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Sometimes Coordinated, Always Authentic: Terrorism prevention efforts apply to G&R

Facebook’s efforts to detect and eradicate “coordinated inauthentic behavior” by Russian meddlers is a pretext to suppress political activism and counter-hegemonic initiatives.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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In the beginning of August, 2018, we tried to boost an article about climate change on Facebook, and we got this message:

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We looked up what the authorization process entailed, and didn’t even consider going through with it when we learned that:

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Let’s begin by clarifying why we are buying Facebook adds to begin with:

“Facebook already determines what posts you see and which you do not, both from friends and pages. Pages in particular are throttled heavily. For instance, Gods&Radicals has 10,000 followers but often our posts are only seen by 500-1000 people.

The only way that Facebook would allow a post to be seen by more followers is if you paid. It’s about 1 dollar per 100 people.”

-Rhyd Wildermuth, G&R’s Managing Editor

Regardless of whether you think we should be paying for adds or using Facebook at all as a platform, we need to discuss what it means for Governments and Corporations to have this kind of control over the dissemination of information and ideas, and the personal information and location of the people spreading them.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “was founded 15 years ago to prevent another 9/11, but today I believe the next major attack is more likely to reach us online than on an airplane.”

Kirstjen Nielsen

This FB-DHS twosome isn’t surprising, but it’s alarming. It means giving carte blanche to request and store names, locations/IP-addresses, and photos of anyone they want, and use that information who knows how. Treating political activism as a terrorist activity is a deliberate effort to intimidate activists, while at the same time manufacturing public support for fascist policies. When the State defines what “terrorism” is, it not only does that to justify unacceptable actions (military violence, censorship, etc…), it does that to ensure that label is never used against them.

Both editors of G&R are not currently residing in the U.S.A., and we are not interested in advertising our locations. Does that mean what we write and share is “meddling”? The U.S.A. has financed a military dictatorship in the country where I live, and controls essentially every aspect of our economy and of our electoral process. But we are not allowed to boost an article about how banning plastic straws doesn’t actually reverse Climate Change or even significantly reduces the amount of plastic dumped into the ocean… (Do I need to affirm that the oceans and Climate Change are not issues important only in U.S. American politics?)

This new policy doesn’t only affect foreigners or people outside the U.S., it affects everyone everywhere. If you’re on a U.S. IP-address but have your language set to Russian, or if you’re a regular English speaking American trying to increase attendance to a meeting, it’ll apply to you too. Eric O. Scott, a Pagan writer and labor organizer, was unable to publicize a meeting for the Democratic Socialists of America in Columbia, Missouri. He said that, even though he already is a public political figure, with class, gender and race privileges, he still chose not to complete the authorization process:

“it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which a state demands Facebook turn over all the registration information for anyone associated with a leftist page. […] And of course if promoting any kind of writing that could be considered ‘political’ requires registration, that’s requiring that anybody who wants to publicize writing that has actual substance will have to register. The chilling effects are huge.”

This policy is not an actual effort to promote media literacy. Identifying authenticity is something we indeed should focus on. But this Capitalist Democracy relies on the population’s inability to discern between authentic and inauthentic information. This policy is simply an attempt to keep the ability to manipulate “authentic passability” exclusive. Much like banning plastic straws, it is not something that will do what it claims to set out to do.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


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9 Comments »

  1. Thank you for this article. I decided very recently to try to come back to Facebook. I am still in the process of being validated like that, but now, after having read this, I have decided to just leave again as soon as it is done. Too troubling with censorship like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for clarifying what happened. I resisted using FB for two years but have eventually returned, being trapped between the two evils of either getting a job within the system or using FB to promote my work. It’s definitely troubling to see FB stifling political posts. If only the old forums and networks existed we might have some alternative to FB but FB killed them. It’s got us 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As someone who works in IT, I strongly urge for privacy reasons and the security of your mobile devices that EVERYONE get off of Facebook. Their holes in security are well known but what is less known is Facebook’s use of keyloggers for ‘market research’ and even with the FB app just running in the background it is capturing and logging everything back at FB whether it is websites, logins for banking or transportation apps or just texts, it is all collected and dumped. At work the #1 vector of social engineering attacks and computer virus infections are Facebook. The enormous downside isn’t work the convenience of the platform.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is truly disturbing. The question remains- even with getting off of facebook- will it ever be possible to disseminate information widely without this type of control?
      The day after this was published, this came out: (some do get away with anonymity)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, I guess the question is is it worth it to disseminate your ideas over Facebook’s platform? Is the message tainted by the medium? If you use evil technology to spread worthwhile ideas do they become corrupt? That is a whole different question than my pure (and self serving ) stance as an IT professional that it would be best to eliminate this invasive, porous security threat entirely.

    Like

      • Oh, I don’t. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, I’m just draconian about individual privacy/security and felt like I had to say something. It’s also that part of me that refuses to vote for or choose ‘the lesser of two evils’ because the ‘lesser evil’ is still evil. If I had an idea that I believed should be shared with the world I still think I would just keep it to myself because I could never reconcile how the medium may affect the message or the audience? I think that is why I tend towards taking action rather than sharing ideas.

        Liked by 1 person

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