Facebook's midterm purge of conservative pages well underway

Facebook is engaged in what the evidence suggests is a "midterm purge" of conservative news sites, and several prominent, old-school bloggers have been swept up in it.  The online platform removed "559 Pages and 251 accounts" for what they claimed were violations of the rules regarding spam and possessing multiple online accounts under false names to disseminate fake news.

Most prominent among them is Right Wing News.  With more than 3 million Facebook followers, you would think that even the censors at Facebook would recognize that RWN is an important part of the online conservative media.

Gizmodo reports on Facebook's fatuous reasoning:

In a blog post, Facebook cybersecurity policy head Nathaniel Gleicher and product manager Oscar Rodriguez explained that the 800 removals were prompted by violations of its rules against spam and "coordinated inauthentic behavior."  The post spends a lot of time explaining that most of the spam Facebook sees is financially motivated but it makes it clear that the pages it's speaking about today were at least using political content to drive traffic to their ad-supported websites.  It explains that these bad actors were using multiple accounts with the same name, or fraudulent accounts under fake names, and cross-promoting between groups to amplify its spread. This passage is all you really need to read:

Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites. Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.

Needless to say, to accuse such an experienced and noted conservative site of spamming people is outrageous.

RWN isn't the only prominent conservative site swept up in the purge:

The founder of RWN, John Hawkins, doesn't run the site anymore, but that didn't stop the New York Times from accusing Hawkins of disseminating fake news and spamming Facebook's platform:

When Christine Blasey Ford testified before Congress last month about Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh's alleged sexual assault, a website called Right Wing News sprang into action on Facebook.

The conservative site, run by the blogger John Hawkins, had created a series of Facebook pages and accounts over the last year under many names, according to Facebook.

After Dr. Blasey testified, Right Wing News posted several false stories about her – including the suggestion that her lawyers were being bribed by Democrats – and then used the network of Facebook pages and accounts to share the pieces so that they proliferated online quickly, social media researchers said.

The result was a real-time spreading of disinformation started by Americans, for Americans.

What Right Wing News did was part of a shift in the flow of online disinformation, falsehoods meant to mislead and inflame.  In 2016, before the presidential election, state-backed Russian operatives exploited Facebook and Twitter to sway voters in the United States with divisive messages.  Now, weeks before the midterm elections on Nov. 6, such influence campaigns are increasingly a domestic phenomenon fomented by Americans on the left and the right.

Several of the editors were outraged at Facebook's action:

John Hawkins, Tiffiny Ruegner, Brian Kolfage, and all the others I have worked with that are connected to Right Wing News and other sites are the most wonderful people I have ever met.  Both John and Brian are vets.  Brian is a military vet that gave both legs and a hand for his country.  Tiffiny is a political genius and a serious businesswoman.  They are all my friends as well and I will stand by them no matter what.

John Hawkins started Right Wing News many years ago.  He built it into the largest and most trusted conservative news site out there with a following of over 3.5 million people.  Brian Kolfage built on that and followed every rule that Facebook threw at him just as John and Tiffiny did.  But Facebook decided that Right Wing News was too informative, too influential on the right to exist so they have shut it down.  Both the New York Times and Facebook themselves were brazen enough to say it had to do with the midterm elections.  They also said lie after lie about John Hawkins and that will not go unanswered.

It should be noted that there is nothing unconstitutional about what Facebook did.  It is a private company and has the perfect freedom to censor anyone it damn well pleases.

The problem is that the people at Facebook are lying when they say they don't censor conservatives.  In this latest purge, they managed to include a couple of liberal spam pages just to maintain the fiction that they don't favor one side or another. 

The fact is, Facebook is being cheered on – as are other platforms like Twitter – by a political opposition absolutely committed to stifling the speech of those they disagree with.  They fear "fascism" so much that they, themselves, have adopted fascist tactics.  It is one of the great ironies in American history.

I just hope a competent historian is around in 100 years to write about it.