Posted on October 18, 2021

When ‘Whistleblowers’ Are Censors

Gregory Hood, American Renaissance, October 18, 2021

Facebook is under attack. The attackers are right to say that social media need public oversight, but they are wrong in their goals. Regulation should preserve free speech, not restrict it further.

The attack has been on two fronts. First, “whistleblower” Frances Haugen gave internal company documents to the Wall Street Journal. She then testified before Congress and made several charges, including that the company “exploited teens using powerful algorithms that amplified their insecurities.” Miss Haugen, whose own website congratulates her for coming forward “at great personal risk,” said that Facebook’s algorithm promotes content that gets more audience engagement. This fuels social divisions. “[I]n places like Ethiopia it is literally fanning ethnic violence,” she said. Miss Haugen will testify in Europe next, where governments are also considering regulation.

Miss Haugen is saying that Facebook (and subsidiaries, like Instagram) don’t just provide a platform. Facebook shapes public opinion and is responsible for others’ actions. It’s even responsible for their feelings. This raises fundamental questions about what freedom of speech or “democracy” mean in a world dominated by social media.

Frances Haugen speaking at a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. (Credit Image: © Michael Brochstein/ZUMA Press Wire)

If Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes “engagement,” that means only that it promotes content people find interesting. If speech must be managed because otherwise it “literally” causes people to kill, people can’t be trusted to think for themselves. Why should people who can be controlled so easily have the right to vote?

The impulse to censor is noxious, but Miss Haugen is probably right to think people are easily manipulated. There is plenty of evidence.

Many (if not most) people just respond to media signals. Whoever holds the power to decide what can or cannot be said is sovereign. Whether it is Mark Zuckerberg or a council of far-left “experts” doesn’t matter. It would be easier and more honest if we skipped voting. Let those who hold media power appoint the figureheads of “our democracy.”

Of course, there is a way for people to retain sovereignty. The government prevents monopolies though anti-trust action. For democracy to be anything other than a cynical joke, people must debate political issues. Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote in his concurring opinion in Whitney v. California that the “remedy” for “falsehoods and fallacies” is “more speech, not enforced silence.”

The country is not following Brandeis’s advice. White advocates aren’t allowed on mainstream social media sites. While this is subjective and arbitrary, there is a framework Facebook draws on to ban us.

This brings us to the second attack. The Intercept published “Facebook’s Secret Blacklist of ‘Dangerous Individuals and Organizations.’ ” Author Sam Biddle, who released the list with his own commentary, is not defending our right to free speech. Instead, he writes that Facebook’s censorship policy has “harsher restrictions for marginalized and vulnerable populations.” (In today’s America, “marginalized and vulnerable populations” are the groups that get official preferences from the government.)

Clearly, Mr. Biddle does not want us back on Facebook. He wants antifa on it but says “white anti-government militias” should get more scrutiny. Still, it’s good to see the actual system Facebook uses.

Facebook puts banned groups in three categories. All are barred from having accounts, but there are different standards about whether other users can talk about them.

  • Tier I includes groups that “engage in serious offline harms — including organizing or advocating for violence against civilians, repeatedly dehumanizing or advocating harm against people based on protected characteristics, or engaging in systematic criminal operations.” Users aren’t allowed to praise these groups or their members.
  • Tier II includes groups that “engage in violence against state or military actors but do not generally target civilians — what we call ‘Violent Non-State Actors.’” Groups fighting in a civil war might be included here. Facebook users can praise groups in this category for “nonviolent” actions.
  • Tier III includes groups that may “repeatedly engage in violations of our Hate Speech or Dangerous Organizations policies on-or-off the platform or demonstrate strong intent to engage in offline violence in the near future, but have not necessarily engaged in violence to date or advocated for violence against others based on their protected characteristics. This includes Militarized Social Movements, Violence-Inducing Conspiracy Networks, and individuals and groups banned for promoting hatred.” You can discuss these groups neutrally or negatively, but you may not praise them or mention them if your meaning is “unclear.”

The leaked documents don’t say who is in which tier. However, the story quotes Facebook’s policy director for counterterrorism and dangerous organizations, Brian Fishman: “We currently ban thousands of organizations, including over 250 white supremacist groups at the highest tiers of our policies, and we regularly update our policies on organizations who qualify to be banned.”

This suggests American Renaissance is in Tier I, though we can’t say for sure. Facebook will not even let you include a link to an AmRen page in a post. Along with American Renaissance are groups such as the American Identity Movement, Red Ice Creations, and Students for Western Civilization. Other groups in the same category appear to include the Azov Battalion of Ukraine, Combat 18 Slovenia, and the Hammerskins. This is clearly an inconsistent mix.

There’s also a blacklist for individuals. Jared Taylor is a “Dangerous Individual,” along with Patrick Casey, Martin Sellner, and Faith Goldy (who, for some reason, is listed as being a part of the Daily Stormer). In the same category are people who have been dead for decades, including George Lincoln Rockwell, Julius Streicher, and Adolf Hitler.

Thus, at worst American Renaissance is in the same category as the Islamic State and criminal street gangs, though we are a “hate” group and not “terrorists.” At best, we are banned because we are “dangerous.”

Much of the list is silly. Is there really a “terror” group called “Violent U.S.-based Anti-Government Network.” is under the “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” list for “hate.” It’s also apparently based in Germany and is a “Music Band.” Those who made the list have not taken the time to understand the groups they are banning.

The “Hitler Youth” and the “Hitler Youth — League of German Girls” are apparently both still active, not just in Germany but globally. The Gestapo is still around. The “International Goyim Party” is apparently a dangerous global threat.

