Facebook censorship of photos, videos

This video from the USA says about itself:

Facebook Allows Right Wing Group To Censor Progressives

13 September 2018

Facebook joins forces with several outlets to determine who does and doesn’t get censored. Think Progress was a victim of this new system.

By Mike Ingram in the USA:

Facebook expands censorship to photos and videos

19 September 2018

A September 13 statement by Facebook Product Manager, Antonia Woodford, titled “Expanding Fact-Checking to Photos and Videos” marks a significant escalation of the company’s censorship efforts.

Under the pretense of combating so-called “fake news” and “Russian interference” the social media giant has spent the last two years assembling an army of censors and established partnerships with 27 so-called fact-checker partners in 17 countries. The partners, include the Associated Press (AP), Agence France-Presse (AFP), Pagella Politica in Italy, Animal Politico in Mexico and others, together with fact checking sites such as Factcheck.org, PolitiFact and Snopes.com. At the end of last year, Facebook announced a partnership with the right-wing The Weekly Standard prompting widespread outrage.

As the WSWS reported, the role of this latest partnership was highlighted last week when The Weekly Standard flagged an article posted by ThinkProgress with the headline “Brett Kavanaugh said he would kill Roe v. Wade last week.” The article was flagged as false on the preposterous claim that the word “said” in the headline implied a direct quote, rather than the dictionary definition of “indicate”, “show,” or “communicate”. The ThinkProgress incident is only the latest indication of the political character of the censorship by Facebook.

It is unknown exactly how many posts have been flagged as false by Facebook or its fact checker partners since the program began two years ago. A false flag will reduce future traffic by 80 percent, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Now the program is to be expanded to photos and video—a process that was first detailed in March this year.

The March statement headlined “Hard Questions: What is Facebook Doing to Protect Election Security?” by VP of Product Management, Guy Rosen, announced, “We’re fact-checking photos and videos, in addition to links. We’re starting in France with the AFP and will be scaling to more countries and partners soon.”

The global expansion of the censorship campaign to photo and video was announced in the September 13 statement. Woodford wrote, “We know that people want to see accurate information on Facebook, so for the last two years, we’ve made fighting misinformation a priority. One of the many steps we take to reduce the spread of false news is working with independent, third-party fact-checkers to review and rate the accuracy of content. To date, most of our fact-checking partners have focused on reviewing articles. However, we have also been actively working to build new technology and partnerships so that we can tackle other forms of misinformation. Today, we’re expanding fact-checking for photos and videos to all of our 27 partners in 17 countries around the world (and are regularly on-boarding new fact-checking partners).”

The statement says that Facebook has “built a machine learning model that uses various engagement signals, including feedback from people on Facebook, to identify false content.” The company then sends photos or videos to fact checkers, “or fact-checkers can surface such content on their own”, Woodford writes. “Many of our third-party fact-checking partners have expertise evaluating photos and videos and are trained in visual verification techniques, such as reverse image searching and analyzing image metadata, like when and where the photo or video was taken,” she continued.

Based on research conducted since March, Facebook claimed that photo and video “misinformation” falls into three categories, “(1) Manipulated or Fabricated, (2) Out of Context, and (3) Text or Audio Claim.”

The claim that Facebook is motivated by the need for accurate content was refuted in an analysis presented last month by one of the company’s other “partners”, the prominent military think-tank, the Atlantic Council.

After Facebook announced last month that it had shut down the event page for a counter-protest to a fascist demonstration called by the organizers of last year’s Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, during which left-wing demonstrator Heather Heyer was murdered by a right-wing extremist. The company also announced that it had shut down 32 other pages, including ones opposing police violence and defending immigrant rights.

The Atlantic Council issued a report which said that the shut down by Facebook targeted “the left of the political spectrum” and that the pages were an attempt to “infiltrate left-wing American communities”. The report said these pages “sought to promote divisions and set Americans against one another.”

The report stated that events created by “inauthentic” groups “have a very real, organic, and engaged online community” but that “the intent of inauthentic activity appeared to be designed to catalyze the most incendiary impulses of political sentiment.”

It is not so-called “inauthentic” groups that are the catalyst for incendiary political sentiment but the conditions of social inequality, police repression and war confronting millions of people throughout the world. Facebook’s attempt to suppress photo and video postings is an intensification of the company’s attempt to hide the true state of American and world society—and more importantly the mounting opposition to it—from the population.

Video footage of police killings has been the catalyst for demonstrations across the United States. A search in the video section of Google for “police shooting” yields 97 million results. The overwhelming majority of these are either bodycam or witness footage of unarmed victims of police violence.

