Facebook has removed – in what some are calling the “Facebook purge”- more than 800 pages and accounts. Although the social media giant says those deleted were rule breakers engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” some of their defenders have claimed the sweeping action amounts to an attack on independent media, both representing left and right-wing political views.
Some of the sites – like “Right Wing News” and “The Anti Media” – were well-known and had millions of likes. The founders of some of the sites have taken to other platforms to deny Facebook’s claims. You can read some of their responses later in this article.
“Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior. Given the activity we’ve seen — and its timing ahead of the US midterm elections — we wanted to give some details about the types of behavior that led to this action,” read a blog post from Facebook.
“Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites. Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate,” Facebook claimed. The platform added that “a lot of the spam we see today is different. The people behind it create networks of Pages using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names. They post clickbait posts on these Pages to drive people to websites that are entirely separate from Facebook and seem legitimate, but are actually ad farms.”
However, reaction was strong on Twitter, where people accused Facebook of targeting independent voices and others noted that some pages were suspended on Twitter too. Pages removed both supported and opposed President Donald Trump. Some were sites that monitored police corruption.
Facebook takes down Reverb Press, and Reasonable People Unite, shutting down pages left and right. Only the corporatist "mainstream" is safe.
— Antisocial Butterfly (@BartoGeo) October 12, 2018
NEW: “I would gladly abide by Facebook’s terms if I understood what they were,” said Chris Metcalf, the publisher of the left-leaning “Reasonable People Unite” which was shut down along with eight additional Facebook pages. w/ @lizzadwoskin https://t.co/W01C3AvI4N
— Tony Romm (@TonyRomm) October 11, 2018
Who was purged? Facebook has not released a full list, but some of those affected had millions of followers and have taken to Twitter and other methods to explain their side of the story. Facebook gave Gizmodo a few of the sites: “The Resistance, Reasonable People Unite, Reverb Press, Nation in Distress, Snowflakes.” According to Gizmodo, the October 11, 2018 purge was of sites likely run by Americans and is thus different than the earlier purge of Russian sites trying to influence the presidential election. Facebook has been under growing pressure in Congress for perceived political bias, which the company denies.
The New York Times reported that sites purged included “Right Wing News, which had more than 3.1 million followers, and left-wing pages that included the Resistance and Reverb Press, which had 240,000 and 816,000 followers.” The Washington Post reported that some purged accounts “had been in existence for years,” and “amassed millions of followers,” supporting both “conservative or liberal ideas.” The Post reported that Facebook only named five of the purged sites.
I just confirmed online with a lot of Facebook friends. CopBlock and Police the Police, as well as anti-drug war pages taken down. @AntiMedia’s FB as well. It seems cop and government accountability pages were major targets.
— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) October 11, 2018
Some other journalists have reported lists of some of those deleted:
As part of its purge, Facebook has removed the pages of several police accountability/watchdog/critic groups, including Cop Block, the Free Thought Project, and Police the Police. They've also apparently severely restricted activity for the Photography Is Not a Crime page.
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) October 12, 2018
Facebook has removed "559 Pages and 251 accounts" in the US "that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior." They include:
-Nation in Distress-Reasonable People Unite -The Resistance-Reverb Press -Right Wing News-Snowflakes
— Craig Silverman (@CraigSilverman) October 11, 2018
Here is information on some of the sites that say they were purged by Facebook.
Free Thought Project
Fb took down the free thought project's page. Just tried to access it here on Twitter, and it seems to also be down. Here's their web page: https://t.co/IB0kejSVUh
— Zap Radon (@zapradon) October 12, 2018
The Free Thought Project wrote on Twitter, “Facebook has unpublished our page After 5 years of building fans Facebook has officially unpublished our page (3.1 million fans) so we can’t post on it anymore. This is truly an outrage and we are devastated. We will do everything we can to recover our page and fight back.” However, shortly thereafter, its Twitter page was suspended too.
The Facebook page is indeed gone. When you go to the site’s website, a message appears that reads, “Thanks to a coordinated attack on independent media by the establishment, this website is at risk of shutting down due to our ads being pulled and organic reach throttled. We need your help to survive, click below to see how you can make sure we stay around.” The page’s about me section calls it, “a hub for Free Thinking conversations about the promotion of liberty and the daunting task of government accountability.”
