Another controversial Facebook takedown, another muddy explanation for an erroneous removal.
Last week, Facebook mistakenly removed two big libertarian groups from its pages — Being Libertarian and Occupy Democrats Logic. Both claim over 100,000 members each. After the groups protested, Facebook restored them both on Monday, offering a vague explanation for the takedowns, one that's become increasingly common following the sudden, temporary disappearance of political speech and or contentious content from its platform.
"The pages were taken down in error," a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed News. "Both have been reinstated with any posts that violated our community standards removed." Facebook did not say what posts it determined to be in violation of those standards, though Occupy Democrats Logic believes it was targeted for showcasing a meme on "progressive liberal logic."
If Facebook's statement sounds familiar, it's because the company provided similar explanations when it temporarily removed a video showing the aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castile (that was "technical glitch") and disappeared a handful of Bernie Sanders support groups ("one of our automated policies was applied incorrectly").
What policies and protocols determined or informed these removals of political speech? Facebook isn't saying. Asked to explain the "error" that removed Being Libertarian and Occupy Democrats Logic from Facebook, a company spokesman declined to do so.
An administrator for Occupy Democrats Logic told BuzzFeed News that Facebook did not provide a detailed explanation for the group's takedown. And he insisted that the group was not forced to remove certain posts as a condition of reinstatement. "I didn't remove jack shit," the admin said. "I was confident nothing I posted violated standards."
A cursory search of the restored Occupy Democrats Logic page no longer displays the "progressive liberal logic" meme post.
An administrator for Being Libertarian has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Facebook now boasts 1.7 billion monthly active users. It's a massive network that for many is the extent of the internet itself. When political speech is removed from the platform, even temporarily, it's a big deal. And Facebook is giving no indication that it's ready to address these removals in more depth.
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
Contact Alex Kantrowitz at email@example.com.
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