Images of immigrant children sitting in cages after being torn from their mothers’ arms by immigration officers likewise provoke the justified outrage of millions of working people throughout the world.

Photographs of the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdî, who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 after his family fled war torn Syria along with thousands of refugees trying to reach Europe were spread around the world, prompting international outrage.

These are the types of “incendiary” images Facebook is seeking to suppress. Over the past two years, Facebook, along with other technology giants such as Google and Twitter have become the self-appointed arbiters of “fake news” and “authoritative content”.

Working with the intelligence agencies and both Democrats and Republicans, the technology giants are seeking to effectively blacklist any viewpoint opposing that of the official political establishment. The main target of this blacklisting is left-wing and, in particular, socialist viewpoints.

The World Socialist Web Site has been in the forefront of the fight against Internet censorship, exposing the conspiracy to censor the Internet beginning with Google’s implementation of new algorithms in April 2017 that were aimed at blocking access to the WSWS and other anti-war and progressive web sites. Google’s actions resulted in a 70 percent drop in search traffic to the WSWS. Google was quickly followed by Facebook and Twitter. The latest action by Facebook is a further escalation of this and must be opposed.

The European Union (EU) has advanced plans for the continent-wide censorship of the internet. Giving his final State of the Union speech last Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker outlined plans to compel online platforms to take down “terrorist content” within one hour of it being flagged by national authorities: here.


Sunshine Blogger Award, thanks SindrElf!

Sunshine Blogger Award

Thanks to SindrElf, my blog has a nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award.

The rules of the award are:

Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.

Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.

Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.

List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

I will add: feel free not to act upon these rules if you don’t have time; or don’t accept awards.

Most of my questions to my nominees are not new, but SindrElf’s.

Here are SindrElf’s ten questions, and my replies to them:

1. What is your goal for your blog? Do you feel you have met it yet?

See here.

I will have met the goal of my blog when wars, exploitation and environmental destruction will have stopped.

2. If you were given a free all expenses paid trip, where would you go?

On a ship to Antarctica and then back north to South Georgia, Ascension, Madeira and other Atlantic islands.

3. Last book you have read?

The Aeneid by Virgil.

4. Your favorite console of choice. PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo?

Years ago, I used to play quite some computer games. Somehow, now I do it only every now and then. All my playing was/is on personal computer; I don’t really know much about consoles.

5. Do you think Nintendo will ever just make games and skip producing consoles?

I don’t know.

6. With the success of the Switch do you think there is a market for a Xbox or PlayStation handheld?

I don’t know.

7. What’s the hardest thing about blogging to you?

If there is a day with not much interesting news on Twitter, YouTube or other sites. And if I myself have not done interesting things to write about recently.

8. What is one movie you can watch over and over again?

Human Flow, Ai Weiwei’s film on refugees.

9. Are you a cat or dog person?

I don’t have pets. As a teenager, I used to have young frogs in a terrarium. When the frogs grew big enough to jump out of the terrarium, I freed them.

10. You just dived back into Pokémon Red/Blue. Who is your starting Pokémon?

Sorry, I never played Pokémon, so I don’t know.

And here is my question to my nominees, to make it 11 questions:

11. What is your favourite bird species?

My eleven nominees are:

1. It Is What It Is

2. Joëlle Jean-Baptiste – Author

3. We Hold These Truths To Be Self-evident

4. JSC: Jamaicans in Solidarity with Cuba

5. sdbast

6. Moorbey’z Blog

7. Bette A. Stevens, Maine Author

8. petchary

9. Kutterfly

10. Snipper diaries

11. My Nomadic Compass

Facebook outsources censorship to far right

This video from the USA says about itself:

Facebook ‘Fact Checkers’ Include Science Denying Right-Wing Propagandists

14 September 2018

From the United States liberal site Media Matters for America:

Facebook is fueling far-right extremism — and profiting off of it

September 4, 2018 5:13 PM EDT


Over the past month, Facebook has drawn international attention for its slow response to hate speech and fake news that helped fuel the genocide of the ethno-religious Rohingya minority in Myanmar; for the correlation found in Germany between Facebook usage and hate crimes against refugees; and for the fake news that has gone viral on the Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp and led to deadly attacks in India.

But, in the U.S., the criticisms of the social media giant that have dominated media coverage have dealt with baseless claims of censorship targeting conservatives.

On Monday, a ThinkProgress article posted on Facebook was labeled as “false” by right-wing magazine the Weekly Standard, a third-party “fact checker” for Facebook, and effectively censored on the site. The Weekly Standard, dubbed a ‘redoubt of neoconservatism’ and as ‘the neo-con bible’, is one of only five organizations approved as fact-checkers by Facebook: here.

