Blocked By Facebook and the Vulnerability of New Media 238


This site’s visitor numbers are currently around one third normal levels, stuck at around 20,000 unique visitors per day. The cause is not hard to find. Normally over half of our visitors arrive via Facebook. These last few days, virtually nothing has come from Facebook:

What is especially pernicious is that Facebook deliberately imposes this censorship in a secretive way. The primary mechanism when a block is imposed by Facebook is that my posts to Facebook are simply not sent into the timelines of the large majority of people who are friends or who follow. I am left to believe the post has been shared with them, but in fact it has only been shown to a tiny number. Then, if you are one of the few recipients and do see the post and share it, it will show to you on your timeline as shared, but in fact the vast majority of your own friends will also not receive it. Facebook is not doing what it is telling you it is doing – it shows you it is shared – and Facebook is deliberately concealing that fact from you.

Twitter have a similar system known as “shadow banning”. Again it is secretive and the victim is not informed. I do not appear to be shadow banned at the moment, but there has been an extremely sharp drop – by a factor of ten – in the impressions my tweets are generating.

I am among those who argue that the strength of the state and corporate media is being increasingly and happily undermined by our ability to communicate via social media. But social media has developed in such a way that the channels of communication are dominated by corporations – Facebook, Twitter and Google – which can in effect turn off the traffic to a citizen journalism site in a second. The site is not taken down, and the determined person can still navigate directly to it, but the vast bulk of the traffic is cut off. What is more this is done secretly, without your being informed, and in a manner deliberately hard to detect. The ability to simply block the avenues by which people get to see dissenting opinions, is terrifying.

Furthermore neither Facebook nor Twitter contact you when they block traffic to your site to tell you this is happening, let alone tell you why, and let alone give you a chance to counter whatever argument they make. I do not know if I am blocked by Facebook as an alleged Russian bot, or for any other reason. I do know that it appears to have happened shortly after I published the transcript of the Israeli general discussing the procedures for shooting children.

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238 thoughts on “Blocked By Facebook and the Vulnerability of New Media

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  • El Tinyan

    You may consider using the Diaspora* and federated network. You will not be censored or shadowbanned there….

  • Clark

    Of course, there can be more mundane motivations too. Anyone reading at Facebook who follows a link to an external site such as this one – is no longer reading Facebook, and the adverts it hosts.

    • Rob

      That might be a reasonable explanation if the remedy were being applied broadly, but it appears to be selective.

      • Clark

        Maybe Facebook times how long before a reader returns to Facebook, then promotes trivial sites from which people return quickly, but blocks sites which have proven more interesting than Facebook!

        This would impart a trivialising, dumbing-down effect.

    • joeblogs

      You do not need to see adverts at all.
      I’ve been using the following on my computer for about a year, now.
      Download Opera browser, it’s very solid, and it asks you when you install it: ‘do you want ad’s blocked?’. Took me about one second to answer that one!
      Speeds up the internet access time, too, as the system isn’t wasting time loading ads, it’s simply loading what you want to see.
      It scares many MSM sites (Times, Guardian, etc.), because it hits them right where it hurts – in the pocket.
      People have said ‘but the Internet would die, if not for the ad’s’ – well, I started on the internet way back in 1995, when only a few thousand pages were on, and NO ad’s – all mainly run by Universities and enthusiastic amateurs. All went fine until the dot.com boom and [email protected] ad’s started taking over.
      Opera is free.

        • Clark

          Summary of my link above:

          Gratis = without payment, as in “free beer”.
          Libre = without restriction, as in freedom, or free speech.

          Freedom is far more valuable than money.

          • joeblogs

            Clark: A pedantic diversion; read my post properly – no ad’s, no money for MSM – kill them off online. It is dying out anyway in its paper form.
            This Mickey Mouse Wikipedia nonsense is shown to be so – the Oxford English Dictionary does not class ‘libre’ as a modern word in current use, at all, or ever. It’s a figment of some Philadelphia lawyer’s imagination, no doubt.
            Finally: ‘Freedom is far more valuable than money.’ Why are there no rich people in the US’s jails then? They buy freedom with money, that is why.