Jason Bassler, of the Free Thought Project, wrote on Facebook, “So it appears that Facebook has unpublished our page along with at least 28 more pages that we currently know of including personal profiles. Yes, you read that correct. After 5 years of hard work, literally working 7 days a week to share information and build fans Facebook has officially unpublished our page The Free Thought Project (3.1 million fans) as well as Police the Police (1.9 million fans) so we can’t post on it anymore. It is still live on their site, but we can no longer control it or post on it. This is truly an outrage. I’ve put up with a lot of sh*t over the years with facebook, but this crosses the f*cking line. We will do everything we can to recover our pages and fight back against this.”
One man wrote on his comment thread, “Im sorry about your page man. I shared The Free Thought Project more than most pages. Its so fkn angering. Tyranny. Disguised so well for all the sheep too!”
You can look up ratings for the some of the deleted sites on MediaBiasFactCheck.com. For the Free Thought Project, it says, “The Free Thought Project reports some credible news as well as conspiracies such as Chemtrails, Geoengineering by the government and anti-vaccination propaganda. The Free Thought Project also uses sensational headlines that favor the left such as this: WATCH: Trump Melts Down as Man Holds Up Photo of Him and Billionaire Pedophile Epstein at Rally.” Some sites have criticized that fact-checking site’s methods, though.
Right Wing News
Most of the pages FB has removed in the past for rules violations were small and niche. But this batch has a few very big ones. Here are Right Wing News and Reverb Press compared to, say, Newsweek. pic.twitter.com/n21iRXz5eu
— Kevin Roose (@kevinroose) October 11, 2018
Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin spoke out in defense of John Hawkins, the founder of Right Wing News. Hawkins recently stopped running the Right Wing News page, though. Hawkins wrote on Twitter, “So, the NYT did a hit piece on me today regarding the Facebook page I used to run. After that, Twitter suspended one of my accounts with no reason why given. Since Twitter & FB may be about to zero me out, can’t hurt to go on.”
When I shut down Right Wing News, I wrote a column talking about it at Townhall. Facebook claims it killed a lot of conservative pages because of "spam farms" & "false stories." You shouldn't believe it when I told you it was coming in Jan. https://t.co/FaL9zvHn56 pic.twitter.com/umebkdadva
— John Hawkins (@johnhawkinsrwn) October 11, 2018
Malkin wrote: “In conservative media, @johnhawkinsrwn is an OG. Started Right Wing News in *2001* & was at vanguard of blogosphere. Now he’s targeted by @facebook @Twitter & @nytimes in pre-midterm SV purge of righties. This is no accident & John is not alone. Silence is complicity.”
Hawkins was recently in the news when he created a GoFundMe page that raised more than $600,000 for the family of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Hawkins wrote on Twitter, “Twitter just suspended the @rightwingnews twitter account for no given reason. It was a violation of rules. I am kind of assuming this one and my personal facebook will be shut down next.” He also wrote, “When I shut down Right Wing News, I wrote a column talking about it at Townhall. Facebook claims it killed a lot of conservative pages because of ‘spam farms’ & ‘false stories.’ You shouldn’t believe it when I told you it was coming in Jan.”
Craig Silverman, Buzzfeed’s media critic, wrote on Twitter, “These are hyperpartisan pages that at times spread false or misleading info. Just recently Right Wing News reupped an utterly baseless claim from last month about Hillary Clinton. But a key issue according to FB seems to be the pages using ‘inauthentic’ accounts as admins.”
These are hyperpartisan pages that at times spread false or misleading info. Just recently Right Wing News reupped an utterly baseless claim from last month about Hillary Clinton. But a key issue according to FB seems to be the pages using "inauthentic" accounts as admins. pic.twitter.com/M1N3GLgpVo
— Craig Silverman (@CraigSilverman) October 11, 2018
In a blog post, Hawkins wrote, “I have never created a Facebook page under a fake name and I don’t run the Right Wing News Facebook page any more. In fact, I haven’t run it since the start of the year. If you’ll notice, the Right Wing News website has been a vanity site since then.”
A New York Times story that mentioned the Right Wing News deletion. It was criticized by Hawkins for reporting:
“The conservative site, run by the blogger John Hawkins, had created a series of Facebook pages and accounts over the last year under many names, according to Facebook. After Dr. Blasey testified, Right Wing News posted several false stories about her — including the suggestion that her lawyers were being bribed by Democrats — and then used the network of Facebook pages and accounts to share the pieces so that they proliferated online quickly, social media researchers said.”
The Anti Media
Antiwar critics of establishment politics @AntiMedia and @TFTPROJECT just had their pages with millions of followers deleted by Facebook, along with hundreds of other alternative media outlets. Latest escalation of corporate censorship used as state censorship in the west. pic.twitter.com/Fdk9Yd13jI
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) October 11, 2018
The Anti Media’s Facebook page is deleted, and its Twitter page is suspended. Screenshots show the Twitter page for Anti Media reported being purged by Facebook. The Anti Media’s Facebook page, which is indeed gone, used to read, “The Anti-Media, Chula Vista, California. 2.1M likes. The Homepage of Independent Media.”