From United States liberal site Thinkprogress, 11 September 2018:

Facebook’s idea of ‘fact-checking’: Censoring ThinkProgress because conservative site told them to

A perfect example of how Facebook is catering to conservatives.

Ian Millhiser

Last year, Facebook announced that it would partner with The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, to “fact check” news articles that are shared on Facebook. At the time, ThinkProgress expressed alarm at this decision.

The Weekly Standard has a history of placing right-wing ideology before accurate reporting. Among other things, it labeled the Iraq WarA War to Be Proud Of” in 2005, and it ran an article in 2017 labeling climate science “Dadaist Science,” and promoted that article with the phrase “look under the hood on climate change ‘science’ and what you see isn’t pretty.”

The Weekly Standard brought its third-party “fact-checking” power to bear against ThinkProgress on Monday, when the outlet determined a ThinkProgress story about [Donald Trump’s] Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was “false”, a category defined by Facebook to indicate “the primary claim(s) in this content are factually inaccurate.”

The article in question, which this reporter wrote, pointed out that, when you read a statement Kavanaugh made during his confirmation hearing alongside a statement he made in 2017, it becomes clear he is communicating that he opposes Roe v. Wade. Our article is factually accurate and The Weekly Standard’s allegation against us is wrong.

There are serious consequences for publishing an article that one of Facebook’s third-party fact checkers decrees to be false.

As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently wrote in the Washington Post, “we demote posts rated as false, which means they lose 80 percent of future traffic.”

When an article is labeled false under Facebook’s third-party fact-checking system, groups that share that article on Facebook receive a notification informing them that the article received a “False Rating” and that “pages and websites” that share that piece “will see their overall distribution and their ability to monetize and advertise removed.”

Facebook’s notification regarding our piece on Kavanaugh and Roe v. Wade effectively warned outlets not to share ThinkProgress content or risk censorship themselves. One group emailed ThinkProgress after receiving this notification to say they found it “threatening.”

ThinkProgress reached out to Facebook for comment on its third-party fact checking program and did not receive a response before this story was published.

The definition of the word “say”

After Facebook sent the push notification stating that our article received a “False Rating”, ThinkProgress reached out to Facebook taking issue with the fact check. A Facebook employee responded by email that Facebook defers to each independent fact-checker’s process and publishers are responsible for reaching out to the fact-checkers directly to request a correction.

The editors at The Weekly Standard do not appear to be interested in correcting their “fact check”.

The Weekly Standard’s fact-check appears to hinge on the definition of the word “said.”

Kavanaugh cited in his confirmation hearing the “Glucksberg test” — which refers to Washington v. Glucksberg, a 1997 Supreme Court decision establishing that the Constitution does not protect a right to physician-assisted suicide. Under Glucksberg, courts should determine which rights are protected by the Constitution by asking which rights are “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”

Kavanaugh also said in 2017 that “even a first-year law student could tell you that the Glucksberg’s approach to unenumerated rights was not consistent with the approach of the abortion cases such as Roe vs. Wade in 1973, as well as the 1992 decision reaffirming Roe, known as Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.”

Our article also cited law professors Jim Oleske and Jamal Greene, both of whom reached similar conclusions regarding Kavanaugh’s embrace of Glucksberg.

The Weekly Standard’s piece labeling this piece “false” provides no analysis of this argument. It merely asserts that our “article does not provide evidence that ‘Kavanaugh said he would kill Roe v. Wade.’”

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the verb “say” or “said” can mean to “indicate,” “show,” or “communicate” an idea. Our argument is that Kavanuagh indicated, showed, or communicated his intention to overrule Roe when he endorsed the Gluckberg test after saying that Gluckberg is inconsistent with Roe.

Pandering to the right

The Weekly Standard is one of only five outlets that enjoys the power to “fact check” other people’s work on Facebook. The other four are the Associated Press and three outlets that specialize in fact-checking — Factcheck.org, PolitiFact, and Snopes.com. No left-leaning outlet has this special ability to “fact check” other writers’ work.

To become a Facebook “fact checker,” an outlet must complete a verification process managed by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) at the Poynter Institute.

Last November, IFCN determined that The Weekly Standard was only in “partial” compliance with its standards. Though the IFCN’s November report on The Weekly Standard indicated that the conservative news site eventually was likely to meet the IFCN’s standards, it also determined that “the current version of” the Weekly Standard’s operation “has existed for only three weeks, and the IFCN calls for three months of consistent fact-checking before it is recognized as a distinct unit.”

“The Fact Check needs to build up a larger sample of work in order to stabilize and be fully assessed in its current form,” according to IFCN’s November report.

