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#ShutItDownDC, a completely real and genuine coalition of more than 30 groups from the Washington DC and other areas, is organizing a counter protest against Unite The Right 2, an event organized by none other than Jason Kessler, the man responsible for the violent protest in Charlottesville in 2017 that took the life of Heather Heyer and seriously injured numerous others.
Facebook’s privacy practices and judgement calls have been seriously called into question lately by just about everyone. Although the company has been trying to reassure everyone, with a massive marketing campaign, how it’s changing its ways, it doesn’t seem to really be making any actual useful changes.
But yesterday, its idea of “doing something about it” appears to be shutting down at least one real event page. The reason? You’re not going to believe this; Facebook is claiming that the page was put up by Russian-based conspiracy troll accounts. Yes those accounts; the same ones that influenced the #2016 #Election.
Facebook is making a bad situation worse with its misguided censorship. All we know is that whatever vetting process it’s using is truly flawed. An apology is in order; and the runaway news cycle just keeps repeating the company’s misinformed statements.
Here is this situation explained by the New York Times, who spoke to Chelsea Manning about it.
One organizer, Chelsea Manning…said the counterprotest was “real and organic.” She called Facebook’s implication that the Resisters account had started it misleading.
“We started organizing several months ago,” Ms. Manning said. “Folks from D.C. and Charlottesville have been talking about this since at least February.”
Below: A Screen grab of the deleted “No Unite The Right 2” Facebook Event.
Here is a statement direct from #ShutItDownDC:
Earlier today, Facebook deleted numerous Facebook pages, including one event aimed at promoting a protest against Jason Kessler’s Unite The Right 2, the sequel no one asked for.
The Shut It Down DC Coaliton has been meeting for weeks. We took over the Facebook event created by outside groups, in a desire to keep it accountable to local organizers…We did not promote anyone’s views except our own.
White nationalism and supremacy is not a Russian ploy, it’s a systemic problem. Jason Kessler is not a Russian bot, he’s the foot soldier of the Trump agenda…
Black Lives Matter D.C. and numerous other groups are central to organizing against a real threat to D.C. We do not organize because of a FaceBook account purportedly run by Russia, we do this to make sure our loved ones, communities, and neighborhoods stay safe from fascists in, and out of, uniforms.
We’ve since created a new Facebook event but we know real organizing comes from talking with our neighbors, and that this is a real protest in Washington, D.C. It is not George Soros, it is not Russia, it is just us. Facebook, has left numerous white nationalists pages openly promoting hate up for months at a time, claiming their hands were tied. They regularly suspended Black Lives Matter, Antifascist Groups, and Black Lives Matter member accounts. They have taken down real organizing.
Here is this situation explained in Wired:
Facebook has taken down 32 fake pages and accounts that it says were involved in coordinated campaigns on both Facebook and Instagram. Though the company has not yet attributed the accounts to any group, it says the campaign does bear some resemblance to the propaganda campaign run by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. Facebook is now working with law enforcement to determine where the campaign originated.
In the Wired article, it also explains how Facebook felt pressure to “get ahead” of what it thought was a fake event, and in its haste, neglected to thoroughly investigate the matter:
One event, a protest against Unite the Right in Washington called “No Unite the Right 2 – DC,” was scheduled for August 10th. It was cohosted by other, legitimate pages, and more than 3,000 people indicated they were interested in or planned on attending. The desire to get out ahead of this event, Facebook says, hastened its announcement. The company says it disabled the event on Tuesday and alerted the administrators of those pages. It will also notify those users who were interested in attending the event, but a spokesperson told WIRED it’s “premature” to alert all 290,000 people impacted by the campaign.
Shortly after the announcement, other organizers of the protest took to Twitter to object to Facebook’s suspension of the event. “I cannot believe I have to say this: The Unite the Right counter protest is not being organized by Russians,” wrote one user, Dylan Petrohilos. “We have permits in DC, we have numerous local orgs like BLM, Resist This, and Antifascist groups working on this protest. FB deleted the event because 1 page was sketch.” Petrohilos also tweeted that the event was founded by another group, not the Resisters page.
Also in the Wired article, Facebook’s Cheryl Sandberg admits “they don’t know all the facts” yet:
“We’re still in the very early stages of the investigation, and we don’t know all the facts, including who might be behind it,” Facebook’s chief operating officer said on a call with reporters Tuesday.
Here is Facebook’s official announcement on the matter.
4. White Supremacist Jason Kessler Gets Approval for D.C. Rally on Charlottesville Anniversary, By Paul Blest, Splinter News https://splinternews.com/white-supremacist-jason-kessler-gets-approval-for-d-c-1827003261
5. Facebook Identifies an Active Political Influence Campaign Using Fake Accounts, By Nicholas Fandos and Kevin Roose, New York Times, July 31, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/31/us/politics/facebook-political-campaign-midterms.html
6. Fake Facebook Accounts Are Getting Harder to Trace, By Issie Lapowsky,Wired, July 31, 2018 https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-uncovers-new-fake-accounts-ahead-of-midterm-elections/