Covert agents gaming Facebook to suppress political dialogue and censor information

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Here is an illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document.

 

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Yesterday morning whilst I was sharing this post in groups on Facebook, I received a notification informing me that my account was temporarily restricted, and that I wasn’t allowed to comment or post in Facebook groups for three days. No reason for the ban was provided, though the notice allowed me to click on “appeal,” which I did. But Facebook staff never read and respond to appeals or feedback.

This is the third such ban I have had from Facebook in the last twelve months, I have never been given any reasons for the restrictions on my account, and I have asked several times for them. There is provision for flagging up errors by following a link that says “if you think you are seeing this notice by mistake.” Facebook have never once provided any explanation of their actions, nor have they responded to my appeal or to any accounts of my experience. 

My post had been removed in some of the groups I’d posted in and people informed me that where it remained, when they tried to open the link, it said “Content not available.”

There is nothing in the article that breaches Facebook’s “Community Standards” or that is offensive. There was nothing in the previous blogs that earned me a ban which could be deemed abusive or offensive either.

My previous bans happened the day after the election and earlier this month. Both times I was posting one of my own articles when the account restrictions were applied. I wasn’t even informed of the duration of the ban on the previous occasions. Just prior to the last ban, someone reported a meme by Robert Livingstone that I used as a group photo in a Facebook group I set up. Facebook notified me that the person complaining had said it contained “graphic violence”, though in fairness, it wasn’t removed.

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The “offending” meme

The group in question is all about criticising Conservative anti-welfare policies, exposing Iain Duncan Smith and the government’s anti-humanist ideological prescriptions. Someone clearly shouldn’t have joined.

At the same time, someone also reported several of my personal photos on my own page as “offensive” and my account as “fake” so this is looking like a targeted campaign to try and restrict the sharing of my posts. It’s not the first time this has happened. I also know that I’m not the only person this has happened to. My site is reasonably popular, with 1, 143, 370 readers so far, and my articles also get quite widely shared. However, someone somewhere clearly doesn’t like what I write.

I left a couple of groups last year because Facebook sent me a notification whenever I tried to post an article on those sites that the content had been reported as “abusive or offensive” by members. They were groups claiming to support the Labour Party. As far as bloggers go, I’m probably amongst the top ten most pro-Labour commentators. But regardless of which party you support, censorship should bother everyone. It’s not only humble bloggers that are being silenced. It’s not so long ago that government agents marched into a Guardian office and smashed up the hard drives storing the Snowden leaks. Once you hear the jackboots, it’s too late.

Someone told me that the article earning me the ban has probably been reported by a group of people determined to trigger a Facebook algorithm in order to get the ban imposed.

Political gaming and manipulating group discussion outcomes on Facebook by using an algorithm for the censorship of reasonable and factual comments or information that you disagree with is a very problematic and particularly totalitarian tactic. If that’s what you have to resort to, it means that you have no credible arguments, can’t engage in mature dialogue and it reflects very badly on your opinions, world-view, personal integrity and ethics more generally.

Most groups I am a member of are left-leaning political debate groups – if you can’t debate democratically and have to resort to such oppressive and cowardly tactics to shut down discussion then it really is time for you to leave. With articles, you always have the option of not reading them. Especially recommended for those of you with right-wing fragile ego syndome, incoherent ideologies and non-robust views and prejudices. And GCHQ.

Now for the punchline. I have a Facebook Community page – Politics and Insights – where Facebook regularly offer to “boost” my posts for a fee. I don’t make any money from writing and so don’t have cash to invest in promoting my site. The post that got me the ban was shared a lot from my page, and so Facebook offered to boost it, only if I paid money, of course … 

Last year I was harrassed by the charming Tommy Robinson, co-founder of the far-right English Defence League (EDL), on Twitter. I told him to stop mithering me and to go peddle far-right myths elsewhere. He then designed a meme that used my account photograph and details, claiming I had said that “child abuse is a far-right myth”, which of course is untrue. I didn’t mention child abuse at all. There was also an invitation on the meme for people to “let her know what you think of this” and details of my account were on there with the comment “she can be found here.”

The meme was circulated repeatedly by Britain First, some UKIP groups, on the National Front page, amongst others. As a consequence I received numerous death threats, threats of rape and a threat involving Combat 18, a neo-Nazi organisation, that is the armed branch of Blood and Honour. My crime? Simply being a Labour Party supporter and irritating Tommy Robinson by telling him to do one from my Twitter page. It’s also possible that my involvement with the Rock Against Racism movement back in the eighties marked my card.

I involved the police, and reports were made to Facebook about Tommy Robinson’s nasty design by a police officer and others regarding the malicious content of the meme and concerns about my personal safety. Guess what? Facebook did not remove the meme or ban any of the posters. The meme wasn’t just malicious, nor did it compromise just my own safety – my children also received threats – it was illegal, too. 

Perhaps it’s time for an alternative to Facebook, a large social media platform where the Tories can’t buy favours and power, and where free speech is actually permitted. I don’t think Facebook banned my post and restricted my account because of a political motivation to do so. But those who reported my article to trigger the ban definitely have a political agenda, and Facebook don’t care about that, nor do they apply “Community Standards” consistently, fairly and when they actually ought to.

Meanwhile I’m not sure about the value of complaining to Facebook, I have yet to have a response from them. However it may be done at the Feedback link. It may also be useful to report the algorithm as a bug.

