Just over a month ago I was riding high and celebrating the steady upward progress of our alternative media webzine. I proudly noted that our traffic had now far surpassed that of the venerable New Republic, a century old publication that had spent decades as America’s most influential opinion magazine.
But pride goeth before the fall. At the end of April we were suddenly purged and banned by Facebook, the world’s leading social network. Not only was our rudimentary Facebook page removed, but every last item of our website content was declared illegal, with all past and future links eliminated. Any attempt to post our material on Facebook now produces an error message reporting that the content is “abusive” and a violation of “community standards.”
Although I personally don’t use Facebook or other social networks, billions of people do, and totally excluding all of our content from that important distribution channel eventually produced a 20% drop in our regular daily traffic, a serious blow that set us back many months.
At first I was rather surprised by this unexpected development. After all, we had already spent years publishing articles and posts of an extremely controversial nature, notably including my own American Pravda series. As far back as 2018, my writings had been attacked by the ADL, though that notoriously ferocious organization seemed rather perfunctory and milquetoast in its denunciation. During all this time, we had not incurred any Facebook penalties, but now we had suddenly been totally banned.
An obvious explanation was the ongoing Covid-19 epidemic. Over 80,000 Americans have died while unemployment has already reached Great Depression levels. During such a tremendous national crisis, strong steps are often taken to maintain social control, and Facebook had come under great pressure to block the distribution of dangerous misinformation on its network, which the company’s top leadership soon promised to do.
Now “misinformation” is a somewhat vague term, and our very extensive Coronavirus coverage had hardly included suggestions that Americans drink bleach or inject themselves with Lysol. But critics have often linked such health care falsehoods with what they considered “conspiracy theories” about Covid-19 and its origins. A new organization had recently taken out a full-page ad in the New York Times that denounced these latter notions in very strong terms, claiming that such ideas were almost as dangerous as the virus itself and spread as rapidly, therefore demanding that they be banned by the leading social networks.
Although the term “conspiracy theory” generally carries a pejorative meaning, if taken as a simple description, I would certainly agree that our website had trafficked in some articles along those lines.
Indeed, just before the Facebook ban I had published a 7,400 word article presenting the considerable circumstantial evidence that our national disaster may have been the unintended blowback from an extremely reckless American biowarfare attack against China (and Iran), presumably organized by the Deep State Neocons or other rogue elements within our national security establishment. The piece generated enormous early traffic, more than any of my previous articles, and perhaps twice as many Facebook Likes. The following extracts provide a taste of the material I presented:
As the coronavirus gradually began to spread beyond China’s own borders, another development occurred that greatly multiplied my suspicions. Most of these early cases had occurred exactly where one might expect, among the East Asian countries bordering China. But by late February Iran had become the second epicenter of the global outbreak. Even more surprisingly, its political elites had been especially hard-hit, with a full 10% of the entire Iranian parliament soon infected and at least a dozen of its officials and politicians dying of the disease, including some who were quite senior. Indeed, Neocon activists on Twitter began gleefully noting that their hatred Iranian enemies were now dropping like flies.
Let us consider the implications of these facts. Across the entire world the only political elites that have yet suffered any significant human losses have been those of Iran, and they died at a very early stage, before significant outbreaks had even occurred almost anywhere else in the world outside China. Thus, we have America assassinating Iran’s top military commander on Jan. 2nd and then just a few weeks later large portions of the Iranian ruling elites became infected by a mysterious and deadly new virus, with many of them soon dying as a consequence. Could any rational individual possibly regard this as a mere coincidence?
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For obvious reasons, the Trump Administration has become very eager to emphasize the early missteps and delays in the Chinese reaction to the viral outbreak in Wuhan, and has presumably encouraged our media outlets to direct their focus in that direction.
As an example of this, the Associated Press Investigative Unit recently published a rather detailed analysis of those early events purportedly based upon confidential Chinese documents. Provocatively entitled “China Didn’t Warn Public of Likely Pandemic for 6 Key Days”, the piece was widely distributed, running in abridged form in the NYT and elsewhere. According to this reconstruction, the Chinese government first became aware of the seriousness of this public health crisis on Jan. 14th, but delayed taking any major action until Jan. 20th, a period of time during which the number of infections greatly multiplied.
Last month, a team of five WSJ reporters produced a very detailed and thorough 4,400 word analysis of the same period, and the NYT has published a helpful timeline of those early events as well. Although there may be some differences of emphasis or minor disagreements, all these American media sources agree that Chinese officials first became aware of the serious viral outbreak in Wuhan in early to mid-January, with the first known death occurring on Jan. 11th, and finally implemented major new public health measures later that same month. No one has apparently disputed these basic facts.
