Followers of Jones declared him the catalyst of a coming purge. First it would be Jones, and others would be next. They called this a slippery slope.
Many people laughed at this notion. Myself included. After all, this was the guy who called Sandy Hook a hoax, and the parents of dead children “crisis actors.” Jones didn’t even attend the hearing of the lawsuit against him. Besides, Social Media platforms are private platforms, and they have the right to decide who can and cannot use the platform. Albeit, their terms of service are long, confusing, and selectively enforced. However Jones is a special case. No other media pages are making these kinds of claims on Facebook, so they wouldn’t be subject to the same fate.
It didn’t take long for social media giants to begin descending that slippery slope and prove me wrong.
Facebook removed over 550 pages and 250 accounts in what it called a “spam purge.” Facebook stated that the removed pages had fake accounts as admins, and that there were multiple pages that shared content to make followers ‘think they were bigger than they were,’ and would post links to their website where users would see ads with their content.
“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. 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.”
Reading through this statement, a reader would likely believe that these accounts were run by bots randomly posting everywhere and linking to inauthentic sites purely for ad revenue. Facebook’s mentioning about the upcoming US midterm election eludes the reader to believe these accounts were spreading false news stories surrounding the election. However, this isn’t actually the case.
“Administrators for these pages, as you might expect, have complained that they did nothing wrong. But their pages weren’t purged for posting misinformation: they were purged for violating Facebook’s policies around “inauthentic behavior,” which can include using fake accounts to administer pages. If there’s less misinformation on Facebook tomorrow than there was yesterday, it’s essentially due to a technicality. If the administrators of these hyper-partisan pages would simply stop creating fake accounts, misinformation might thrive on Facebook as never before.”
First, let’s get a piece of terminology straight. What the Facebook Corporation is calling fake accounts is what a Facebook user would call an Alt Account.
How do people use these alt accounts with the pages they admin? It could be for a number of reasons, the first being for notification sorting. If you admin a page, all of the page’s notifications also show up in the notifications on your personal profile. If you admin a very large page, it makes sense to admin this from an alternative account. Otherwise, you’d be hard pressed to find notifications from your friends and family when mixed with notifications from a highly active page. This is especially true if your page has a following in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions.
The second reason is to give yourself a spare key to the page you admin. This is in case something were to happen to your account, you wouldn’t lose the page you admin. If you admin a large page from an alt account, you probably have a second alt account as your spare key. If you run a smaller page from your main account, you may have one alt account as your spare.
This is something I do.
As far as content sharing across multiple pages and groups, content sharing among related pages is also normal. For example, three different pages that were sharing each other’s content were Cop Block, Police the Police and Filming Cops. These pages were all centered around the theme of police brutality and abuse of authority. They were similar pages, and they did share each other’s content from time to time in a collaborative effort to reach each other’s users.
All three were pulled in the purge.
If you were to scroll through all three of those pages all day, you’d probably have a very skewed view of the police as it focused only on police who abused their power. However, the content they did publish is content people should be able to see, because the videos and stories they posted are of things that really did happen.
Another large page that was purged was The Free Thought Project, which unlike the above pages, focused on a range of topics. This page has had a contentious history with Snopes, who Facebook uses for fact checking. Snopes had previously declared two of their articles to be false based on grammatical technicalities and they were removed from Facebook. The Free Thought Project disputed this to Facebook, and those two articles were reinstated. Amazingly, Snopes posted a fact check against the The Free Thought Project who alleged Snopes was stifling conversation by having their article removed from Facebook which shouldn’t have been. It’s unclear whether Snopes had a role in decision making of the accounts being pulled.
Jason Bassler, who is an Admin for The Free Thought Project spoke with Reason Magazine. From the article:
“Bassler has editing privileges on a bunch of pages that were affected by the ban, and he shared a picture on Facebook on what it looked like to see all these pages depublished:
Bassler explains though that this was the result of networking between pages of similar interest, not a handful of people trying to artificially inflate their own popularity. He has made five pages himself, and he was assisting with these others.”
“When we first started these pages in 2012, we started networking with different page owners realized we could do more to benefit each other by helping each other,” he says. “What we did and what we’ve done for the past six years is help each other out by giving each other information.”
I spoke with a different Admin from The Free Thought Project, who I will simply call John. Aside from being an admin for this page, he also had another highly followed page called LowKick MMA. This was a page devoted to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts and UFC Fights. This page did absolutely no political content sharing with The Free Thought Project, as it revolved around MMA. Facebook also pulled LowKick MMA which had half a million followers.
Another popular page which did not survive the purge was The Anti Media, a page largely bent on US Foreign Policy which brings to light foreign intervention that the mainstream media largely ignores. While their Editor and Chief Carey Wedler has not yet returned request for comment, she has already released a lengthy statement on her YouTube channel (while it still exists):
After Facebook removed these pages, Twitter immediately followed suit and removed the identical Twitter pages, as well as the personal Twitter accounts of the admins.
If you click on the handles for either account handle listed in the above tweet, you get the error that the account has been suspended. Carey’s personal Facebook account is still in tact, where she complained about Facebook deleting The Anti Media, as well as Twitter removing The Anti Media as well as her personal Twitter account.
So what exactly did Carey do on Twitter that violated their rules? Funny you should ask. They won’t say.
In the below screenshot, the reasoning they gave was an empty field.
So now am I worried about the slippery slope? You bet. I engage in very similar behavior.
I have an alt account listed as admin on my pages. I share articles that I write on my personal page as well as pages I admin, as well as groups I admin, as well as groups I am in that are relative to the content. It’s also shared by our Libertarian Republic Facebook page, as well as the public page of The Libertarian Republic’s founder. Oh, and God Forbid our articles have ads embedded every few paragraphs you have the scroll past. They’re not like those super convenient pop up ads that hijack your mobile browser like some of those Mainstream Media sites have.
It’s time to speak up.