  • Thomas Prentice, Ph.D.

    I share every post and, amazingly, NONE OF MY %K friends EVER COMMENTS on it or SHARES IT. Vellly intellesting.

  • Jacqueline Bowe

    I know you are right Craig because I do not get nearly as many posts as I used to and have to make the effort to look in on sites that usually came through automatically to my feed. I have also noticed that if you are not watching closely or going quickly, it doesn’t even bother to tell you it’s shared, so therefore it has not. It stumbles and pauses for so long that you give up. I have noticed that sharing to a group is often not an option anymore. On twitter I have noticed again that the ‘mechanics’ stumble just as you wish to retweet so unless you have hours to spare, alas they don’t get retweeted. Is there anything ‘we’ the users can do about this as I keep hearing it was a ‘gift from Mark’ and he can change his mind after gathering and selling all your identities.

  • Desmotscratie

    Thanks a lot for the whole you and people like you have been bringing to the public knowledge. Priceless

  • james

    another reason to completely drop facebook and twitter, as if there weren’t enough reasons!

    i have never come to your site via fb and never will!

    i guess this is the dumbing down of our society where everything done on the net is thru an iphone or handheld device..

  • joe

    I posted one of your articles on Facebook recently, and got no comments or likes, which i invariably do. Now i know why.

  • chic kirk

    i think this is happening across the board for indy i hardly ever see posts from friends i have to go looking through my list of friends looking for posts ,and the posts i put on are not being viewed as the likes and shares are drying up

  • Thomas_Stockmann

    The analysis Tocqueville offered a century ago has in the meantime
    proved wholly accurate. Under the private culture monopoly it is a fact that “tyranny leaves the body free
    and directs its attack at the soul. The ruler no longer says: You must think as I do or die. He says: You are
    free not to think as I do; your life, your property, everything shall remain yours, but from this day on you
    are a stranger among us.” Not to conform means to be rendered powerless, economically and therefore
    spiritually—to be “self-employed.” When the outsider is excluded from the concern, he can only too easily
    be accused of incompetence.
    (Taken from Adorno and Horkheimer’s analysis of the ‘culture industry’)

  • reel guid

    The UK Government’s EU Withdrawal Bill, it now becomes clear, has amendments which say that the Scottish Government’s and Holyrood’s refusal to consent to what is a power grab is irrelevant. In other words England’s governments can do what they like with Scotland if this is what prevails.

    Corbyn didn’t oppose Rajoy’s power grab in Catalonia.
    Corbyn didn’t oppose Jones’ capitulation to the Tory power grab in Wales.
    Corbyn’s saying nothing about the power grab in Scotland. He already agrees with May. If he was PM he would force Scotland to leave the EU against our democratic choice.

    Three times he’s had the chance to oppose fascism. Three strikes. He didn’t even swing his bat. He’s out.

    Power grab goes through and Scotland gets privatised healthcare, fracking, 10th rate British citizenship and no democracy with little scope to change it.

    At least the Tories have crystallised matters. It’s a free Scotland or a miserable colony that briefly enjoyed a parliament in Edinburgh for 20 years. Free Scotland will prevail.

    • Republicofscotland

      reel guid.

      Colonel Rape Clause Ruth Davidson is13 weeks pregnant, Sky news lauded her as a great orator.

      I wonder if she’ll use the Baby Box?

      My favourite comment so far is Ruth expecting- The Immaculate Contrivence.

      • reel guid

        Ros

        She’s got a long list of Scottish Tories from which to choose her Three Unwise Men.

        • Republicofscotland

          That great Tory stalwart Jackson Carlaw, will step in as temporary Holyrood leader, as Ruth the Mooth, stays at home washing oot her turkey baster.