Nevertheless, Facebook approved The Weekly Standard as one of its “fact-checking” partners in early December.

It appears that the Weekly Standard was added to Facebook’s roster of “fact-checking” outlets as part of a deliberate effort to pander to conservatives. A source told the news outlet Quartz that Facebook’s partnership with The Weekly Standard was part of an effort to “appease all sides.”

Earlier this year, Facebook also hired Republican Sen. John Kyl of Arizona to lead an “audit” of alleged “liberal bias at the expense of conservative voices” at the social media juggernaut. Kyl, according to Vice, “was regularly ranked among the country’s most conservative senators when he served from 1995 to 2013.” He was recently appointed to serve out the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) term in office.

Shortly after Facebook hired Kyl to determine whether the site has a liberal bias, the Trump White House tapped Kyl to act as Judge Kavanaugh’s “sherpa” through his confirmation process.

There’s much more at stake

If Facebook continues its partnership with The Weekly Standard, the consequences could be quite severe for left-leaning outlets generally — or potentially for any other outlet which publishes a news article that The Weekly Standard disagrees with.

It’s no secret that the digital news business is driven by clicks. A news site that brings in many readers will also bring in a great deal of ad revenue, and this money can be used to hire reporters and to continue the outlet’s work. An outlet that loses a significant portion of its readership may have to lay off reporters or could even go under.

At its peak, Facebook provided as much as 40 percent of ThinkProgress’ traffic. Facebook recently changed its algorithm in ways that reduced the amount of traffic it sent to most news outlets, but it still accounts for between 10 to 15 percent of our readers. The difference between keeping those readers and losing them could decide whether we can hire more reporters who will continue to report on subjects that the Weekly Standard may have ideological disagreements about.

Yet, as Facebook’s push notification makes clear, any group that shares a piece that The Weekly Standard deems false could be punished for doing so.

News outlets aren’t the only players at risk under this system. As a legal matter, Facebook is treading on very dangerous ground by providing no oversight of its own “fact checking” operation.

In its landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court held that an outlet can be liable for defamation if it publishes false information “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

By deferring to The Weekly Standard’s “expertise and process”, Facebook acted with reckless disregard of whether The Weekly Standard’s article was false or not.

Indeed, Facebook’s entire relationship with The Weekly Standard appears driven by reckless disregard for the truth.

KAVANAUGH ACCUSER: I THOUGHT HE MIGHT KILL ME The woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of attempting to sexually assault her in a confidential letter to members of Congress has come forward. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor at Palo Alto University, told The Washington Post that she had feared Kavanaugh “might inadvertently kill” her as he held her down and groped her while they were both high school students around 1982. [HuffPost]

GOP SENATOR: DELAY SCOTUS VOTE Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is the first Republican on the Senate judiciary committee to suggest the panel delay moving forward with Kavanaugh’s confirmation, amid the sexual assault allegations. GOP moderate Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) later told CNN she was open to the idea of a delay. [HuffPost]

Internet censorship news update

This video from the USA says about itself:

Big Tech’s dangerous crackdown on social media – with Abby Martin (Ep. 23)

27 August 2018

Moderate Rebels episode 23 – Max Blumenthal and Abby Martin discuss the suppression of dissident voices on social media by Silicon Valley, at the behest of the US national security state. Facebook is partnering with the warmongering NATO-funded think tank the Atlantic Council, and leftist anti-imperialist pages like TeleSUR English and Venezuela Analysis are being taken down.

Neoliberals and neoconservatives are using Russiagate and the attack on RT to justify a further crackdown on media outlets that criticize American foreign policy. And while many liberals cheered at tech giants banning far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the left could be the next to be censored.

Blumenthal and Martin also speak about the corporate media’s propaganda on Venezuela and Nicaragua, and the lack of independent reporting on the violent US-backed right-wing opposition.

By Kevin Reed in the USA, 8 September 2018:

On May 17, Facebook announced a partnership with the Atlantic Council, the bipartisan think tank that has participated in every political and military crime of US imperialism over the past half-century. In a brief blog post by Katie Harbath, Facebook’s Global Politics and Government Outreach Director explained that the relationship was necessary “to prevent our service from being abused during elections.”

Harbath went on, “We’re more actively working with outside experts, governments and other companies because we know that we can’t solve these challenges on our own. … Today, we’re excited to launch a new partnership with the Atlantic Council, which has a stellar reputation looking at innovative solutions to hard problems.” The other governments and outside experts that Facebook is working with were not mentioned by name.

That Harbath—a former digital strategist for the Republican Party Senatorial Committee—can speak of the Atlantic Council as having a “stellar reputation” dealing with “hard problems” shows that Facebook is being staffed with functionaries of the US political establishment. In reality, the Atlantic Council has a reputation as a clearing house for political and ideological propaganda—including perpetrating and defending election abuse throughout the world—in the service of the strategic interests of American capitalism.

Behind the coordinated social media censorship by Facebook, Twitter and Google. What is FireEye? Here.

By Andre Damon in the USA:

New York Times covers up Google’s censorship

7 September 2018

Last September, the New York Times published an article, appearing on the first page of its business section, reporting allegations by the World Socialist Web Site that the internet search monopoly Google was censoring left-wing, anti-war and socialist web sites.

The article prominently cited, and linked to, the WSWS’s open letter to Google, “Stop the censorship of the Internet! Stop the political blacklisting of the World Socialist Web Site!” The open letter presented evidence that “Google is manipulating its internet searches” in order to “block news that your company does not want reported and to suppress opinions with which you do not agree.”

But on Wednesday, the Times posted on its website (and published Thursday on the front page of the business section of its Thursday print edition) an article by the same author, Daisuke Wakabayashi, which is a white-wash of Google’s censorship regime, echoing the company’s self-serving denials without any serious examination of the facts.

US schools hiring private companies to spy on students’ social media: here.

Facebook outsources Internet censorship to unskilled underpaid Filipinos

This 16 April 2018 video is the trailer of the film The Cleaners, by Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck.

This 26 May 2018 video from Germany says about itself:

In this documentary preview, filmmakers Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck will present their film THE CLEANERS – Die Digitale Müllabfuhr. THE CLEANERS is a journey into the underground industries of Manila, right at the centre of digital censorship – where the Internet must be “cleansed” of controversial contents. Who controls what we see and what we think?

Translated from an interview with film maker Hans Block in Dutch TV guide VARA Gids, 8-14 September 2018, pp. 18-19:

[The social media corporations don’t talk about who does the censorship work. About how difficult it was for the film makers to talk to the unskilled underpaid Filipino censorship workers:] They are scared, they have signed secrecy contracts. If they do talk, then they get big fines. At one company, even a prison term. …

I think the biggest scandal is the contrast between the influence of the ‘cleaners’ and their work situation. First, these are young people with limited possibilities. They are about 20, usually have never left Manila, they don’t have much education, usually don’t read papers every day, and have views sometimes very different from, eg, Europeans or Americans.

Interviewer: In the film, an ex-‘cleaner’ as an example judges a cartoon by Dutch cartoonist Ruben Oppenheimer. In the cartoon, Turkish President Erdogan penetrates the blue Twitter bird from behind [about Erdogan’s censorship of Twitter]. The cleaner follows the instructions which he got and judges: sexual act, bestiality, so: delete. How can you let a boy at the other side of the world judge about political satire about Turkey?

Hans Block: Exactly. Also, that is my second point: he has very little time for it. Within five or six seconds the cleaners have to decide whether to delete or ignore the content. Because only then they fulfill their production quota; sometimes 25,000 images in a ten-hour night shift. … We [rich countries] used to dump our analogous thrash in the Philippines, now our digital shit as well. …

Interviewer: In Berlin there is a Facebook ‘cleaning’ factory as well. Are circumstances there any better?

Hans Block: Not really. They get three to five days training before their work starts. … I think that Facebook uses that Berlin branch especially for show to the outside world, to show that everything is hunky dory. The bulk of the work, also of YouTube, Twitter and Google by the way, is in Manila.

This 5 May 2018 Canadian TV video says about itself:

‘The Cleaners’ Who Scrub Social Media

Social media platforms say they want to scrub fake news and inappropriate content off their platforms. Find out who’s doing some of the work of actually cleaning it up.

This 9 May 2018 video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Q&A about Facebook secrets with ‘The Cleaners’ director Hans Block

A fantastic, exciting and very topical film about how social media is destroying the world. Two young German filmmakers manage to gain access to one of the better guarded secrets of Facebook.

It is the beginning of a documentary as a thriller, which digs deeper and deeper into the back of the social media and shows how it distorts and affects our world. Directors Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck know how to gain access to the people who have the ungrateful task of determining what may or may not be posted on Facebook.

The whole world is scanned from an anonymous office building in the Philippines. Often without any knowledge of different cultures, history, politics or sex, the cleaners try to apply the protocols as well as possible. For the first time we gain insight into why certain images may or may not be seen. But also how the algorithms used push outrage.

Slowly it becomes clear how Facebook has become a kind of modern version of George Orwell’s 1984. Especially in countries where internet is synonymous with Facebook, the consequences are devastating.