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Doing it Right? Four Stories of Right-Wingers Caught in Facebook's Crosshairs

In early May Facebook announced that it would ban those who promote violence and hate from its social media platform and Instagram. Four people with conservative views from the US and Israel share their stories about how they found themselves in the crosshairs of the tech giant, being treated as "dangerous individuals".

On 2 May 2019, Facebook launched an unprecedented campaign against "hate speech" targeting "dangerous individuals" infiltrating the social media platform.

"We’ve always banned individuals or organisations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology", a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch in May 2019, commenting on the latest account-banning spree. "The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today".

However, contrary to Facebook's claim of impartiality, many of those banned turned out to be right-wing bloggers, activists and media pundits, like Infowars founder Alex Jones, ex-Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, and UK editor Paul Joseph Watson, to name just a few. Why did Facebook decide that they were posing a threat?

​Facebook Turns a Blind Eye to 'Real Hate Speech'

Rotem Nimkovsky, an Israeli сommunications expert and political activist, is known for his anti-Palestinian stance. While some may disagree with Nimkovsky's views, it is not actually a reason for a ban, he believes.

Rotem Nimkovsky is a specialist on law for legal practitioners at Bar-Ilan University. He advocates the idea that the modern term "Palestine" refers to a political region, set by the San Remo conference in 1920 and was legally defined for the establishment of a Jewish state. He also believes that the "Palestinian" nationality is a myth and throws into question the indigenous status of the “Palestinians” who live in the area.

The Israeli political activist says that he was subjected to unwanted attention from the Silicon Valley giant after sharing a link to the Mandate for Palestine law published on the United Nation's official website.

"After [sic] few years on Facebook, without any problems, I've started to add this link and after several times, my account was locked and I received this message: 'We've detected suspicious activity on your Facebook account and have temporarily locked it as a security precaution'", Nimkovsky recalls.

© Photo : Screenshot/facebookYour Account is Temporarily Locked
Doing it Right? Four Stories of Right-Wingers Caught in Facebook's Crosshairs - Sputnik International
Your Account is Temporarily Locked

When the scholar made an attempt to restore his profile, Facebook started "trying hard" to obtain his personal data, including his contacts, photos, and ID.

"They asked for a scan of my ID or Passport. Since I'm [sic] completely object such form privacy breaking, and especially by commercial companies, I decided to open a new account. I carefully upload a blurred and small photo of me with a little Photoshop twist over parts of my face. It was working OK for quite a while, until suddenly my new account was blocked again", he noted.

© Photo : Screenshot/facebookHow do I upload my ID to Facebook
Doing it Right? Four Stories of Right-Wingers Caught in Facebook's Crosshairs - Sputnik International
How do I upload my ID to Facebook

Since both of his accounts had been locked Nimkovsky had no choice but to upload a face photo and scan some papers.

"This time it was OK, and I got my second account unlocked, however I soon found that my old account was unlocked too and they are now both related to one another. In other words, someone on Facebook was studying me and manually made this connection. But why? Was it just for posting a link? Or maybe that someone doesn't want people to know, what I was exposing..."

According to the Israeli political activist, his "adventure" with Facebook did not end there. He was blocked over and over again, under the "hate speech" pretext.

In contrast, when Nimkovsky raised the alarm over "hate speech" cases on the social media platform, the tech company refused to remove controversial content.

"I keep documenting each of the bans, as all appear to be very strange, especially while my report on real hate speech and even calls for terrorism, don't seem to violate Facebook's 'Community Standards'," he highlighted.

© Photo : Screenshot/facebookYou anonymously reported video for promoting violence
Doing it Right? Four Stories of Right-Wingers Caught in Facebook's Crosshairs - Sputnik International
You anonymously reported video for promoting violence

"Those posts included calls to commit terror acts against Jews or LGBT people, an animation video that demonstrated how to slash a Jew's neck, a comment calls Jews 'chimps and monks' anti-Semitic caricatures, Ahmad Musa - the murderer of the Israeli girls in Na'araim, who was released from jail in Jordan after 20 years and recently got out declared on video that each time he felt down, he recalled the murder of those Jewish girls and started to feel better - all of these - were not violating Facebook 'Community standards'".

'They are Looking for Anything in Order to Ban'

Similarly, nothing hinted at any impending trouble when Edy Cohen, a fellow at Bar-Ilan University in Israel and the chairman of the Kedem Forum for Middle East Studies, decided to release a research paper about Christian persecution in the Palestinian Authority (PA) on Facebook.

Dr Edy Cohen is a writer and expert on Arab affairs and the author of the book "The Holocaust in the eyes of Mahmoud Abbas". Cohen is a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom. He has repeatedly lambasted Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the latter's Holocaust denial. For its part, the Jordanian media credibility monitor "Akeed" has accused Dr Cohen of fabrications, half-truths and verbal attacks against Amman. At the same time, in 2018 the Anadolu Agency quoted Dr Cohen who was blaming the Turkish lira slump on the "Jewish lobby" in Arabic on Twitter.

"They didn’t like it, Facebook or I don’t know who. Maybe the Palestinians didn’t like it", Cohen says, explaining how he got banned by the social media platform. "They search [into] me, they are looking for anything in order to ban".

