Facebook Bans 500+ Political Pages for “Spam,” Victims Say Allegations Untrue and Unfair
Admins behind ‘The Free Thought Project’, ‘The Anti Media’ and ‘Police the Police’ speak to Big League Politics after their pages were banned during Facebook’s purge of over 800 pages and accounts last week.
Facebook claimed they banned 559 pages and 251 accounts who were using “clickbait” to send Facebook users to “ad farms,” and that many of these pages only pretended to be political or news oriented in nature in a scheme to generate money. In their blog post, Facebook explains that these pages would share each others content and post the content in groups affiliated with the pages, which according to Facebook, violates their spam policies.
However, at least two of the individuals who ran some of the largest banned pages and the businesses behind them maintain that they ran independent news outlets with strict editorial standards. They believe they have been targeted for their politically incorrect but factual content for years, and offer instances of Facebook retroactively rescind actions taken against them as evidence.
Nick Bernabe ran the Facebook page ‘The Anti Media’, which had over 2 million likes before Facebook banned it last Thursday. He says his page posted political content that was no different from any other political news website or company.
“We have a policy against clickbait,” Bernabe told Big League Politics. “We have legitimate editorial standards. We have respect for what we do. We take it seriously.” Bernabe continued, “We have long term ambitions to be seen as a very serious news outlet.”
He also denies the idea that he or his website spam articles on Facebook, and suggests that the number of ads they have on the website is proportional to any major news website.
“The accusations of stirring up political debate for profit, I’m not sure any news outlet can deny those allegations,” Bernabe told us, “I don’t know if they expect us to be run as a charity or some kind of money losing operation,” Bernabe finished, “We have people who work and need to get paid and have bills and rent. They need to eat.”
Confusingly, before ‘The Anti Media’ was taken down, Bernabe says his page participated in an exclusive advertising program known as Facebook Instant Articles. He was invited to join the program by Facebook, and when he accepted the invitation he was then given a personal representative at the company to help him optimize the ads on his website.
“When I told her what happened, she didn’t know anything about it,” said Bernabe. Bernabe told us the representative said she would try to escalate his appeal process, as she personally viewed and approved of his website, its content, and his page when he enrolled in the program.
Weeks before ‘The Anti Media’ was banned, Bernabe was given a $500 ad credit to spend on Facebook Instant Articles. Bernabe says he used it to advertise one of his articles with no complaints from Facebook at the end of September.
“First of all, being on Instant Articles isn’t easy. You have to meet a pretty high standard,” Bernabe explained, “for them to think our content is good enough to put us on Instant Article, then give us $500… then decide our content is not worth being on their platform,” does not seem to follow logically, he concluded.
Not surprisingly, Twitter followed Facebook’s lead and banned ‘The Anti Media’ from its platform about an hour after it was banned from Facebook.
Big League Politics heard a similar story from Jason Bassler, who co-founded ‘The Free Thought Project’, which had nearly 3.2 million likes, and founded ‘Police the Police’, which had around 1.9 million. Both pages were banned by Facebook last week.
“There is selective enforcement, first of all,” Bassler told Big League Politics. “It’s obviously subjective and biased, borderline arbitrary.”
Bassler said he first learned his page was unpublished from an LA Times article published only minutes after his page and many others were taken down in what he initially assumed must have been a glitch on the part of the platform.
“At first, I thought it was a glitch,” Bassler said, “Then, once we stumbled upon the LA Times article, which seemed to coincide with the exact, maybe a 15 minute difference, of when Facebook actually started the purge,” he knew.
Bassler was surprised to learn that the LA Times knew about his pages’ fate before he did.
“I guess the LA Times is mainstream enough, it has a source inside Facebook,” Bassler joked, “No collusion going on there.”
He maintains that his pages produced high quality content with strict editorial standards that thousands of Facebook users engaged with daily. While his website has been accused of publishing fake news, it has previously issued corrections and had the strikes against its articles placed by PolitiFact and other fact checkers removed.
Since the purge, Bassler says the Facebook group associated with the banned page ‘The Free Thought Project’ has grown by at least five thousand new members, and fans are now finding and following his personal profile to continue receiving his content.
“I’ve been in touch with more people, gotten more doors open in the past few days,” Bassler said, “This kind of backfired on them, censorship always does.”
On the same day the pages were banned from Facebook, ‘The Free Thought Project’ was banned from Twitter and his ‘Police the Police’ YouTube channel was restricted from uploading new videos until January 8, 2019.
Derrick Broze, a freelance journalist and activist who previously wrote for both ‘The Free Thought Project’ and ‘The Anti Media’, told Big League Politics that he believes the bans are the latest example of Facebook succumbing to “The Russia Hysteria” and that the platform is now taking pages down at the behest of left leaning fact checkers.
Broze explains that the troubles first began for both groups he worked with after the self-proclaimed watchdog website Prop or Not, which claims to inform users about attempts of Russian meddling within the United States political system, listed ‘The Free Thought Project’ and ‘The Anti Media’ as propaganda. Prop or Not, Broze explained, is frequently cited by mainstream media websites like The Washington Post as an authority on the issue.
According to Broze, the reason why pages and groups seemed to share the same content is because of the relatively small number of content producers in their media niche.
“There’s probably less than a thousand people or so who are in this part of the alternative media industry, and we’ve become friends over the years,” Broze explained, “Some people write for different websites.”
Most importantly, Broze believes this is an attempt by Facebook and Big Tech to stifle politically incorrect and libertarian messages going into the 2018 midterm elections.
“If our pages were still up, we might be posting memes and articles that were questioning the candidates,” Broze told Big League Politics, “Or the elections themselves.”