Nicholas Barnabe, admin for Anti Media, used his personal Facebook page to confirm the news. “Facebook has unpublished my page, The Anti-Media, after falsely accusing us of violating policies. 2.1 million followers and 5 years of work gone…for now,” he wrote.
The main story on its website on October 11 read, “Why the Barbaric Murder of Jamal Khashoggi is a Global Issue.” Its about me page reads, “Anti-Media’s evolution from a fiercely independent news blog to the Homepage of Independent Media is now complete. Our journey started when our founder Nick Bernabe launched a small anti-establishment Facebook page, and it grew into millions of social media followers and hundreds of millions of visits to our website.”
The Media Bias Fact Check site has given it a mixed rating, saying, “The Anti-Media mostly publishes conspiracy stories, but does occasionally produce a factual evidence based report. This site is not very trustworthy and needs fact checking from credible sources.”
“And just like that 5 + years of hard work promoting ideas of peace and freedom have been erased..” John Liberty wrote on Facebook with the above screenshot that shows multiple pages deleted, including one called Cop Block. The Facebook page for Cop Block is indeed gone.
The cache for the page said it had 1,721,193 likes on Facebook.
Cop Block’s website describes it as “a decentralized project supported by a diverse group of individuals united by their shared goal of police accountability.” Its about me page reads, “CopBlockers are committed to highlighting the double standards often granted to those with badges. By documenting police actions with a camera – whether they are illegal, immoral, or just a waste of time and resources – we can work together to show people that ‘Badges Don’t Grant Extra Rights’ and promote ways to not only film the police, but to get such content in front of as many eyes as possible.”
In a 2015 article, Daily Beast described Cop Block this way: “Made up of a loosely affiliated network of grassroots activists, CopBlock members also ‘patrol’ their local law enforcement, monitoring traffic stops and other interactions, often shouting advice to those they perceive as victims.” Daily Beast added, “CopBlock does have a tendency to go overboard with its headlines, and stories posted to its social media pages and blog often don’t quite play out they way they’re summarized when investigated.”
I’ve been memory holed from FaceBook! 350k followers poof gone! There is a dangerous precedent being set here where the big tech companies have appointed themselves as the gate keepers of political thought and opinion! Retweet this if you care about free-speech! #FreeDicks pic.twitter.com/LsnZvaJyOL
— Dan Dicks (@DanDicksPFT) October 11, 2018
Dicks wrote on Twitter, “I’ve been memory holed from FaceBook! 350k followers poof gone! There is a dangerous precedent being set here where the big tech companies have appointed themselves as the gate keepers of political thought and opinion! Retweet this if you care about free-speech! #FreeDicks.”
On Twitter, Dicks defines himself as “an investigative journalist and a documentary film maker at @PressForTruth.” His website describes him as, “the founder of an independent media outlet known as Press For Truth which produces videos and documentary films about issues that the mainstream media often fails to report on.”
His website explains, “Dan began directing and producing his third documentary film titled ‘Into The Fire’ which deals with the G20 summit that came to Toronto Canada in the summer of 2010. In September of 2011, Dan produced ‘The Toronto Hearings on 9/11: Uncovering Ten Years of Deception’, which was a six hour project that explored various testimony from expert witnesses surrounding the attacks of September 11th, 2001.”
https://t.co/wOzOueaST2 Has Been Disabled By Facebook In A Massive Purge https://t.co/BHMtIULjXs #g8m pic.twitter.com/0nDXaZyKdB
— NoisyRoom (@terresamonroe) October 11, 2018
Noisy Room.net is another page that says it was purged. The site posted the following statement on its blog:
As you may or may not know, there was a massive purge at Facebook this morning. Suddenly, both my personal account and NoisyRoom’s were disabled. I contested it and sent in my ID, but I hold little hope that it will do a lick of good. I’ve been censored over there.
For those of you who read what I write, you know that I did not violate any standards. In fact, I don’t send out most of what I write. I send on big news links and a few memes. It was enough to get me banned and the pages are simply gone.
I am still on Twitter at terresamonroe if you want to reach me there or you can always email me at terresa AT noisyroom.net.
I knew this would eventually happen but kept telling myself why would they do this to legitimate writers and researchers? Well, that’s not the point, is it? This is very political and anyone who supports conservatives or those on the right is in the crosshairs.