Further reading

Coup engulfs Facebook’s largest Corbyn group

Letter to the Guardian from Amnesty International and other Human Rights Organisations –Inquiry needed into GCHQ’s spying on us

“Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, have long been the source of speculation.

Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, [co-author of “Nudge”], a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-independent advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.

Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government.” Glenn Greenwald – How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

The banned post. Please share widely – Doctors bribed with 70-90k salaries to join Maximus and “endorse a political agenda regardless of how it affects patients.”

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23 thoughts on “Covert agents gaming Facebook to suppress political dialogue and censor information

  1. I had the same experience when posting pro Palestine arguments on the friends of the IDF page its corporate sponsors calling the shots on the secret censoring set up they have a dictatorship is afoot

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I closed and also asked Facebook to delete my account,although I can no longer log in others can still access what was my page, I left Facebook due to its double standards ie anyone can post derogatory/offensive posts about you and when you report them Facebook always says the same thing “there is nothing that breeches our rules” and a post I made re IDS was removed even though my post only stated that he and the UK government were being investigated regarding discrimination against the Disabled and vulnerable! Apparently we are allowed to post Nice things but not the truth ,really sorry that they are again victimising the one real voice we have on Facebook and I really hope you are able to take them to task over it .all the best kitty Derek Hartley-Turpin On 29 Jan 2016 6:00 am, “Politics and Insights” wrote:

    > Kitty S Jones posted: ” Here is an illustrative list of tactics from the > latest GCHQ document Yesterday morning whilst I was sharing this post > in groups on Facebook, I received a notice informing me that my account was > restricted, and that I wasn’t allowed to” >

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m not surprised nothing is beyond the Tories and never has been for the national front, I would be willing to allow you to post on my facebook if that would help in any way?
    Going on from that I wonder if you have considered sending Jeremy Corbin a message asking him to bring this up at PMQ’s it’s something that needs to be in the open that’s for sure.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Reblogged this on wgrovedotnet and commented:
    It would seem there is a price to pay for being intelligent, perceptive and robust in reporting truths which other people want silenced. What is more worrisome, is that Facebook is being used to disadvantage certain popular opinion writers without allowing for any opportunity to challenge such corrupt activity. An alternative media site to Facebook is therefore, much needed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have been banned from Facebook and my yahoo account has disappeared because of my comments regarding banks, so I am fully aware of the censorship that takes place

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I suppose it becomes something of a badge of honour – because it’s the fundamental truths that are being censored. The government does not like challenges, that has been long-established. But this is supposed to be a first-world liberal democracy and it’s tough luck to this bunch of despots. I won’t be stopping criticising them any time soon

      Like

      1. The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. By simply not mentioning certain subjects, by lowering what Mr. Churchill calls an “iron curtain” between the masses and such facts or arguments as the local political bosses regard as undesirable, totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have done by the most eloquent denunciations, the most compelling of logical rebuttals.

        i think this from the foreword of Brave New World sums up the silencing of dissent, they want to keep us ignorant of what is going on.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m not well at the moment, so I’m not up too writing much – severe kidney infection and lupus-related problems. But whilst I’m on an involuntary break I’ll think this through some more. Thanks for a very excellent idea x

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m probably going to sound incredibly dumb and naive but here goes.I recently came across an article that I wanted to get “out there” and knew my own blog and F/b wouldn’t do it justice. I sent the link to Mike Sivier of Vox Political with an attendant request to peruse and he obliged. There are several sites that have guest articles who would benefit greatly from an article written by you, Left Futures, Jack of Kent, Off Guardian, SP Eye Joe, BDTN all of them would benefit from a greater readership and the more you spread yourself about (excuse the terminology) the less likely it is that anyone or any group could attack you without making it very obvious what they were about. That would indeed give Jeremy Corbyn something to take to PMQ’s as Carole above suggested. In the meantime, I always repost on F/B whatever you send and there are groups who have specific names denoting what they stand for, who will likely do the same for you. Then all you would need is an email account and a list of names of F/B people willing to let you use their page, again, just as Carole suggested. Perhaps ther is a way to use my F/B page (since I only repost from others) and you can use it as your Politics and Insights site.
    Told you I wasn’t very bright about these things, but Carole and I want to help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First of all, opposition MPs aren’t even allowed to call the government liars, there are codes of parliamentary conduct that have to be followed or the MP simply gets asked to leave. Secondly, proving that IDS is directly responsible for deaths is difficult, not least because the government persistently deny a connection between their policy and the deaths, and hide the evidence, refuse to investigate further, and so on. It’s also very difficult to prove intent to kill someone. Though you and I know the score, here. If there was no intent, there would surely have been an investigation into the increase in deaths and suicide by now.

      The police and doctors, for that matter, do as they are told by the government. The law shapes their behaviours. Our laws are being quietly edited and re-written by this government. This is what authoritarianism looks like.

      Labour have repeatedly raised the policy and deaths, many such as Debbie Abrahams, Sheila Gilmore, Anne Begg, Dennis Skinner, John McDonnell, Tom Greatex amongst others have done so for the last 5 years. The tories simply ridicule them. Jeremy Corbyn has also raised the issue at PMQs and was met with loud jeering and sneering and inappropriate responses. Your country men and women voted these thugs back in office – why not ask them why .

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s about time MI5 had a recent photo of me to update my file.
    A great article and doesn’t surprise me at all the depths “they’ll” sink to to shut us up, George Orwell made real.

    Liked by 1 person

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