The anarchist public relations project Agency has published an open letter signed by hundreds of publishers, journalists, educators, authors, and activists condemning Facebook’s decision to ban pages associated with anarchism on the basis of a false equivalence between anti-fascist organizing and fascist violence. You can view the statement in full here and sign on via Change.org here. We urge everyone to add their names or the names of their organizations to this list—not because we think Facebook will relent, but to publicize the fact that Facebook has aligned itself with the far-right Trump administration and to catalyze pushback against the company itself.
We are hosting a solidarity statement by hundreds of publishers, journalists, educators, and activists condemning Facebook's ban of anarchists:https://t.co/7nVHKSq7JH
— Agency (@AnarchistAgency) August 21, 2020
This decision from Facebook has targeted everyone from hip-hop musicians and journalists to filmmakers and community groups. Nathan Goodman and Kelly Wright, two authors whose pages were banned, have published a response noting the many forms of violent conduct from state and far-right entities that Facebook endorses, by contrast with the forms of speech for which it is banning publishers and individual users.
Many commenters have pointed out Facebook’s intentional effort to conflate groups that organize to carry out racist attacks with adherents of the philosophy of anarchism. As the solidarity statement argues,
Facebook categorizes anarchists with far-right militias that support the Trump administration, linking two groups that are fundamentally dissimilar and opposed… drawing a false equivalence between those who orchestrate white supremacist attacks and those who organize to protect their communities against them.
The statement first appeared signed by hundreds of people, including well-known journalists Abby Martin, Jason Wilson, and Christopher Mathias. Other signatories include novelists Cory Doctorow, Rachel Kushner, and Alain Damasio and a wide range of academics, including Noam Chomsky—programmers, including Twitter founding team member Evan Henshaw-Plath—activists, including Chelsea Manning—musicians, including Andrew Hurley—and the editors of Jacobin, Semiotext(e), and AK Press, among many other publishers. Since then, over a thousand more people have endorsed the statement on Change.org.
This is not the first wave of bans Facebook has perpetrated against pages associated with anarchism. For example, in May, we published a report from a Greek anarchist news publisher that was similarly banned:
In early May, the Facebook page for RadioFragmata was shut down abruptly without reason. We expect nothing else from Facebook, but over 30,000 people followed the page, which served as a far-reaching platform spreading information about the struggle in Greece and abroad. We have organized a new page and continue to maintain a blog and twitter account. We assume Facebook took down our page in response to a request from the state, but Facebook has not given any justification for their action whatsoever.
This time around—and once more with no warning, justification, or notification—the bans have included MC Sole, Truthout writer Chris Steele, an Anarchists Worldwide archive page, the European news source Enough is Enough, and pages belonging to the John Brown Gun Club, Redneck Revolt, Molotov 5.7, and many other projects, as well as the pages belonging to the administrators, including users from Australia to Turkey. This, in turn, affects other pages run by these administrators; Facebook has banned some of them, while leaving others without administrators, effectively disabling them.
Other pages have received notices from Facebook, but have not yet been removed.
And if you ban us from your clubs, it’s the right time, with the right mind.
-Bad Brains, “Banned in DC”
It’s not surprising that Facebook is siding with the Trump administration in the its war against dissent and those who oppose fascism. We have always argued against entrusting unaccountable Silicon Valley corporations with the power to shape public discourse and carry out surveillance to pass on information to the government. We should focus our efforts and resources on building communications infrastructure that is not vulnerable to corporate executives’ desire to pander to the agenda of the Trump administration or any other government.
At the same time, Facebook’s decision to ban pages associated with anarchism is a strategic step in a much bigger unfolding conflict. It is analogous to a military knocking out a village’s lines of communication before carrying out a bombing. The Trump administration intends to intensify its attacks against protest movements and they want to minimize our ability to report on these or mobilize against them. Anarchists are only one out of many groups on the list of targets; many immigrants, Black people and other people of color, Muslims, trans and queer people, and others are experiencing far worse forms of oppression. But this precedent, like all the previous precedents, will only embolden government agencies and fascist groups to carry out more attacks, not all of which will occur online.
This is why it is essential to respond. We act now, in hopes that we won’t have to mobilize later in worse circumstances. Please circulate the statement published by Agency and stand up against every effort to suppress the voices of those who fight for a world without oppression.
The solidarity statement includes a number of statements from individual signatories, excerpted below.
In a moment where large numbers of people around the world are coming together to resist police violence and racism, it is particularly bleak that Facebook has chosen to ban some of the most insightful and thoughtful analysis that provides context, history, and additional voice to these events as they unfold. Rather than honestly reckoning with the content and online behaviors they are incentivizing through algorithms designed to maximize advertising returns rather than public good, Facebook has instead decided to blunder through banning some of the most needed voices and outlets focused on creating a more just world for everyone.
“Facebook’s actions show how much power tech capitalists have over free speech and should be viewed as an attack on the entire workers’ movement. We stand in solidarity with all those targeted.”
—Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin
“I have no words for the callousness and cruelty of Facebook’s decision. They did it for political cover so the right-wing media they fear would be less angry about the banning of various militia and QAnon pages. But by banning Crimethinc, It’s Going Down, MC Sole and numerous anti-fascist accounts, Facebook has equated nonviolence with mass murder and dissent with genocide. They announced their willingness to participate with the U.S. government in the purges that are to come.”
