Thursday, May 30, 2019

Facebook removes video of a "Proud Boys" press conference based on its "Dangerous" ban, raising questions as to whether journalists can use the platform with integrity

Wednesday, Ford Fischer, owner of News2Share in Washington DC, reported that Facebook had removed a livestream that he had filmed near the Lincoln Memorial on Monday May 20, 2019, of the Proud Boys announcing a lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center.
I will provide the link from YouTube for this News2Share video, this time without embedding it.  The visitor should form her own conclusions after watching it. 

The SBS in Australia has a brief “Dateline” excerpt where Gavin McInnes explains what he sees as society’s war on masculinity and manhood.  This seems more like just a challenge to radical feminism.

I recall a news report where some Proud Boys members were arrested in NYC after a brawl with Antifa.  It didn’t sound like a terribly earthshattering incident.

Milo Yiannopolous had appeared at one of their events and then Patreon bluntly told him he could not use their service because he had been associated with the group at all.
Wikipedia, which is generally pretty balanced, does characterize them as Neo-fascist, and yet I hear very little in the way of factual reporting that backs up such a damaging assertion.

Ford Fischer describes his issue in a long tweet and also on Facebook, which did allow his report on the removal of the video to stay. He says he was the only journalist covering the press conference.  Yet the public should know about this.

I answered this with a tweet storm of my own.

The reason for the takedown seems to be, bluntly, that Facebook had named Gavin McInnes as a “dangerous individual” and has an explicit policy regarding “dangerous individuals and organizations” here.  Yet McInnes apparently has quit the group
The policy seeks not only to ban them from using Facebook, but also to prohibit others from covering them with news stories or discussing them except to condemn them – effectively “quarantine” them.
This is particularly objectionable because of Facebook’s monopoly on social media – Chris Hughes is right, Facebook has too much political power.  It is hard, based on the facts, for me to believe that a few of them “deserve” such a public condemnation.
But it is true that a large portion of the Far Left perceives a “Nazi-like” threat to previously oppressed groups and believes, maybe from the example set by Germany in the 1930s, “quarantine” and forced solidarity is the only way to counter the threat – a combative approach. 
It is pretty easy to see the threat from radical Islam (ISIS and Al Qaeda) and single it out, and it is fairly easy to recognized dangerous states like North Korea and Iran and isolate them from US or western social media.  It is much harder to separate out fascism, or even separate it from communism at the extremes.  Anti-Semitism or overt racism is much harder to separate from passivity or indifference to intersectional claims.  Facebook calls “white nationalism” to be equivalent to “white supremacy”.  Yet does this means that governments like those of Hungary now in Europe (ethno-identity on the right) to be considered as “dangerous”?  Furthermore, the gay community is split over the more radical demands of the trans community and the idea of personal “body fascism”, as a few YouTube videos recently have shown.

The Verge and Engadget both report that Twitter (“The Church of Jack Dorsey” as Tim Pool calls it) is now relooking at how it should handle what the left calls neo-fascism, when some of it is probably just closer to mainstream conservatism and sometimes even to libertarianism.

In the meantime, I have to say that if a social media company (especially Facebook) wants to “quarantine” certain individuals and groups based on a “no fly list”, it is very difficult for journalists to use the service with integrity.  The mere continued use of the platform might imply a liberal bias and undermine objectivity.  There could even be problems with "mainstream media" continuing to use the platform for news if that implies omissions and lack of objectivity now.  

On the other hand, Facebook has said it is pulling back from welcoming journalism or pretending it can replace major “professional” media with amateurs and maintain objectivity. (And the “professional” media did not prove trustworthy on the Covington Boys case;  it was independent journalists like Tim Pool who busted the original story, resulting in defamation lawsuits against several major media companies.)   It wants communities to use it for personal matters, fund raising, charities, art projects, and even emotional support. 
I may need this indeed when I have my music and novel ready later, but right now, it’s a problem when I use it for “reporting” because now I can’t be objective if I have to exclude certain groups or persons.

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