According to the Israeli researcher, he is not the only conservative commentator being regularly blocked by Facebook under questionable pretexts: "There are people like me, they are right-conservative. They are banned every two months at least once, [and] for 30 days, not for one week!" he stressed.

© Sputnik / Ted RallSelective Silencing?
Doing it Right? Four Stories of Right-Wingers Caught in Facebook's Crosshairs - Sputnik International
Selective Silencing?

'Facebook Should Remove Actual Terrorists First!'

Laura Loomer, a 26-year old Jewish-American conservative activist, was dubbed a right-wing "provocateur" by US mainstream media over her ardent anti-immigrant stance. 

Laura Loomer worked with James O'Keefe for Project Veritas and served as a reporter for the Canadian right-wing website, The Rebel Media in 2017. She had more than 250,000 followers on Twitter and came to prominence for verbal attacks on Muslim immigrants. In 2017, Uber and Lyft banned the activist from using their services for insulting Twitter posts aimed at the companies' Muslim drivers. In 2015, Barry University suspended Loomer after she made an undercover video for Project Veritas that showed her convincing school officials to start a club called "Sympathetic Students in Support of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria*". The University also filed criminal charges against Loomer for taping officials without their consent.

Ms Loomer gained prominence in November 2018, when she handcuffed herself to the front doors of Twitter’s New York headquarters after she was banned from the media platform for calling Republican Congresswoman Ilhar Omar "anti-Jewish" in a post.

She was permanently banned from Facebook and Instagram along with other conservative commentators in May 2019, being labelled as a "dangerous" individual.

"I think that Mark Zuckerberg is a liar", Loomer says, commenting on Facebook's claim of being politically impartial. She believes that Facebook's decision to remove her account was entirely "political and ideological".

Loomer recalls that she was banned right after posting an article concerning Facebook's failure to get terrorist sympathisers and extremist content booted from the platform.

She cited a petition, initially filed in January 2019 and updated in April 2019, which indicated that Facebook removed less than 30 percent of profiles identifying themselves as "friends" of notorious terrorist groups over five months in 2018, despite the tech giant's April 2018 vow to remove up to 99 percent of terrorist activity from its site. To the further embarrassment of the company, the report also found that Facebook "actively promotes terror content across the website via its auto-generated features".

"Facebook should remove actual terrorists before they try to accuse me of being a terrorist", the Jewish-American activist stated.

In response to mounting criticism, Facebook released a “Community Standards Enforcement Report” on 23 May claiming that “terrorist propaganda” accounted for only 0.03 percent of the site’s views.

However, according to Loomer, Daesh (ISIS/ISIL)*, Hamas, and Muslim Brotherhood* sympathisers still feel quite cosy on Facebook.

Following the Facebook ban, the activist went directly to the company's headquarters in New York to voice her protest against the move but ended up being escorted away by the police instead.

CC0 / / Twitter, Facebook
Doing it Right? Four Stories of Right-Wingers Caught in Facebook's Crosshairs - Sputnik International
Twitter, Facebook

Big Tech 'Investigates, Threatens, Suspends, and Shuts-down Right-Wingers'

Scott Bennett is a former US Army officer specialising in psychological warfare and counterterrorism, who used to work with the US State Department, Special Operations Command, and Central Command. He is known as a military whistle-blower and author of "Shell Game: A Military Whistleblowing Report to Congress". Bennett also served a two-year prison term for "trumped-up" charges, by his account.

Scott Bennett became an active member of the US Army Reserves in the 11th Psychological Operations (PSYOP) Battalion in 2009 with Top Secret/CSI clearance. In July 2011, the military officer was tried and convicted of filing a false housing report, violating federal firearms laws, and wearing his military uniform "without authorisation". Bennett was sentenced to 36 months in prison. While serving the prison term he prepared a 76-page report to the US Congress entitled "Shell Game: The Betrayal and Cover-up by the US Government of the Union Bank of Switzerland-Terrorist Threat Finance Connection to Booz Allen Hamilton and US Central Command". He was released in February 2014.

Upon release from the "Gulag-Americano", he immediately started sharing his experience of interaction with WikiLeaks, and research concerning alleged fraud committed by the part of US government and intelligence officials under the Obama administration through social media platforms.

"Almost immediately, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter began simultaneously suspending my account, saying that 'I had violated community standard guidelines' – even though no inflammatory words or hyperbolic comments or analysis was ever expressed", Bennett pointed out.

Having analysed cases involving Silicon Valley giants banning individuals, the psychological warfare expert came to the conclusion that they were specifically targeting those advocating conservative, republican, and libertarian views.

"America is in the beginning stages of its next 'Civil War', with truth being the first casualty", Bennett suggested. "We see the international internet and media companies and social media platforms such as YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others beginning to investigate, threaten, suspend, and shut-down people and their websites and video streams who voice, write, or promote conservative-republican-libertarian type viewpoints, values, or traditional opinions, and refuse to embrace liberal-leftist-atheistic-democrat ones".

*Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State) and Muslim Brotherhood are terrorist organisations banned in Russia.

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