Facebook announced in a 19 August statement that it’s commenced erasing antifascist and anarchist content from its platform, as it claims that while these groups don’t directly organise violence, they “have celebrated violent acts” and have weapons they’ve suggested using.
In relation to Antifa, the social media giant has removed 980 groups, torn down 150 pages, rubbed out 160 ads, and erased 1,400 hashtags. Facebook won’t be restricting individuals from posting about these groups, but rather it’s preventing the groups from organising on its site.
To bring about this ban, Facebook expanded its Dangerous Individuals and Organisations policy, so it no longer just applies to groups so violent that they warrant being totally wiped from the platform, but it now places restrictions upon those posing “significant risks to public safety”.
The social media platform has also conflated these anti-racist left-leaning groupings with far-right elements, as Facebook outlined last Wednesday that it’s placed these same restrictions on alt-right group QAnon, thus blurring the distinction between white supremacists and those against them.
Sidling up to Trump
An obvious aspect to Zuckerberg’s prohibition on antifascist and anarchist groups organising and publishing on its platform is that it reflects the anti-left rhetoric that president Donald Trump commenced spouting in the aftermath of the 2017 Unite the Right protests in Charlottesville.
And Trump’s campaign against Antifa has continued since that time.
This has only intensified since the Black Lives Matter uprisings began in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, with the US president repeatedly pointing to Antifa as being at the heart of the unrest.
This assertion on the part of Trump persists, as he’s now been blaming antifascists and anarchists for the ongoing demonstrations in the city of Portland, which had involved the president sending in federal agents to deal with the protests.
So, this means that in response to actions against police brutality towards people of colour – along with the systemic racism that propagates it – Facebook has moved to silence these left groups, which the Trump administration has identified as being behind the BLM demonstrations.
The right type of violence
Anarchist public relations project Agency has published an open letter condemning the banning of anarchist publishers and groups from Facebook, emphasising that it’s been predicated upon a false equivalence being drawn between antifascist organising and fascist violence.
“The anarchist publishers and authors in question are being targeted for reasons that are ultimately about political beliefs, not ‘violence’”, the authors of the open letter posit.
“If this decision goes unchallenged, it will set a precedent that will be used again and again to target dissent.”
And not only do these restrictions look unfavourable for the future of being able to express political views that don’t prop up the governing power structure on social media, but it also places Facebook in opposition to those that choose to challenge state-sponsored violence.
Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.