Midterm Meddling: Facebook Blacklists 800+ Grassroots Accounts and Pages to Fight ‘Fake News’

Mark Zuckerberg Capitol Hill
Getty/Chip Somodevilla

In an effort to fight “fake news” before the November midterm elections, Facebook has shut down over 800 accounts and pages accused of spreading “misinformation,” including many conservative pages, some with millions of followers.

On Thursday, Facebook revealed that they removed 251 accounts and shut down 559 pages for breaking the sites rules against spam and “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” according to Facebook’s cybersecurity policy chief Nathaniel Gleicher and product manager Oscar Rodriguez. In a blog post the two Facebook employees discussed the deletion of accounts and pages saying:

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.

Of course, there are legitimate reasons that accounts and Pages coordinate with each other — it’s the bedrock of fundraising campaigns and grassroots organizations. But the difference is that these groups are upfront about who they are, and what they’re up to.

However, many of the accounts and pages removed appear to be legitimate pages and accounts, many of whom are conservative or libertarian in their content and discussion topics. From Conservative bloggers NoisyRoom, to the page for Right Wing News, which reportedly had more than 3 million follower, reports of legitmate accounts being taken down spread quickly:

Other pages reportedly affected by this crackdown include the page of conservative commentator Joe The Plumber and a page dedicated to former U.S. Congressman Allen West called the Allen West Republic.

Shortly after Facebook’s decision to delete these pages and accounts, Twitter appeared to follow suit removing some accounts linked to the deleted Facebook pages.

While Facebook has long claimed to be neutral in their moderation practices, only recently an employee left the company while decrying it’s “intolerant” liberal culture. Facebook engineer Brian Amerige criticized what he called the company’s “political monoculture” and felt that he could no longer stay at the company as he “disagree[s] too strongly with where we’re heading on these issues to watch what happens next.”

Amerige stated in a memo to other employees: “I care too deeply about our role in supporting free expression and intellectual diversity to even whole-heartedly attempt the product stuff anymore, and that’s how I know it’s time to go… I’ve been thinking about this for almost a year, and though a certain leak delayed me a bit, I know it’s time for me to move on,” he wrote. “I’m not leaving because ‘it’s time for something new, I’m leaving because I’m burnt out on Facebook, our strategy, our culture, and our product.”

Amerige continued to say: “Strategically, we’ve taken a stance on how to balance offensive and hateful speech with free expression. We’ve accepted the inevitability of government regulation. And we’ve refused to defend ourselves in the press. Our policy strategy is pragmatism — not clear, implementable long-term principles — and our PR strategy is appeasement — not morally earned pride and self-defense.”

He added: “While I remain as in love as ever with our mission and my colleague’s nearly-always good intentions, I disagree too strongly with where we’re heading on these issues to watch what happens next. These issues hang over my head each morning, and I don’t want to spend all of my time fighting about them.”

“My departure isn’t because I think these issues are intractable. These problems can be solved — just not by me, nor anymore, at least,” Amerige wrote. “I care too deeply about our role in supporting free expression and intellectual diversity to even whole-heartedly attempt the product stuff anymore, and that’s how I know it’s time to go.”

Amerige’s previous internal Facebook memo stated: “We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views … we claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack — often in mobs — anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.”

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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