Romanian Facebook page Steaua Libera was banned from Facebook for images posted in 2013, 2014, and 2017 of crowded soccer stadiums where attendees depicted target symbols likely mistaken for the Celtic cross, only to reinstate the page after Big League Politics contacted the big tech platform for comment.
Steaua Libera, a popular Romanian Facebook page and website that promotes the Steaua Bucharest football club, the official soccer organization of the Romanian Army, was banned from Facebook for years old photos that the platform likely believed depicted racist imagery. The page was reinstated approximately 12 hours after Big League Politics requested a comment from Facebook.
Speaking with Big League Politics, Steaua Libera administrator and editor Adrian Maties told us that the “website is about sports and the Steaua Bucharest club.” Maties went on to say that “We have no interest in doing politics, in selling stuff, promoting stuff, we don’t talk about issues that some may find controversial, we just cover sports and our team.”
Maties went on to explain that Facebook did not specifically say what the page did to constitute a ban.
“Although Facebook didn’t say anything, we understood just by looking at the pictures that the common element was the Celtic Cross,” said Maties. “However, the Celtic Cross symbol is not the focus or the main element in any of the pictures. It just appears on some of the banners held by the Steaua supporters.”
Maties provided the offending photos to Big League Politics. They depict large crowds in football stadiums, and in each of the photos one or two sports fans can be seen holding a sign or banner that has either a target or a Celtic cross.
The Celtic cross has been popularized by neo-Nazi movements as a symbol of white nationalism or white supremacy, though this is almost certainly not the motive behind the sports fans bringing the signs or banners to a sporting event.
Maties explained to Big League Politics that “These four photos were published in 2013, 2014 and 2017. They were not in fact 4 photos, but 2 photos, published and republished.” He went on, “Having our page unpublished for just 4 pictures, that aren’t even about racism, but about supporters having a good time at the stadium is just not fair.”
The page was reinstated approximately 12 hours after Big League Politics contacted Facebook.
Big League Politics contacted Facebook for comment about this ban. In response, a Facebook spokesperson told Big League Politics that “The page Steaua Liberă does not break our policies and has been restored.”
They went on to apologize for the inconvenience caused to Maties.
Facebook Will Create “Oversight Board” For Users to Appeal Censorship Decisions
A smidgen of accountability.
Facebook is planning on rolling out an “oversight board” to which users of the platform can appeal the censorship of content.
“Over the next few weeks, our nearly 3 billion users will have access to an independent review of difficult content decisions,” announced the company in a Thursday blog post.
Oversight Board to Start Hearing Cases https://t.co/AAaa2nPmsF
— Facebook Newsroom (@fbnewsroom) October 22, 2020
Facebook is describing the oversight board as a “global body of experts separate from Facebook that will make independent and binding decisions on the cases they choose to hear.” Facebook users will presumably have the option to appeal incidences of censorship to Facebook’s oversight board when they have exhausted use of Facebook’s existing censorship appeal process. However, the existing process is only available on a seemingly arbitrary basis, and it’s probably not unlikely that those who already aren’t in Facebook’s good graces won’t be allowed the opportunity to appeal to the oversight board.
The overseers are employed and selected by Facebook itself, casting serious doubt as to whether they’re genuinely impartial arbiters of social media censorship.
It’s hard to tell if this is a step in the right direction or merely a ruse for the monopoly to counter accusations that its arbitrary censorship process is undemocratic and authoritarian. In predictable fashion, the powerful Oversight Board is staffed almost exclusively with Soros-linked neoliberal progressives, some of whom have already advocated for a European understanding of “free speech” as opposed to an American one.
With great power comes great responsibility, and Facebook seems content to accept the former without the latter. It simply isn’t their place to declare what is permissible political speech.
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