The strange case of Facebook censoring people protesting a corrupt government

The strangest thing happened yesterday, during the biggest mass protests against the corrupt government in Romania. One of the most well known online personalities, a prolific local vlogger, Marian Ionescu, has seen his Facebook account reported for spamming, and was unable to post on his profile, to tell his friends about his participation to the protests.

See the story on his site (Romanian)

He was not alone – in fact, hundreds others have seen their accounts marked as spamming, although all they did was post about their participation in the protests. After Dragoș Stanca asked people if they seen similar behavior, hundreds confirmed that their accounts have been reported for spam as well.

Again from Marian Ionescu’s site (Romanian)

This is strange as it comes with a deeper context. For the past weeks, several accounts of prolific, influential social media personalities have been suspended for various reasons. People like Julius Constantinescu, Dan Alexe, Ovidiu Eftimie, and others have been suspended for up to 30 days for posts that apparently don’t respect the Facebook Community Guideline, although some were penalized for posts made in 2009 – that’s 8 years ago. For some reason, it seems that Romanian Facebook users community has been put under the microscope lens and a sweep of „unruly elements” has been performed.

And everyone starts to be very upset about this. In the past years, Facebook has become more and more ubiquitous, and can now be named the de-facto „agora”, the place where people meet to discuss whatever goes on in the country, from silly things like memes about a goofy thing some actor said to political stances and mobilization for protests against the Romanian government corrupt policies. And for some reason, all the banning in the recent Facebook campaign goes towards what people perceive as „opposition voices” – people who engage in political discussions and are seen as critics of the government.

So naturally words like „censorship” are thrown around, and people feel that what they perceived as a platform to enable free speech is now collaborating with a corrupt government. No official answer has been offered by Facebook to the many inquiries raised by the users affected by this new vindictive facet of the social network.  Facebook ignores any attempt to get a real answer from real people.

We are all aware that Facebook is a private enterprise, even if publicly owned. I do understand that the users are not share holders, and their opinion might not matter. But it’s strange to see what we used to perceive as a platform that will guarantee freedom of expression suddenly turning on free speech with foul reports. I understand that the issue might not even be political – it might be a simple technical issue, a bug that would allow a small team of very determined people to report and therefore block any valid account just because they don’t like what they say.

But without an answer from Facebook, we can only suspect that we’re being, in a sense, betrayed. That Facebook is somehow aiding the government to start their own small censorship racket. Of course, we are the fools, for relying so much on the social network. Until then, the Romanians that try to fight corruption are not welcome on Facebook – and they’ll have to go some other places to talk among themselves.

PS: the website was down for some time after I published this post. It seems that some misconfiguration was the issue, and not some foul play, just to make things clear.

27 Replies to “The strange case of Facebook censoring people protesting a corrupt government”

  1. Dar de ce e de tinichea, ma rog? Mie mi-a placut, l-am citit cu usurinta si l-am inteles din prima si nici n-am identificat vreo gresala. De ce e de tinichea?

    1. Pentru că se simte că nu am gândit articolul ăsta în engleză, e gândit în română. E evident că nu sunt un nativ, dar Robert Dinu e genul de comentator care n-are nimic util sau interesant de zis dar simte nevoia să spună el că ar fi fost capabil de mai mult și mai bine, să ne demonstreze el că e mai deștept.

    1. Vorbind strict de site, ai o mizerie de font, gri deschis și subțire pe fond alb, e greu de citit pe mobil. Dacă era și un pic mai mic, era complet necitibil.

  2. Oamenii trebuie sa inteleaga ca democratia nu se poate transfera cu adevarat pe Facebook, care e un spatiu privat, un website al unei companii care il poate restrictiona cum vrea ea, conform termenilor si conditiilor.

    E ca si cum protestele ar avea loc intr-un mall, in loc de Piata Victoriei, acolo mall-ul poate sa spuna pardon, asta e proprietate privata, interferati cu afacerea noastra – si sa dea oamenii afara, sa spuna ca doar cumparatorii au voie acolo.

    Asa si Facebook, acest website nu e un spatiu public si nu are ca scop sa asigure spatii sau servicii de interes public, ci e o firma care isi urmareste interesul ei – afacerea ei cu publicitate. Concluzia e ca nu exista cu adevarat democratie fara spatii publice.

    A fost destul de simplu pentru mafioti sa blocheze conturile – au lucrat probabil cu o armata de postaci care au raportat paginile influencerilor ca fiind abuzive. La un anume nr. de raportari, FB blocheaza automat pagina pana cand e revizuita manual de un operator. Dar asta ia timp. In concluzie, treaba functioneaza pentru a bloca un anume protest in limita a 24 de ore. Probabil FB va face ancheta, va gasi conturile false de pe care s-au facut raportarile si le va inchide. Dar mafiotii o sa faca altele data viitoare.

    1. E posibil insa ca FB sa contracareze marcand paginile influencerilor blocati acum ca fiind safe, ceea ce le va face imposibil de blocat data viitoare.

    2. E o problema de reputație pentru Facebook – aparenta e ca firma a lucrat pentru mafioții români. Nu o sa le placă asta.

  3. S-au prins pesedeii care e treaba cu Facebook și și-au tras și ei un cuib de Tăușance să trolleze și să controleze pe model putinist?

    1. Hai să vedem. Sunt sincer curios dacă o să facă ceva, sau dacă o să zică ceva. Știrea a ajuns pe prima pagină, dar tot de-acolo va și dispărea.

  4. FB e doar o masina de facut bani a lui Zuckerberg. Care e un democrat/stangist de 2 lei. Ei tot o fac pe-a uimitii cu site-uri/reclame/hackeri rusi, dar exact acelasi FB era bine-mersi cand primeau bani de la rusii respectivi. La fel ca Hillary de ex, tot o da pe Trump si rusii, dar cam tot ce s-a sapat in directia aia se intoarce la Clinton si Democrati.

    Stiu ca FB e vehiculul cel mai rapid si facil pt “reach”, dar luati-l “with a grain of salt”. In rest toate bune, sanatate la toti except you know…

  5. Eu am disable total la account inca de luni datorita unui comentariu.
    Am trimis ID si tot ce solicita facebook de 100 de ori pana acum pe toate tipurile de form pe care le au. Fara nici un raspuns din partea fb. Mentionez ca nu am primit nici o notificare inainte de disable, si nici un raspuns dupa zecile de incercari de a remedia problema. Pare un mare abuz.
    Daca cineva stie cum pot remedia aceasta problema va rog, nu imi pot continua activitatea personala si profesionala fara accessul la contul/mesajele/notitele mele.
    Multumesc.

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