But with the horrific consequences of our own later governmental inaction being obvious, elements within our intelligence agencies have sought to demonstrate that they were not the ones asleep at the switch. Earlier this month, an ABC News story cited four separate government sources to reveal that as far back as late November, a special medical intelligence unit within our Defense Intelligence Agency had produced a report warning that an out-of-control disease epidemic was occurring in the Wuhan area of China, and widely distributed that document throughout the top ranks of our government, warning that steps should be taken to protect US forces based in Asia. After the story aired, a Pentagon spokesman officially denied the existence of that November report, while various other top level government and intelligence officials refused to comment. But a few days later, Israeli television mentioned that in November American intelligence had indeed shared such a report on the Wuhan disease outbreak with its NATO and Israeli allies, thus seeming to independently confirm the complete accuracy of the original ABC News story and its several government sources.
It therefore appears that elements of the Defense Intelligence Agency were aware of the deadly viral outbreak in Wuhan more than a month before any officials in the Chinese government itself. Unless our intelligence agencies have pioneered the technology of precognition, I think this may have happened for the same reason that arsonists have the earliest knowledge of future fires.
A leaked CDC report recently estimated that American deaths may rise to 3,000/day by the end of this month, and if so, we will probably have suffered a couple of hundred thousand fatalities by the end of summer along with a wrecked economy. If Americans began to suspect that this unimaginable national disaster may have been entirely self-inflicted, the consequences could be explosive. I can easily understand why any such guilty parties along with their close political allies would take all possible steps to prevent such ideas from gaining traction, including blocking their circulation on Facebook.
So after considering these factors, I was disappointed in Facebook but not entirely surprised. After all, in many other parts of the world or historical eras, a midnight raid by the secret police and a one-way ticket to the Gulag would have been the likely response to my provocative writings. Compared to such retaliation, merely having our website blacklisted by a very popular social network amounted to pretty weak tea.
However, a few days ago someone brought to my attention a Facebook report documenting their steps to eliminate “inauthentic content” during the month of April. Although it included mention of our own case, I was very surprised at the nature of the discussion.
Apparently, the vast majority of the organizations sanctioned were foreign ones, either from countries like Iran and Russia, or those involved in violent internal conflicts like Georgia, Mauritania, or Myanmar. Almost none of their websites were even mentioned, presumably because they tended to be so small and obscure. I skimmed over a couple of Facebook’s previous reports, which seemed fairly similar.
I’m hardly an expert on Facebook, but it wouldn’t surprise me if our publication is by far the largest and most popular ever to have had its entire content banned. Yet across the 29 pages of the very detailed document, our case was only discussed in the briefest of casual asides.
For example, four full pages including numerous screenshots were presented to justify the banning of SouthFront, a website allegedly based in Crimea that provides a pro-Russian perspective on the Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts. But although our own traffic is several times greater, the explanation for prohibiting all our content was provided in just two scattered sentences:
Our investigation linked this network to VDARE, a website known for posting anti-immigration content, and individuals associated with a similar website The Unz Review.
Although the people behind this operation attempted to conceal their coordination, our investigation linked this network to VDARE, a website known for posting anti-immigration content, and to individuals associated with a similar website The Unz Review.
So the absolute prohibition of any links to our several million pages of unique content, including the near-complete archives of hundreds of America’s leading opinion magazines of the last 150 years, was allegedly justified by our being “similar” to VDare, “a website known for posting anti-immigration content.”
I find this explanation utterly bizarre. We do have republication agreements with a couple of dozen alternative media websites of the Left and Right, including VDare. But since the beginning of the year, our overwhelmingly focus has been on foreign policy issues and the Coronavirus epidemic, so we have only run just 41 VDare pieces. Few of these had anything to do with immigration, and they represented only about 0.2% of our 1,751 articles and posts during this period. Is VDare so enormously powerful a brand that by providing us 0.2% of our recent content, we have necessarily become “similar”?
Moreover, as the Facebook document correctly emphasizes, VDare is an anti-immigration webzine, while I cannot even remember the last time that we featured an article having that theme. And although our own traffic is a dozen times larger, VDare appears to have been the primary target of the prohibition, with our own website merely swept along in the undertow.
Facebook surely invests substantial resources in policing its content, which their report claims is performed by a team of more than 200 professionals. So I find it rather difficult to believe that the decision to ban our entire website, perhaps the largest ever subjected to such a penalty, was taken in such a lackadaisical manner and for such ridiculous reasons.
It seems far more likely that the explanation provided was merely an excuse to avoid explaining the true reason. If the largest website ever banned from Facebook had suffered that penalty for promoting “Covid-19 conspiracy theories” such an announcement might draw unwelcome attention to the facts being presented, perhaps with serious consequences. After all, Facebook employees and executives have themselves suffered as much as everyone else in America from our current disaster, and some of the points we made might even have become the subject of lively internal discussions. So presumably it was much safer to declare that our website had been banned for republishing VDare’s anti-immigration content, even if that only amounted to 0.2% of our total.
Still, careless mistakes are sometimes made. A couple of days ago Facebook announced its new “oversight board” to adjudicate these sorts of matters, so I suppose I will try to get in touch with them to clarify this issue.