'Deeply Disturbing': For Second Time This Year, Facebook Suspends Left-Leaning teleSUR English Without Explanation
"It seems like the censorship power many people on the left want Silicon Valley executives to unilaterally exercise might end up being wielded against the left. One good way to know that would happen is that is already is happening."
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:
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:
After Facebook banned Venezuelanalysis.com, Blumenthal shared his concerns on Aaron Maté's podcast for The Real News:
Venezuelanalysis.com, for its part on Tuesday, offered solidarity to teleSUR against Facebook's "repressive actions," tweeting:
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."
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:
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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