  • KD

    One way round it is to send your blog by email. Straight into our inboxes. We sign up. And you mass send. I get a few of mine this way from sites which are banned where I live.
    There is always a way !

    • Sergei

      Yes! Disintermediation is the way forward. There are plenty of free mailing services with blog integration. To keep it clean, a user can set separate email addresses for private mail and news mail. It’s even better than RSS, cause there’s one less app to use.

  • Republicofscotland

    Right now on RT news Douma witnesses from the staged gas attack are giving evidence to the OPCW in the Hague.

    • Sean Lamb

      I think Russia is going to rue this approach, but time will tell. I don’t see how any one person can testify whether an attack took place – or they can testify is that there was no gas in their vicinity.

      It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the young boy was just grabbed at random for video purposes. It still doesn’t prove that no gas was released. Nerve agents are fricking dangerous – do you really expect White Helmets to go anywhere near a real nerve agent gas release to try and rescue people? Are you insane – not least because they need those pictures of dead children for their tweets, it would be self defeating to go and try and save them.

      No, far more sensible just to grab some random boy and hose him down.

  • Peter Piper

    I would have sympathy if Craig, himself weren’t guilty of censorship. I expect this post to be deleted to prove my point.

  • Hatuey

    Craig, can you let any of us know how to detect if we are victims of this? I think a few people would be interested to hear how you confirmed this, aside from looking at the drop in visitor numbers. You said it was difficult to detect, I’m just wonderIng how you’d do it, although I have an idea what f hoe you might do it.

    • Sergei

      Visitor stats is the only way to detect it. When you have a steadily growing base of visitors, and then it suddenly drops by, let’s say, a factor of 4, that’s how you know. And that’s what makes it so insidious: if tech giants improve their suppression tactics and make the dissidents lose views gradually, there will be no way to prove it — the tech giants can always claim that a dissident simply “became less popular”.

  • DiggerUK

    I have recently had the opportunity to stop receiving many sites that post on my FB page.
    Some of the fall off here could be from those who just aren’t interested in what this blog is campaigning for. Sad, but true…_

  • Janeen

    I have recently tried to message you a request to receive you by email. I am managing to read your articles through Jonathan Cook’s post on FB.
    I hope that my email below will make it possible to read you more.
    Thanks.

  • TFS

    I have seen this also on YouTube, as well a Facebook for quite some time.

    The Government needs to get them in for a chat

  • Derek Aitken

    Craig, I don’t think you have to get paranoid just yet. Since the Cambridge Analytics scandal Facebook has been working feverishly behind the scenes to change their API’s.

    To quote freecodecamp.org “When you type http://www.facebook.com into your browser, a request goes out to Facebook’s remote server. Once your browser receives the response, it interprets the code and displays the page.
    To the browser, also known as the client, Facebook’s server is an API. This means that every time you visit a page on the Web, you interact with some remote server’s API.
    An API isn’t the same as the remote server — rather it is the part of the server that receives requests and sends responses.”

    These changes are having a massive effect on everyone accessing Facebook especially companies that use Facebook API’s for things like comment moderation or scraping Facebook data.
    These changes were rushed in without much testing I think and a lot of posts are not getting through.
    I believe things will return to normal within a week or two.

  • The Q

    I come here via RSS using the Feedly app, for what it’s worth. I’ve recently been recommending that approach to my politically inclined friends so that they too can get the news I read without any censorship. Sad that it’s even come to this….

    • Sergei

      For those who are using Apple computers, you don’t even need a separate RSS reader — it’s built right into the Mail app. Simply click an RSS icon (such as the one at the top of this page) and the feed gets added to a special “mailbox” in the Mail app.

  • Sue Welsh

    And yet I see every single utterance of The Jacob Rees Mogg Appreciation Society, shared by a relative. 😨

  • Alex

    I find it interesting the pro-censorship squad over on hackernews has linked to the post. Hacker News loves the “shadow ban” as it’s the central pillar of its community religion.

