Facebook Censors Users during Media Blackout on Privatisation of the NHS

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They say that you haven’t made it as a blogger until you get censored by Facebook.  In which case, I’ve made it. It failed to provoke a sense of validation in me though, just nausea and quiet fury. This is yet another case where bloggers filling the gaps left by the main stream media are finding themselves censored on social media – the printing press of the masses.

Censorship

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Yesterday I wrote and published the article The Man Who Pushed a Toy Pig to Downing Street to Save our NHS.  It was intended to raise awareness and support for The Artist Taxi Driver’s art based protest of the privatisation of the NHS.

On publishing the article on my Facebook page I was asked (unusually) to fill in a captcha (the little box that asks you to type the letters you see so they know you aren’t a computer).  Shortly after, people were reporting that they were being asked to complete captchas to share it.  People who tried to open the article were warned by Facebook it was spam and the content unsafe, to dissuade people from reading and sharing the piece.  Despite all this, the article spread and had totalled over a thousand shares direct from the blog.  Then something weird happened.  It disappeared.

The article was removed from Facebook, from everywhere it had been shared. It was removed from every personal wall, group and page where it had appeared.  It disappeared from the wall of any user that had posted it.  The comments and conversations underway on people’s pages were erased.  It was like it had never happened.

I received confused and angry messages from Facebook users who had noticed it vanish from their walls and pages they manage. Now, anyone trying to share it receives the message in the above picture.

This is not an isolated case; Facebook has form on this.  Fellow blogger Tom Pride faced the same treatment yesterday when he satirised the Jobcentre and a disgruntled official had his article removed from Facebook as spam. Another Angry Voice has also covered the issue after being branded spam. Facebook has also been found censoring users, employing temporary and permanent suspensions of their accounts, after unjustly labelling them as spammers.

Nobody Mention the NHS!

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Last night, the House of Lords debated and approved new S75 regulations which force the NHS to put all but a tiny minority of its services out for competitive tender.  The MPs and Lords voting through this legislation were effectively voting to increase their own fortunes.  The excellent work of Social Investigations demonstrates this legislation has been prepared and voted through by MPs, Lords and Ladies with a personal financial interest in the outcome.

This should be a scandal.  It should be on the front page of every newspaper and the leading item on every news channel in the UK: CONFLICT OF INTEREST IN NHS SELL OFF!

Instead, silence.

This story did not appear on the BBC, ITV or Channel 4 flagship news programmes last night.

In aims to prompt mainstream coverage of the Lords debate, The Artist Taxi Driver (Mark McGowan) crawled four miles across London, pushing a toy pig.  He pushed the pig all the way to No. 10 Downing Street, where he handed in a letter signed by his children.  He did all this while suffering from bowel cancer.  He was followed by hundreds of people with banners and placards while Twitter and Facebook raged with coverage; the #wheresdaddyspig hash tag trended at various points in the day within the UK, and spread around the world.  Thousands tuned in to watch live coverage broadcast by individuals via bambuser online.

There was not a single UK based mainstream media article on this extraordinary event.  You could read about it in New York, but not in London.

Yet, for some individual or group, the mainstream media blackout was not enough; they wiped Facebook clean of our dissent too.

Facebook is not your Friend

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We must take this as a note of caution and a reminder that Facebook and other social media sites are not free spaces, they are owned by corporations.  If someone came and clasped their hand over your mouth in the street, there would be avenues for redress.  If Facebook does the same, options are limited.  Perhaps the most sinister element of this is not that we cannot now share this article on Facebook, but the disappearance where it had been shared.  This could happen to anyone, and it is happening to more of us all the time. Could there come a day when our entire blogs disappear from the web as ‘spam’? Possibly. This is why we cannot overlook these incidences of censorship.  All those with an interest in free speech and dissent ignore it at their peril.

UPDATE:

This article is now being blocked by Facebook.  The share button has been removed from posts and it is receiving the same CAPTCHA and spam warnings as the originally blocked article.  It had reached over 2k Facebook shares and has now reset here to just 22.

UPDATE 2:

We thought we had achieved success as the original post was briefly allowed back on FB, only to be withdrawn once again…

UPDATE 3:

The Drum have picked up the story of Facebook censorship. Please read and share their piece.

Take Action

You can sign up to follow the blog by email or wordpress, cut out the middle man.

You can follow me on Facebook and let them know I am not spam

You can contact Facebook and complain about this censorship

Share this article and let people know what’s happening.

 The Protest

You can see pictures of the #wheresdaddyspig protest here

You can see videos of the protest here

154 thoughts on “Facebook Censors Users during Media Blackout on Privatisation of the NHS

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  6. Because of the poor press coverage in Britain of anything that smacks of governmental critcism I now mainly watch the news on AL Jazeera English edition great world wide coverage and interviews with non Condem MP’s

  7. I experienced problems when I was posting this item on as many FB groups as I could, strange things started to happen, too many to recount. I worked in Telecoms for 25 yrs and I have never experienced anything quite like it, very unnerving felt like someone was reading over my shoulder…I am convinced there is something fishy with FB.

    This link is important and needs reading as a matter of urgency IMO
    http://www.leftfootforward.org/2013/05/tory-calls-for-nhs-charging-for-sporting-injuries/
    If that doesn’t stir up the sporting fraternity what will?

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