By Margaret Kimberley, published on Black Agenda Report, January 22, 2020
“Black people are routinely sent to “facebook jail” if their words anger racist white people.”
In its early days the internet seemed to be an undisputed good, a means of communication open to all. It was hoped that these new platforms would level the playing field and give smaller outlets like Black Agenda Report access to a worldwide audience. The internet has done that but it is also a weapon that is used against the left in this country and against nations and movements declared enemies by this government.
In the rush of enthusiasm one important fact was forgotten. The internet is in the hands of private corporations. They decide who gets service, where they get it and at what speed. The growth of social media only exacerbated the problems of corporate control.
This columnist uses Facebook and Twitter and other platforms by necessity. They are sources of information and important means of communication. But they are controlled by powerful corporate entities who work hand in hand with the government. Ultimately they decide who can be seen and who cannot.
“Private corporations decide who gets service, where they get it and at what speed.”
When the U.S. government speaks, Facebook and Twitter listen and then do as they are told. When foreign governments are declared adversaries their representatives and advocates are censored. In the past year, the Syrian government and the Venezuelan government have been temporarily blocked on Twitter. Sites such as Telesur have been repeatedly removed from Facebook. Numerous Palestinian advocacy sites have been removed from Facebook at the behest of the Israeli government.
Facebook decides if “community standards” have been violated and restrict anyone who violates their opaque rules. Black people are routinely sent to “facebook jail” if their words anger racist white people.
But the loss of access is not the biggest problem. When the United States government killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani they also wanted to kill off his memory. Facebook posts which spoke of him in any favorable light were removed. Facebook isn’t alone in joining the governmental directive. The Iranian English language service, Presstv, was removed from Youtube, which is owned by Google. Years of reporting and interviews, including some given by this columnist, disappeared into the black hole of cyberspace. When the U.S. began ratcheting up its maximum pressure, the corporate sector went right along and Presstv was sent down the memory hole.
“Presstv was removed from Youtube, which is owned by Google.”
Censorship has gotten worse because of liberals, not conservatives, and they have used the Russiagate fraud to accelerate the deplatforming process. Immediately after the 2016 election we were told that the Russian government was responsible for Trump’s victory and that censorship was the only thing standing between us and living under the control of Vladimir Putin.
The infamous Proporrnot list declared that Black Agenda Report and other sites were under Russian influence. Ever since that list was published in late 2016 many left sites lost visibility on Google and other search engines.
Now Trump administration sanctions are impacting our ability to communicate in a variety of ways. Not only were references to Soleimani removed, but the use of the word “Iran” can result in censorship and the inability to complete financial transactions. The Grayzone project reported that Paypal restricted donations from anyone who mentioned the word Iran.
It must be repeated that Trump has plenty of help from Democrats and liberals in this regard. Pleas for Facebook “fact checking” will result in more censorship of black people and of anyone who happens to voice opinions that run counter to the imperialist narrative.
“The use of the word “Iran” can result in censorship.”
Already Russia is being blamed for election interference, yet Russia is not the target. The left is the target and Democrats are leading the charge. Their goal is to narrow discourse and to make war propaganda acceptable. It is an irony and a contradiction that while Trump is falsely accused of being under Russian influence, his policy goals are furthered with help from liberals. U.S. imperialism is a thoroughly bipartisan project.
This collusion between the wings of the duopoly must be kept in mind during the farcical impeachment. The Democrats could have added the war crime of the Soleimani assassination to their articles of impeachment. But they are complicit in this regard and will mention nothing of substance. Instead they have only one flimsy charge that is a cynical get out the vote effort and a source of anti-Russian propaganda.
As long as the internet is in private hands it should be seen as a “frenemy,” a useful resource that can also be wielded as a weapon. These platforms cannot be trusted unless or until they are publicly regulated. In the meantime, our reliance on them comes at a price.
Margaret Kimberley is a Senior Editor at Black Agenda Report and blogs at Freedom Rider. She is on the UNAC Administrative Committee. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.