I will keep blogging and will have more to say on this once I cool off. Never be afraid to speak up and don’t quit out there. I sure as hell won’t. Read the media’s take on this below – anyone who knows me knows my pages were not like this at all.
Malkin also tweeted about Noisy Room, writing, “Terresa at Noisy Room is another old school original conservative blogger swept up in the @Facebook pre-midterm election purge. We see you, Silicon Valley.”
Facebook took down my page with nearly 70,000 followers, labeling it as "spam," when I have spent 4 years working to build that page up and using it to post the articles I wrote and videos of my reporting. This is so incredibly wrong and is affecting hundreds of similar pages.
— Rachel Blevins (@RachBlevins) October 11, 2018
Rachel Blevins, a correspondent for RT America, wrote on Twitter, “Facebook took down my page with nearly 70,000 followers, labeling it as ‘spam,’ when I have spent 4 years working to build that page up and using it to post the articles I wrote and videos of my reporting. This is so incredibly wrong and is affecting hundreds of similar pages.”
@facebook I am still completely locked out of my account, and this is the message I get when I attempt to log in from phone or desktop computer… pic.twitter.com/MjupwjXYLe
— Rachel Blevins (@RachBlevins) October 11, 2018
According to The New York Times, RT is “Russia’s state-financed international cable network.” It also has an online presence. (The Russian government also runs Sputnik, a “brash Russian-government-run news and commentary site that models itself on Buzzfeed,” the Times reported.)
Nation in Distress
Class is finally going to be in our White House again!!! #trumpwins #draintheswamp https://t.co/zX4KVuFlO4
— Nation In Distress (@NIDpatriots) November 10, 2016
On Twitter, Nation in Distress defines itself as follows: “NID brings to you Breaking News Updates and Top Stories concerning Crooked Hillary, The Corrupt Obama Administration and Progressive RINOs.” Its Facebook page is deleted.
This is the type of thing that Nation in Distress posts on social media:
So we should "Trust" the FBI like Ruby Ridge, Waco, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, IRS targeting, Hillary emails, etc…? 🤔 No Thanks!
— Nation In Distress (@NIDpatriots) October 9, 2017
The New York Times reported on Nation in Distress in October 2016. The author of the article wrote, “In this election, truthiness has become fully weaponized by social media, with Facebook awaring coveted blue check marks to partisan accounts on the right and left, and lending them an air of credibility des[ite the fact that they have no responsibility to separate truth from fiction.” The Times described a teaser text that directed the reporter to a Nation in Distress post, recounting the teaser text as “Obama to declare MARTIAL LAW if Trump Wins Election.”
The cache for the site’s Facebook page reads, “Nation In Distress. 3212905 likes · 1435524 talking about this. NATION IN DISTRESS WAS THE FIRST ONLINE PUBLICATION TO ENDORSE PRESIDENT …” before trailing off. The Post reported that the line ends with President Donald J. Trump.
Facebook purged over 800 accounts and pages pushing political messages for profit. Nation in Distress (3 million followers, conservative), Reverb Press (700,000 followers, liberal) were included in pages shut down. https://t.co/id68H7zuXi
— Terry Mackin (@tcmackin) October 11, 2018
The Washington Post says Reverb Press dates to 2014 and was co-founded by a man named James Rader, who told the Post he is progressive and feels the Facebook action was unfair to sites of all political backgrounds, adding, “This is what the First Amernment is all about. It should be a fair, equal playing field, that’s all we ever asked for.”
The top story on the Reverb Press website on October 11 reads, “Kanye West Delivers Bizarre Rambling Rant During Trump Visit.”
The Media Bias Fact Check site found of Reverb Press: “Overall, we rate Reverb Press Left biased based on story selection that usually favors the left and High for factual reporting as all news is sourced to credible media outlets.”
Reasonable People Unite
One of the pages that shared my Kavanaugh tweet was purged by Facebook and the Washington Post quoted my tweet in their story about the purge and my day just got a lot weirder. How’s your day? pic.twitter.com/xZ91eMTo6j
— Todd Halloween (@todd_holloman) October 11, 2018
Chris Metcalf published Reasonable People Unite, which the Washington Post describes as “left-leaning.” The page is indeed deleted.
From what I can tell, and I am 100% serious, the last thing Reasonable People Unite posted before Facebook nuked them was Peter Daou pic.twitter.com/A50vulqXdq
— Brett Banditelli (@banditelli) October 11, 2018
He told the Post, “I am a legitimate political activist. I don’t have a clickbait blog. I don’t have a fake news website. And I haven’t been doing anything that all the other pages in this space aren’t doing.”