Tier 2 groups are generally in civil wars overseas and are called “Violent Non-State Actor[s].” There are relatively few of them.

Tier 3 is for “Militarized Social Movements.” Mr. Biddle quotes Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center for Justice: “The lists seem to create two disparate systems, with the heaviest penalties applied to heavily Muslim regions and communities.” She thinks there aren’t enough banned groups. “Hate groups designated as Anti-Muslim hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center are overwhelmingly absent from Facebook’s lists,” she adds. Mr. Biddle also seems upset because there are so many banned Muslim groups and not enough white militias.

There are a few armed antifa and black militias in the Militarized Social Movement category, but media accounts of the Facebook list ignore them. They include the armed antifa group Redneck Revolt and the black “Not Fuckin’ Around Coalition.” There are a few other scattered anarchist and black groups, including the Informal Anarchist Federation and the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club, but not many compared to the long list of obscure militias that are almost certainly politically conservative.

Some of these militias could be traps set by law enforcement. Even some of the leftist or black militias may be fake. Is there really an organized group called the “Anti-Trump Militia”? I’ve also never heard of the “KC Antifascist Militia.”

Among the other “Militarized Social Movements” in Tier 3, we can find the antifa websites “It’s Going Down” and “Crimethinc.” The former site takes care not to disavow violence because “movements for liberation decide for themselves on what the best strategy is to get and stay free.” The latter has as its leading article a celebration of toppling statues, which is destruction of property.

Mr. Biddle calls them “anti-capitalist media organizations” and says that Facebook’s rules on “Group[s] Supporting Violent Acts Amid Protests” could be “particularly confusing and censorious.” He quotes anonymous spokesmen for these groups, both of which claim simply to be media.

Mr. Biddle also quotes Jillian York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Miss York doesn’t seem fond of free speech. In one of her articles, she complains about the app Clubhouse because it doesn’t allow conversations to be recorded, thus making “moderation” impossible. Miss York seems very worried about Donald Trump, but has a different view of Muslim groups Facebook has banned:

When a major, global platform chooses to align its policies with the United States — a country that has long exercised hegemony over much of the world (and particularly, over the past twenty years, over many predominantly Muslim countries), it is simply recreating those same power differentials and taking away the agency of already-vulnerable groups and individuals.

Translation: Facebook should not defend American interests.

Mr. Biddle agrees that the banned list reflects American foreign policy priorities:

The list and associated rules appear to be a clear embodiment of American anxieties, political concerns, and foreign policy values since 9/11, experts said, even though the DIO [Dangerous Individuals and Organizations] policy is meant to protect all Facebook users and applies to those who reside outside of the United States (the vast majority). Nearly everyone and everything on the list is considered a foe or threat by America or its allies: Over half of it consists of alleged foreign terrorists, free discussion of which is subject to Facebook’s harshest censorship.

Should Muslim terrorists overseas not be listed because we need to list more whites to balance things out? Mr. Biddle tries to defend his position by saying some of these Muslim groups aren’t real threats. “Though the list includes a litany of ISIS commanders and Al Qaeda militants whose danger to others is uncontroversial,” he wrote, “it would be difficult to argue that some entities constitute much of a threat to anyone at all.” He cites Islamic charity groups and the absurdity of lumping them in with terrorists.

Would he draw similar distinctions between white groups? Does American Renaissance pose an ISIS-style threat to other people? Is Jared Taylor like an Al Qaeda commander? Why is American Renaissance banned at all? Does anyone truly believe it poses a violent threat to anyone? Mr. Biddle is upset that groups such as Crimethinc and It’s Going Down are banned, though they are in Tier 3. From what I can tell, we are in “Tier 1” with terrorist groups.

Why? If the answer is that our speech (muffled as it is) somehow inspires violence, journalists have much to answer for considering the murder spree they helped unleash after supporting Black Lives Matter. If the answer is that we promote “disinformation,” our response is that they should examine the facts. If the answer is that whites aren’t allowed to defend their interests, then we are clearly not “privileged.” We are the ones who need to “get and stay free.”

Mr. Biddle ends with a quote from Miss York: “We should never forget that nobody elected Mark Zuckerberg, a man who has never held a job other than CEO of Facebook.” This is true. If we agree that Facebook has great power to shape public opinion, there is a public interest in regulating it. And there is a simple way to do this.

The United States already has a way to distinguish lawful from unlawful speech. The Supreme Court ruled in Brandenburg v. Ohio that speech is protected unless it can reasonably be thought to incite imminent, lawless action. If speech does not cross that line, it should be allowed. If groups do not post speech of that kind, they should not be banned. The rules for social media shouldn’t be different from those for speaking in a public park.

Democracy requires debate. A system that that censors speech is not a democracy. If voters can’t select between opposing views, then there’s something wrong with democracy.

Some Republicans are scrambling to prevent Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg from funding efforts against to stop tightening voting requirements — what liberals call “voter suppression.” Republicans, including former president Donald Trump, wasted their chance to protect free speech when they had the majority. Any complaints from them now are worthless.

Frances Haugen and Mr. Biddle think Facebook has too much power. I agree. They also imply Facebook is allowing too much speech. I disagree. Facebook’s power should be forced to permit more speech. This includes speech about race, and not just because free speech is a good thing. It’s because we are right and progressive journalists are wrong. They promote ideas that lead to crime, riots, and anti-white violence.

All lawful speech should be allowed on social media; no exceptions. If necessary, federal and state governments should require platform access as a civil right. Let us hear no complaints about Facebook’s censorship policies from those who never spoke up for us. These “whistleblowers” don’t want to check corporate power. They want to intensify it and use it against people they don’t like.