—Robert Evans, investigative journalist with Bellingcat and host of the Behind the Bastards podcast on iHeartRadio
“From the Myanmar genocide scandal to the constant censorship of Kurdish activism, Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have proven time again that they are in favor of censorship and state oppression. This recent wave of removal of anti-fascist accounts is just another example of their willingness to shut down anything that isn’t advertiser friendly. It’s no surprise, but due to the sheer grip Facebook has on the internet, their censorship must be called out at every opportunity.”
—Jake Hanrahan, independent journalist and documentary filmmaker. Founder of Popular Front.
“The ban of ‘Antifacist’ accounts on Facebook is simply driven by political agenda. Mainly that of our current presidential administration and its right-wing following, that are ofttimes of a violent extremist nature themselves. If you truly wish to reduce harm, ban the president’s image, for he spreads false information and abstract hatred with his every statement. These bans are a direct and deliberate assault on the first amendment rights of individuals whose political ideologies don’t fit the current administration’s views.”
—Cory Elia, Managing Editor for Village Portland, podcaster, radio news broadcaster with KBOO Community radio, and board member for PSU’s Student Media Board
“When neo-Nazis were planning terrorism and violence in Charlottesville, they took to Facebook to organize. There, they were allowed to share posts calling for the raising of an army, the rasing of able-bodied fighters, and the harassment of Black and Jewish people in Charlottesville. When local organizers pushed back to prevent the violence, CrimethInc. was one of the only outlets to publish local concerns accurately and openly. As a survivor of the terrorism and violence, I find it unconscionable that Facebook can take action against one of the few organizations who was willing and able to help my community and me prevent the violence, when Facebook was a passive participant in helping those promote and encourage the terror.”
—Emily Gorcenski, creator of First Vigil and neo-Nazi terror survivor
“The recent unfair Facebook ban of anarchist publishers and artist is like banning love. These folks are writing about and fighting for a better and just world. One where dignity and autonomy replace state and corporate violence and suffering. We desperately need these dreamers and voices to imagine a way to save the planet and all living beings on it. To silence these voices is coming out supporting the corporate ruling class, and the injustices that continue to grow under these brutal systems.
—Carla Bergman, anarchist, organizer, and co-author of Joyful Militancy
“Facebook’s decision to ban anarchist publishers has nothing to do with ‘stopping violence’ and everything to do with silencing those who speak out against a brutal, repressive system that no longer works for 99% of the world. We could point to supporters of violently racist ideology such as Breitbart or Daily Wire, whose advertisement money Facebook welcomes, but the hypocrisy is beyond the point. Anarchists dream of a world where peace and dignity for all is the norm, and no longer something that must be fought for by staring down the barrel of a tear gas launcher. By banning publishers who openly advocate for building a better world without unquestioned power and oppression, Facebook has very much made it clear where they stand on the issue of ‘violence.’”
“This is the latest wave in oppressive Facebook censorship that has cast a wide net targeting radicals and leftists around the globe. While fascist pages, persons and groups are allowed to openly call for violence, those who stand against fascism and for justice are not only sidelined but silenced. We must amplify these voices now more than ever, but more than that, we must find ways to organize, tell our truths and build without having to rely only on the structures and platforms of the oppressors.”
—Eleanor Goldfield, artist, organizer, journalist, filmmaker
“We have all known for some time that Facebook does not exist for any reason except to maintain their own profits, which rest squarely on the bedrock of a repressive government doing everything it can to quell dissent. Silencing the voices of anti-fascists and anarchists, who publish news and analysis about people who fight for a better world, comes as no surprise in this context of state and corporate interests colluding to maintain their existing power structures. They actively work to keep us from even communicating about standing up against the countless injustices our world has to offer, and at the same time, continue to promote corporate cheerleading for state sanctioned violence at the hands of the polcie. We stand in solidarity with all those silenced by Facebook, and our resolve is only hardened by this act as we press forward with our struggle for a better world.”
—Black Powder Press
“Banning antifascists, anarchists and other related dreamers and resisters of fascism and totalitarianism on facebook leads us to only one conclusion–a side is being taken, and it is not the one of freedom and antifascism. Silencing dissent of totalitarians and movements against racists and xenophobes is a slippery slope to siding with those same people and movements. We are living in a moment when sides need to be taken, a time period we have seen before, and siding with the silencing of antifascists and anarchists is to side with totalitarianism and potential fascism.
—Marina Sitrin, Associate Professor at Binghamton University and author of Everyday Revolutions: Horizontalism and Autonomy in Argentina.
“With this wave of bans, facebook has attempted to claim that they are neutral, or centrist in their approach to censoring political speech. What they have actually done is controlled the dialog, towards their own political aims, towards a conservative and capitalist worldview. Under the guise of neutrality they have made it so that anyone wishing to exist in their online space must not oppose fascism and far right violence in any meaningful way. They have thrown the weight of their platform behind the very notion that resisting genocide is violent in nature. What is considered acceptable political dialog in society generally creeps to the right over time. It is not often that we see such a blatant action taken to push the dialog in that direction. These are moments that we cannot allow to pass by silently. Fascism has brought about the most horrific acts of violence the world has ever seen. Opposing fascism is non violence by definition.”
—Portland Anarchist Road Care
“At a time when elites in media and academia fret about ‘cancel culture’ and object to principled criticism, facebook is showing the world that the real ‘cancel culture” is corporate control of media platforms. Self defense is not violence. Anarchists are trying defend against us all against fascist violence and the nightmare future it portends. Facebook and other corporate media platforms are complicit in the violence of the fascists that they platform. We shouldn’t let liberals and others vested in the status quo muddle the issue by normalizing false equivlency between fascists and the anarchists and anti-authoritarians resisting them. