I recently wrote an article in The Guardian that discussed my fears around future government repression in response to the fascist riot in Washington D.C. But Facebook has long been leading the way in the modern fight to conflate left wing activism — like protesting the murders of Black people at the hands of police officers— with fascist rioting seeking to overturn an election and install a potential dictator.
Now my personal Facebook account has been restricted and blocked from a number of activities in fear that I will try to organize or promote a protest sometime around the inauguration of Joe Biden. I am not the only one, I’ve counted over a dozen others, mainly left-wing activists who have seen similar restrictions. We cannot create new Facebook groups or events, nor can we comment in groups or events. I rely on Facebook for at least two sources of income and in the midst of a pandemic it has become even more vital for me to keep up not only with protests but my friends and family. It has also seemed to hit non-activists, my Facebook is biased so there may be another pattern at play, but thus far the most consistent feature among those hit is a history of political work.
Gizmodo reports that this is part of Facebook’s attempt to prevent protests similar to that of the fascist riot at the Capitol:
“To head off a potential encore of last week’s violent insurrection, Facebook is blocking users from creating new Facebook events in the vicinity of the White House, the U.S. Capitol building, and any state capitol buildings through President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. It’s also restricting features for U.S. users based on certain indicators such as repeated policy violations.”
Gizmodo unfortunately does a poor job at framing this and heavily downplays the targeting of users. I, like a few others, have never received a single violation in the entirety of my history on Facebook. Facebook even confirms that I have no violations when I check my support mailbox.
When I tried to appeal I was met with a message simply telling me that my appeal would be discarded without follow up. Facebook has long been banning left-wing groups under the cover of “fighting extremism” and prioritizing the repression of Black organizers and those speaking out against racism over those spouting white supremacist rhetoric. This has been another escalation, an omen of things to come.