Is Facebook Resorting to Punitive Measures to Control Discourse?

Is Facebook using punitive measures?

While I can’t say for certain, let me share with you a recent experience which has led me to believe that the answer is YES.

On September 13 I shared a post on my page Beware of Images. It commented on a statement made by Mark Zuckerberg regarding his company’s relationship with the NSA. I tagged Mark’s profile on the comment.

Suddenly, my page numbers began to drop dramatically. The drop, combined with the angry and insulting words being directed at Mr. Zuckerberg by some commenters, drove me to delete the post.

It was too late. My numbers continued falling. Here’s a screen capture of my page insights before and after September 13th. Judge for yourselves.

After contacting Facebook, I was informed that the drop was due to my page being totally removed from their “Suggested Page” program. Of course, I could figure that out from my insights, the real question was why was my page removed? And why was it suddenly performing worse than ever?

In a polite yet dismissive reply from Facebook I was told that this was all due to “normal functionality” of their system. This meant very little to me. In the past years Facebook has been so erratic and inconsistent that almost any behaviour could fall under that definition. The platform’s lack of transparency makes it impossible to know the causes behind any shift, but if you look at the above graphs one thing is clear: the change was abrupt and drastic, not “normal”.

From what I can tell, the group of pages that were usually being suggested together with mine, are still part of the program. Also, I’m part of a large network of page admins, and none of them have experienced anything close to this drop.

When I presented Facebook with this information, the reply I got once again was that the drop had to do with my page “no longer being used as a Suggested Page” (no kidding, Sherlock!). And, once again, that this was “normal functionality” due to rotations in the Suggested Page program which follow “no specific control or criteria” (pretty convenient if you want to arbitrarily favor one page over the others, and control what constitutes valid discourse).

On top of my page not being suggested anymore, the reach of my posts has experienced a quantifiable decline. I keep getting new subscribers, but they are not receiving my posts.

The fact that all of this happened right after I posted a reference to Mark Zuckerberg and the NSA makes this occurrences somewhat disturbing.

Can the whole thing be a glitch or an unfortunate coincidence? Sure. Was my page going to be removed from Suggested Pages on September 14th, for unexplained reasons, regardless of that post? It could be, but you’ll have to excuse me for being doubtful. Of course, there’s no way to know for sure, since Facebook’s operation is shrouded in secrecy.

As a director, who is using the platform to generate dialogue and promote an upcoming documentary, this issue makes me a bit worried. After all I’ve spent a fair amount of money, time, energy and resources building an audience.

As a media scholar, who is aware of how secrecy and commercialism have already hijacked traditional media and the public airwaves, this concerns me a lot.



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