Aug 14, 2018
For the second time this year, Facebook has suspended teleSUR English's page, claiming the left-leaning Latin American news network violated the social media platform's terms of service without any further explanation--a move that provoked outrage and concern among journalists, free speech advocates, and Big Tech critics.
In a short article posted on teleSUR's website on Monday, the regional news network--which is based in Venezuela but also has received funding from Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua--explained:
teleSUR English's page has been removed from Facebook for the second time this year without any specific reason being provided. It should be noted that the first time this occurred back in January 2018, Facebook did NOT provide any explanation in spite of our best efforts to understand their rationale. This is an alarming development in light of the recent shutting down of pages that don't fit a mainstream narrative.
According to the outlet, "the only communication" teleSUR has received from Facebook is the following message:
The network has turned to Twitter to raise awareness about Facebook's move, tweeting with the hashtag #BringBackteleSUREnglish:
\u201c#Breaking | Facebook has delete our Facebook page for the second time this year without any explanation. Please spread the word and help us get our page back. #BringBackteleSUREnglish\nhttps://t.co/6AFFZDWUiy\u201d— teleSUR English (@teleSUR English) 1534199824
Max Blumenthal, editor of The Grayzone Project, called Facebook's decision "deeply disturbing." He also noted that the platform recently banned Venezuelanalysis.com, which like teleSUR offers a leftist perspective on Latin America, and raised alarm about Facebook's work with the Digital Forensic Research Lab, a project of the Atlantic Council, a NATO-backed, D.C.-based think tank:
\u201cFacebook's removal of @telesurenglish follows its arbitrary deletion of @venanalysis, another outlet offering a leftist perspective on Latin American affairs. Though the page was reinstated, its publishers never received an explanation from FB. https://t.co/ho6OjSBBBU\u201d— Max Blumenthal (@Max Blumenthal) 1534199708
After Facebook banned Venezuelanalysis.com, Blumenthal shared his concerns on Aaron Mate's podcast for The Real News:
\u201cFacebook's shuttering of @telesurenglish 's page comes days after it did the same to @venanalysis page w/o explanation. The latest outgrowth of FB's Orwellian partnership w/ the Atlantic Council. ICMYI, @MaxBlumenthal discussed it w/ me on @TheRealNews : https://t.co/3XayXXpg34\u201d— Aaron Mat\u00e9 (@Aaron Mat\u00e9) 1534211513
Venezuelanalysis.com, for its part on Tuesday, offered solidarity to teleSUR against Facebook's "repressive actions," tweeting:
\u201cOutragous!\nWe at @venanalysis offer all our solidarity & cries of rebellion against this repressive action from FB \n\nOnly days ago, we ourselves were randomly removed from FB, only to be reinstated after popular pressure on social media\nEnough is enough!\n#BringBackteleSUREnglish\u201d— venezuelanalysis.com (@venezuelanalysis.com) 1534208328
Comedian and activist Lee Camp, who hosts a comedy news show on RT America--a Russian government-funded, D.C.-based television news network that has been harshly ridiculed (pdf) by the U.S. intelligence community--praised teleSUR as "one of the best online resources for debunking Western propaganda about Venezuela."
\u201cAs the US-led economic war on Venezuela continues, Facebook removes a Venezuelan-headquartered news network\u2019s Facebook page, Telesur English, one of the best online resources for debunking Western propaganda about Venezuala.\n\nhttps://t.co/pH1HqiajBa\u201d— Lee Camp [Redacted] (@Lee Camp [Redacted]) 1534205866
Sameera Khan, a correspondent for RT America, praised teleSUR's coverage of the Pakistani elections, and also raised alarm about Facebook's partnership with the Atlantic Council:
\u201cWith little resources, @telesurenglish covered Pakistan\u2019s elections better than any other international news network.\n\nWhy is the left always silenced? #BringBackteleSUREnglish\u201d— sameera khan (@sameera khan) 1534218476
\u201cI am sorry for flooding your news feeds with #BringBackTelesurEnglish tweets but I simply cannot ignore Facebook\u2019s censorship of left-wing media.\n\nThis is what happens when social media platforms partner with NATO-funded think tanks to police free speech.\u201d— sameera khan (@sameera khan) 1534224276
Glenn Greenwald connected the incident to the broader issue of urging social media companies to censor users, pointing to The Intercept's reporting on other instances of platforms silencing leftist voices:
Facebook's decision to suspend teleSUR comes after Facebook, Apple, Google-owned YouTube, and Spotify banned right-wing radio show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. While the bans on Jones were welcomed by many, free speech advocates such as the digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged caution, pointing to the other voices that have been--or could be in the future--silenced by increasingly powerful social media and online platforms.
"We should be extremely careful before rushing to embrace an Internet that is moderated by a few private companies by default, one where the platforms that control so much public discourse routinely remove posts and deactivate accounts because of objections to the content," EFF senior staff attorney David Greene wrote for The Washington Post Monday.
"The power that these platforms have over the online public sphere should worry all of us, no matter whether we agree or disagree with a given content decision," Greene added. "We must demand that they apply their rules consistently and provide clear, accessible avenues for meaningful appeal."
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