  • Hatuey

    Social media is a double edged sword. Are we to be grateful that they allow people to sit moaning on the back row seats of Twitter and Facebook, thinking that they are somehow rebels or politically active because they conjured up a couple of sentences on Syria?

    If we were honest, we would admit that social media is a drain on progressive movements, not a facilitator of progress. It achieves nothing whilst at the same time channeling otherwise productive energy into virtual brick walls. It also allows the ‘powers that be’ and other conservative-minded organisations to keep a finger on the pulse of society and see what people are thinking,

    I’m a big picture guy and a structuralist. I love our new technologies. But I’m under no illusions or delusions when it comes to exchanging ideas on forums like this. Nothing any of us will ever say on here will make a blind bit of difference in places like Palestine or Syria, or in the queues of British food banks.

    The real truth is that by spending time on here chatting we are essentially undermining any chance we might otherwise have had of driving and delivering real, meaningful, change. And if anyone seriously disputes that, they might want to look at the way old fashioned protests with real people walking in real streets have all but disappeared.

    The last ten years of social media have been ten years entirely wasted as far as progress is concerned. If anything we have gone backwards. That’s the pernicious thing about Facebook and Twitter, not what they are doing to smother anyone’s comments — the comments come to nothing regardless of how many people read them.

    People in the second and third world who once relied on activism here to give them a tiny bit of breathing space, must be shaking their sorry heads in disgust at the self-obsessed morons we have become.

        • Sergei

          Your position is overly pessimistic. I became “awake” thanks to dissenting comments left on the news sites I used to read. So comments do have a positive influence — if you’re talking to people brainwashed by the MSM. But I agree with you that it should not stop there; people should seek like-minded people and organize offline events.

    • Bayard

      “And if anyone seriously disputes that, they might want to look at the way old fashioned protests with real people walking in real streets have all but disappeared.”
      Not that that ever changed anything. The only protest that changed government policy that I can recall was that against the Poll Tax and that was probably only because it resulted in rioting.
      So if you want to feel you are “doing something about” something that upsets you, yes, nowadays you do it on the internet. It gets the same results, but you don’t get wet when it rains.

  • Ophelia Ball

    I have written about this before, and I still very much doubt that anyone will actually believe me, but, having spent the majority of the past decade not in the nice expat-friendly parts of China, but in the fairly icky bits, amongst real people whose only prior experience of a foreigner was when that met that Korean guy, I can tell you categorically and without reservation that here in the UK we enjoy far less – apologies, let me rephrase that = FAR LESS individual freedom and freedom from petty censorship than the poor peasant slaves who toil from dawn to dusk under the oppressive tyranny of the unelected Chinese Communist Party.

    Sure, there’s no Google or Facebook but a) neither is FB (or Skype) available in Saudi or the UAE, and b) there are very capable Chinese alternatives. c) You honestly think FB and Google represent “freedom”? and d) 99.9% of Chinese neither read English or have any particular interest in non-Chinese media

    What’s my point? – pick your metaphor from Orwell, Hegel, or The Matrix, but I’ll run with Goethe

    “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free”

  • tim bastable

    as far as I can see you don’t offer an e-mail alert – maybe I’m missing it – I get direct notifications of new blogs from George Monbiot, Simon Wren Lewis and Op Ed news – it’s a way of making new media more secure in so far as every person mailed directly can post to their own time line – and I always post them – maybe something to consider – sadly I have no idea how it’s done

    • Sergei

      Tim, consider using RSS. This blog has an RSS feed (there’s an icon at the very top of this page).

  • John Goss

    I used to get notifications when you created a new blog-post but have not for months. I get notifications occasionally when you make a comment on FB but the new posts have stopped coming through.

    Likewise with my own posts. I post them to several groups, including groups for which I am sole moderator, like:

    American Foreign Policy is bad for all
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/1520326394854132/

    or
    End NATO agression
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/516512285056709/

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