Marco Valbuena | Chief Information Officer | Communist Party of the Philippines, April 10, 2022
(1) Over the past two weeks, Facebook deleted several accounts, groups and pages maintained by various revolutionary outfits in the Philippines, including those of the CPP’s information arm, and those belonging to different units of the New People’s Army (NPA). These account served as a means for of reaching out to the public, sharing information, and expressing views on important issues the Filipino people are facing.
This is not the first time that Facebook censored the revolutionary forces in the Philippines on its platform. In 2017, the PRWC Facebook Page, which had more than 10,000 followers was shut down by Facebook without warning or explanation. Since then, it has repeatedly taken down accounts and pages maintained by the CPP and other Filipino revolutionary forces. Last February, it permanently removed the account of Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, which for many years was used to promote Ka Joma’s academic work and views on Philippine issues.
These accounts censored by Facebook have consistently provided information about the human rights situation in the Philippines, especially in rural areas where reporters of major media organizations do not have access to or which have been subjected to news blackouts by the AFP. On several occasions, these accounts carried content which exposed the involvement and culpability of units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) in extrajudicial killings and massacres, as well as unlawful arrests, abductions, torture and other abuses perpetrated by state armed forces in the course of the Duterte regime’s counterinsurgency operations.
Information posted by these accounts also exposed foreign and local mining companies and big infrastructure projects which brought destruction to the environment and to people’s lives. These accounts have carried information that challenged the views promoted by state agencies especially regarding the current armed conflict, and explain the social, political and economic reasons why people take up arms in the struggle for democracy and freedom.
By taking down the accounts of revolutionary forces in the Philippines who are waging a struggle for national liberation, Facebook has effectively censored information that for years has challenged the dominant narrative being promoted and peddled by the reactionary government and the AFP. In doing so, it denies a large segment of the Filipino public, who rely on Facebook for information, a critical or alternative view that is essential for democratic life and action. Information on Facebook about the civil war in the country will now be monopolized by the AFP and the NTF-Elcac which long have been discredited sources of lies and disinformation.
(2) The banning of the CPP and NPA on Facebook is just one of the most recent evidence of the company’s exercise of arbitrary powers to censor information that are anti-imperialist and anti-fascist on the social networking platform. It has trampled on the right to free expression on the pretext of fighting “terrorism,” “hate speech,” “fake news” and “misinformation.” Facebook foists its “community standards,” an opaque set of rules, mainly against those groups who oppose the narrative promoted by the US government. There are no legal or bureaucratic procedure that govern Facebook’s decisions to take down accounts and pages.
Facebook’s policy is firmly linked with the policies US imperialism through its partnership with the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based agency that is known to be a NATO lobby group. According to Facebook, the Atlantic Council, specifically its Digital Forensic Research Lab, helps it “weed out fake news” from its platform.
The Atlantic Council is a veritable bulwark of US ultra-conservatists and war hawks. It counts among its directors retired US military officers (such as Wesley Clark and David Petraeus), at least seven former top officers of the US CIA (including Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Stephen Kappes) and known former US ultra-conservative and war-mongering officials (Condoleezza Rice, Henry Kissinger and James Baker). The Atlantic Council receives funding from the US State Department, ultra-wealthy corporate donors, defense contractors, major oil companies, and NATO governments.
The Atlantic Council promotes US global economic interests, propping up dictatorships, anti-communism, US military and political interventions, and “regime change” against governments that assert national sovereignty against US hegemonism. It has openly supported subversive activities of the Venezuelan pro-US opposition and destabilization of the Maduro government, and has advocated the arming of fundamentalist groups in Syria. It has promoted US war provocations against Russia in Ukraine and for extending military support to the neo-Nazi Ukrainian government.
Facebook is strewn with spies. Officers heading its Security Policy, Security Communications, Cyber Espionage Investigations, Influence Operations Product Policy Manager, Threat Intelligence Analyst are all once connected with the National Security Agency, the CIA, the FBI or intelligence agencies of other governments.
With the Atlantic Council as partner and former CIA spies as employees, Facebook’s “community standards,” “fight against fake news” and “ban on hate speech” are all worthless and hypocritical declarations that only serve to conceal its pro-US, ultra-conservative, anti-progressive and counterrevolutionary agenda. This has been repeatedly demonstrated over the past few years.
Last March, despite having included the Azov Battalion in its list of “violent organizations”, Facebook recently announced that it will allow praise for the neo-Nazi Russophobe armed group that is known to have been involved in attacks, rape and torture against civilian Russian population in Ukraine. In addition, it will allow for content calling for “death” against Russia’s leaders and military forces.
