This weekend, dozens of journalists and activists from across the country gathered in Houston, Texas, to share their stories and to discuss solutions to the increasing social media censorship that is threatening their careers.
It has been three months since Facebook launched a sweeping purge that targeted hundreds of pages and accounts. But while the claim was that they were simply violating Facebook’s spam policies, dozens of journalists and activists who were impacted believe that there is more to the story. On October 11, 2018, some of the leading names in alternative media were taken down by Facebook, and Twitter.
“We were both wiped off of Facebook the same day and Twitter, and we got a strike on YouTube. So this is a multiplatform move,” said Matt Savoy, co-founder of The Free Thought Project.
The Free Thought Project had more than 3 million followers when it was deleted, and its co-founders say that they believe the targeted attack is setting a dangerous precedent for the free press.
“If they’re taking down an operation like The Free Thought Project, it just goes to show that they have no concern for actually connecting people to actually sharing information on their platform that is going to help people understand the reality of the world we live in, especially in this country we live in.” said Jason Bassler, co-founder of The Free Thought Project and founder of Police The Police.
The Anti-Media had more than 2 million followers on Facebook when it was taken down, and its founder pointed to coordinated effort to control the voices that were questioning the establishment.
“They’re afraid that if they don’t get control of the narrative that there is going to be a continuation of unpredictability and that’s not good for their markets and that’s why they’re censoring people like us because we’re not captured by the military-industrial complex,” said Nicholas Bernabe, founder of The Anti-Media.
But even in cases where the pages were not deleted altogether, alternative news outlets have reported seeing their reach drop significantly on Facebook following the platform’s partnership with the Atlantic Council.
“We saw an immediate decline of our readership because of Facebook and Google’s partnership with some of the most notorious government officials and neoconservative and neoliberal think tanks,” said Mnar Muhawesh, founder of Mint Press News.
Mint Press News has more than 400,000 followers on Facebook but its founder said that readership dropped more than 60 percent after Facebook began its alleged “War on Fake News.”
“It’s an attempt to control the free flow of information by these tech giants who have basically been contracted by our government to infringe on our civil liberties and to infringe on our first amendment right to free speech and they’re doing this under the guise of fighting fake news,”Muhawesh said.
Instead of giving in to the social media giants, these journalists are refusing to back down.
“The demand is there, they can continue to delete us, they continue to remove our fans, but they’re never going to kill the demand,” Bassler said.
In an effort to fight back, dozens of journalists and activists came together this weekend for the United for Common Ground summit where they proposed solutions and pledged to work together in the face of adversity.
“We need something outside of these two heads that just argue and fight each other all of the time. Because once you break free from the left and the right, you actually begin thinking for yourself,” Savoy said.
While targeted censorship from platforms like Facebook have left these journalists without the income they once had, and looking for ways to keep their organizations afloat, there is hope that by coming together, they can protect the future of independent media.