We found someone else who feels Turtleboy’s pain. There is a Facebook page called “We love Facebook and GMO’s” which has about 75,000 followers. It’s run by a middle school teacher from Annapolis, MD named Stephan Neidenbach, and it’s basically a page that is used to criticize and ridicule the nutjobs known as “anti-vaxers,” who don’t vaccinate their kids. Mostly he shares articles and memes like these:
In a lot of ways Stephan is a lot like Turtleboy. He has a big following because he tells the truth and calls out morons in the process. And in doing so he has created many enemies. Check out this blog because it is enlightening:
The time spent with the page was not without some stress. My criticism of the anti-biotechnology movement has caused some absolutely terrible people to try and silence me. I almost threw in the towel when people began tweeting and emailing my school system about me. These people view the criticism often used on my Facebook page as “harassment” of their leaders and followers–and they have attacked the site and me viciously. For example, Ena Valikov, a veterinarian, is known for trolling science focused sites, personally attacking scientists and science communicators who do not agree with her extremist views on GMOs and other issues.
Sound familiar? Guy tells the truth and gets accused of “harassment” for doing so. Then they accuse him of being a bad teacher and bother him at his job.
But it would not be until several weeks ago when I felt that my work and that of a small team of volunteers was really being threatened. I was alerted to a post that appeared in a dark pit of Facebook, Vaccine Resistance Movement, which is the go-to source for vaccine deniers convinced of an international corporate and government conspiracy to poison children. Dr. Joseph Mercola, who runs one of the most popular websites peddling ‘natural medicine–he is described by the Encyclopedia of American Loons as “a frighteningly popular alternative medicine guru and (more or less) cult leader- posted a request to this group of nearly 25,000 activists to report our Facebook page for “investigation.”
Mercola seemed to take issue with an image I posted of Dr. Jeff Bradstreet, a Christian preacher turned alternative medicine guru best known for his promotion of homeopathy and other forms of medical quackery. He promoted misinformation on how to deal with autism, leading to an untold number of children being harmed. Bradstreet’s body was found dead under mysterious circumstances in 2015, which led to an exchange on VRM.
Sounding more familiar? Dooshnozzle fake pastor doesn’t like something that exposes chiselers like him who peddle false medicine. Literally tells his followers to to report posts that are critical of him on Facebook and tells them to specifically report it for “inciting violence,” even though he knows it didn’t incite violence since it dealt with a suicide. He, like the trolls who try to censor Turtleboy Sports, understands that no one actually reviews these posts and that by reporting something for “inciting violence” is more likely to be taken seriously by the computers that review Facebook posts. Just ask the mob that will be named who is taking credit for mass reporting our page because their leader doesn’t like it:
Anti-vaccine hotheads began a coordinated effort to destroy what we have built. Facebook has adopted the precautionary principle, and the anti-science mob knows from experience how to manipulate the system.
Dr. David Gorski, a surgical oncologist and one of the country’s most respected science communicators as founder of the Science-Based Medicine blog, has previously written on how rabid anti-science activists have learned how to manipulate Facebook’s algorithms to censor science advocates: “when members of the Stop the Australian Vaccination Network were targeted by what was then called the Australian Vaccination Network for complaints against them on Facebook. Facebook, through its automated reporting algorithms, would then issue 12-hour, 24-hour, or even longer bans against pro-vaccine advocates.”
This is exactly what happened to us. They take down two posts and alert you that you’ve violated FB’s terms and conditions. Then they suspend you for 24 hours, 3 days, 7 days, and finally 30 days.
The page was unpublished four times over a three week period before finally being deleted. A Facebook representative on the phone explained that when enough people report a page or a post in a short period of time, Facebook automatically removes it. This technique isn’t just being used by the anti-science movement, but also by oppressive regimes around the world to stifle dissent. The Verge reported on how these tactics are employed by the Vietnamese government to silence journalists and activists.
It is utter insanity that Facebook allows these gangs of thugs to act as judge, jury and “executioner”. I understand that Facebook wants to keep a reputation for a “safe” environment, but allowing keyboard renegades free reign stifles freedom of expression, which is what has made the Internet so great.
Somehow this guy spoke with a Facebook representative. Guess why? Because as it turns out this FB rep was a big follower of his blog. So in other words, he got extremely lucky. But he’s absolutely right about how easy any repressive group or government can act as a “gang of thugs” and silence people who are saying things they don’t agree with.
It’s also funny that the Facebook rep admitted to him that Facebook “automatically” removes mass reported posts. This is in direct contrast to what Facebook executive Monika Bickert said in March:
“You can think of our reporting system as the world’s largest neighborhood watch program. We rely heavily on people in the community to tell us when they see something that probably shouldn’t be on Facebook. You can report any piece of content. You will answer a couple short questions about what you’re seeing and why you don’t think it should be on Facebook. Then after you’ve reported it, it will be sent to a member of our operations team who will review it.”
She lied to her investors. No one reviews Facebook reports. It’s just a numbers game, like we knew the whole time.
But this isn’t just about me. Our audience of more than 70,000 was an essential part of an online network of pages sharing information with each other. Facebook posts rely on engagement. Without larger pages sharing articles and memes, most people will never see most of what is posted. Shutting down my page is like having a bulb go out on a traditional string of Christmas lights, where all the pages that follow mine go in the dark as well.
And that is what this is really about. The anti-vaccers and anti-GMOers and other groups who not only defy science but attack those who promote independent thinking are not satisfied with just trying to block on the pages of science communicators, they are intent on preventing everyone else–you–from seeing independent information as well. In history class I teach of great wars fought against tyrants who do just that.
That right there is the biggest problem – really important speech is being silenced. Big pages like this guy’s and Turtleboy’s are important because our audience enables us to share really important information with the masses. Imagine if Turtleboy Sports wasn’t around. Mosaic Cultural Complex would still be stealing money from the taxpayers. Spencer-East Brookfield Schools would still be run by a tyrant. And the real story about Jorge Zambrano and Ashley Losapio would have gone unreported. Without our Facebook page we would not have been able to report the stories we did.
Anyway, we’re looking into our legal options. We pay money to Facebook for ads promoting our blog and they are not providing that service. They’re stealing money from us. They’re also costing us thousands of dollars and violating our agreed upon contract by suspending our accounts without us violating the contract. In the meantime we have to end our dependence on them. That’s why it is REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT to create a Twitter account. They never suspend us for whatever reason, and our following on there is a lot smaller. We are also going to create an app so that you can just go directly to the site on your phone. Stay tuned because if you think we’re going to let these Fascists win then you obviously don’t know much about Turtleboy.
P.S. The only way to really attack Facebook is to keep sharing stories like this. If you know of anything similar to this where a page has been shut down due to trolls, send it to us.
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