Last year, Facebook censored content posted by Palestinians surrounding the violent attempts of the Israeli state to drive them away from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The ban was made upon the request of the Israeli government. At the same time, Facebook is known to be liberal in allowing content promoting violence against Palestinians.
In 2020, after the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was assassinated on orders of US President Trump, Facebook banned all positive references to the general to support the US government’s narrative that the general was a “terrorist” and suppress the voices of Iranians who widely consider Soleimani positively. Last year, Facebook allowed content that featured calls of “death to Khamenei” in specific reference to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei.
At the height of the elections in Nicaragua last year, Facebook deleted the accounts of top news outlets, journalists and activists, all of which were supportive of the Sandinista government. Facebook claimed these accounts were “bots” engaged in “inauthentic behavior” in what was described as an “appalling interference” by Facebook on the elections of a sovereign country.
In the Philippines, while Facebook bans the NPA for having “a violent mission,” it continues to allow content consistently promoted by the AFP and its units, by the NTF-Elcac and its network of trolls that engage in red-tagging against human rights defenders and legal democratic parties and organizations, and foment hate, and encourage and applaud violent death against activists and revolutionaries.
(3) Facebook is one of the biggest monopoly companies in the market of social networking. Its mother company, Meta, has a $1 trillion market capitalization, and also owns Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and other platforms. Facebook, together with other monopoly internet companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon and others have been widely denounced for its monopoly business practices to kill or gobble up smaller companies.
Facebook employs close to 19,000 workers, mostly contractual project-based employees. It produces applications for massive data mining of private information shared by its 2.85 billion active users, which it then sells to advertisers.
With its capital and global infrastructure, Facebook wields strong monopoly power in terms of controlling the flow of news and information. It has reshaped the world of news media. In the US, more than 1/3 of Americans get their news from Facebook. In the Philippines, it is reported that more than 80% of Filipinos use Facebook, with many accessing the internet through Facebook Basics (free access to Facebook paid by the company). Around 25% of Filipinos rely on Facebook as news source.
Facebook is also denounced for engaging in mind manipulation. It has worked with “consultancy groups” as the Cambridge Analytica to conduct political, social, cultural and psychological surveys in order to determine methods to manipulate and influence the views of its users, and give it the means to intervene in the elections of countries and influence its voters. It has been reported that Cambridge Analytica worked with the campaign of Rodrigo Duterte in 2016. Moneyed politicians and big companies use Facebook and its analytics (data) to deploy bot accounts and trolls that daily hammer users’ minds to shape by information tailored to fit their cultural, ideological and psychological makeup.
Although its service is in the nature of a conveyor of information among its users, and from news producers to subscribers, Facebook has wielded its vast monopoly power to influence and shape the flow of information in line with its commercial and political interests, which are subsumed to the interests of US imperialism and its global hegemonism, military interventionism and policy of war.
(4) As a social networking platform, Facebook is ironically anti-social and anti-democratic, having assumed powers to determine what information should be suppressed and what should be promoted. It has abused its power of “moderation” using its so-called “community guidelines” as vague pretext. By determining what its users could read, Facebook has assumed the role of global dictator in the realm of news and information.
Facebook has been compared to a devious newspaper delivery driver, who along the route stops to read the news, disagrees with how the news is written, and decides not to deliver the papers to its readers.
Facebook is using its monopoly position to carry out what it calls “content moderation,” which essentially, is determining which news organizations and information are “trustworthy,” which to defame as “serving foreign interference,” or which would be deranked and deprived of readers using its “algorithms.” It is basically an instrument of global US psyops to shape the opinion and worldview of people around the world.
(5) Facebook users should be made critically aware of the fact that the information that they are being fed by the social media monopoly giant are filtered and selected in partnership with pro-war and pro-interventionist US policy makers to serve the interests and policies of US imperialism.
People should denounce Facebook for being the omni-censor that suppresses their right to freely express their opinion and share information, and thus uphold their democratic right to choose what beliefs they will adhere to.
There are democratic sectors demanding that Facebook and other monopoly internet companies be dismantled and turned into non-profit organizations, where content moderation will be placed under transparent community control.
In analyzing or understanding one issue or another, we advise people to exert more effort to seek information from sources outside Facebook, and, thus, demand free access to these sources (free internet).
Of course, the internet is dominated by western media sources that are also under the sway of Washington-based policy makers. They have all the resources and infrastructure to dominate the global information environment in line with the interests of the US.
However, the internet also provides the means for the broad masses of the people and their organizations to promote their own ideas and views by maintaining their own websites, email lists, chat groups, and other means of information exchange. But the more that these are put to effective use for revolutionary propaganda and education, the more certain that these will also be met with anti-democratic suppression, through DDoS attacks, malware and other means. We will, however, never allow ourselves to be silenced. Persistence is the key.#