responding police officers who arrested George Floyd soon after. A bystander used her phone to record the shocking spectacle of Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly 10 minutes as he gasped for breath, begged for mercy, and ultimately died. The video of the incident sparked a global movement.

While writing my book I thought about the ties that bind us, across borders; our commonalities, our differences, and the ways in which powerful actors place limits on how we communicate, how we organize, and how we express ourselves.

The chapters covering the role that social media platforms had played in the Arab uprisings of 2010-2011 and in the Movement for Black Lives were done by the time the protests of 2020 erupted and I was working on the book’s conclusion, in which I wrote:

“Police brutality and repression in Egypt and the United States are inextricably linked, through global networks of power and capitalism and more directly through military aid and training, but also through the similar ways in which the powerful seek to quash dissent—which includes platform censorship.”

In Egypt, Saeed’s death inspired activists to create a Facebook page called “We are all Khaled Saeed,” which became a place where thousands of Egyptians participated in conversations and polls about the oppressive state, police violence and repression. Later, it was the place where activists called for the protests that led to the January 25 revolution—an uprising that inspired numerous movements throughout the region and the world and shaped the ensuing decade. But the Egyptian revolution might never have begun as it did if events had evolved differently.

During the decade prior to the 2011 uprising, Egypt saw a blogging boom, with people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds writing outspoken commentary about social and political issues, even though they ran the risk of arrest and imprisonment for criticizing the state. The internet provided space for discussions that had previously been restricted to private gatherings; it also enabled cross-national dialogue throughout the region, between bloggers who shared a common language. Public protests weren’t unheard of—in fact, as those I interviewed for the book argued, they had been building up slowly over time—but they were sporadic and lacked mass support.

While some bloggers and social media users chose to publish under their own names, others were justifiably concerned for their safety. And so, the creators of “We Are All Khaled Saeed” chose to manage the Facebook page using pseudonyms.

Facebook, however, has always had a policy that forbids the use of “fake names,” predicated on the misguided belief that people behave with more civility when using their “real” identity. Mark Zuckerberg famously claimed that having more than one identity represents a lack of integrity, thus demonstrating a profound lack of imagination and considerable ignorance. Not only had Zuckerberg never considered why a person of integrity who lived in an oppressive authoritarian state might fear revealing their identity, but he had clearly never explored the rich history of anonymous and pseudonymous publishing.

In November 2010, just before Egypt’s parliamentary elections and a planned anti-regime demonstration, Facebook, acting on a tip that its owners were using fake names, removed the “We are all Khaled Saeed” page.

At this point I had been writing and communicating for some time with Facebook staff about the problematic nature of the policy banning anonymous users. It was Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S., where I lived at the time, but a group of activists scrambled to contact Facebook to see if there was anything they could do. To their credit, the company offered a creative solution: If the Egyptian activists could find an administrator who was willing to use their real name, the page would be restored.

They did so, and the page went on to call for what became the January 25 revolution.

A few months later, I joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation and began to work full-time in advocacy, which gave my criticisms more weight and enabled me to communicate more directly with policymakers at various tech companies.

Three years later, while driving across the United States with my mother and writing a piece about social media and the Egyptian revolution, I turned on the hotel television one night and saw on the news that police in Ferguson, Missouri had shot an 18-year-old Black man, Michael Brown, sparking protests that drew a disproportionate militarized response.

The parallels between Egypt and the United States struck me even then, but only in 2016 did I become fully aware. That summer, a police officer in Minnesota pulled over 32-year-old Philando Castile—a Black man—at a traffic stop and, as he reached for his license and registration, fatally shot him five times at close range.

Castile’s partner, Diamond Reynolds, was in the passenger’s seat and had the presence of mind to whip out her phone in the immediate aftermath, streaming her exchange with the police officer on Facebook Live.

Almost immediately, Facebook removed the video. The company later restored it, citing a “technical glitch,” but the incident demonstrated the power that technology companies—accountable to no one but their shareholders and driven by profit motives—have over our expression.

The internet brought about a fundamental shift in the way we communicate and relate to one another, but its commercialization has laid bare the limits of existing systems of governance. In the years following these incidents, content moderation and the systems surrounding it became almost a singular obsession. I worked to document the experiences of social media users, collaborated with numerous individuals, and learned about the structural limitations to changing the system.

Over the years, my views on the relationship between free speech and tech have evolved. Once I believed that companies should play no role in governing our speech, but later I shifted to pragmatism, seeking ways to mitigate the harm of their decisions and enforce limits on their power.

But while the parameters of the problem and its potential solutions grew clearer, so did my thesis: Content moderation— specifically, the uneven enforcement of already-inconsistent policies—disproportionately impacts marginalized communities and exacerbates existing structural power balances. Offline repression is, as it turns out, replicated online.

The 2016 election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency brought the issue of content moderation to the fore; suddenly, the terms of the debate shifted. Conservatives in the United States claimed they were unjustly singled out by Big Tech and the media amplified those claims—much to my chagrin, since they were not borne out by data. At the same time, the rise of right-wing extremism, disinformation, and harassment—such as the spread of the QAnon conspiracy and wildly inaccurate information about vaccines—on social media led me to doubt some of my earlier conclusions about the role Big Tech should play in governing speech.

That’s when I knew that it was time to write about content moderation’s less-debated harms and to document them in a book.

Setting out to write about a subject I know so intimately (and have even experienced firsthand), I thought I knew what I would say. But the process turned out to be a learning experience that caused me to rethink some of my own assumptions about the right way forward.

One of the final interviews I conducted for the book was with Dave Willner, one of the early policy architects at Facebook. Sitting at a café in San Francisco just a few months before the pandemic hit, he told me: “Social media empowers previously marginal people, and some of those previously marginal people are trans teenagers and some are neo-Nazis. The empowerment sense is the same, and some of it we think is good and some of it we think is not good. The coming together of people with rare problems or views is agnostic.”

That framing guided me in the final months of writing. My instinct, based on those early experiences with social media as a democratizing force, has always been to think about the unintended consequences of any policy for the world’s most vulnerable users, and it is that lens that guides my passion for protecting free expression. But I also see now that it is imperative never to forget a crucial fact—that the very same tools which have empowered historically marginalized communities can also enable their oppressors.

The post Between Nazis and democracy activists: social media and the free speech dilemma appeared first on The Conversationalist.

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