Facebook didn’t become one of the world’s leading social media platforms by micromanaging what users see. There was a time when it was one of the freest sources of content sharing out there – but those times may be history.
Without warning, Facebook purged over 800 accounts on Thursday, claiming the move was aligned with efforts to control politically oriented content that violated the company’s spam policies. While the platform could face flack for allowing spam, they could face even harsher backlash for accusations of political censorship.
Accusations of this type aren’t new – Facebook has been questioned before about facilitating political censorship multiple time in the past. From being a vehicle used for Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to maintaining a bias against conservative, their accusations have landed all over the political spectrum.
The purge seems to have a wide impact as well – right-leaning, left-leaning, centrist, “truthers,” and conspiracy theory pages have all been targeted in the mass act of unpublishing. Many independent news outlets cover topics that the mainstream media sometimes ignores. Topics like police brutality, the U.S.’s continued illegal wars in the Middle East, the growing surveillance state, the alleged fraudulent nature of the banking system, and the destruction of the environment are all topics associated with the purge.
Facebook maintains it was not unpublishing pages based on content type, but rather based on behaviors such as spamming groups with identical content pieces, unauthorized coordination, and the use of fake profiles. This brings up many interesting questions, however – isn’t sharing identical pieces the same as sharing content in general? And an individual who runs a “page” account in addition to a “person” account could be accused of using a fake profile if both profiles aren’t linked with the same account.
Facebook spoke about the issue, saying: “People will only share on Facebook if they feel safe and trust the connections they make here.” The fact this move comes right before congressional midterm elections will no doubt fuel speculation about political bias and targeted censorship.
Earlier this year, Facebook removed their news feature as a means to bring the platform back to a personal and family-oriented platform rather than a news site – a move that aligned timewise with founder Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before Congress. However, it seems concerns about the platform being used as a tool to further political interests or suppress honest discussion remains, and there’s no telling what kind of backlash this may have.
One solution is rather obvious – stop using Facebook. Or at least, stop relying on it so much. Some people have already been promoting a move to decentralized platforms which are ad-free, immune to censorship, and thus, unable to be controlled by those who would look to use them to further their own bias.
MeWe is an example of a decentralized alternative to Facebook, and in addition to being free to sign up, it comes with no tracking cookies – it will even tell you how many you have in your system from mainstream social media sites. Other options include Steemit, Gab, and many more.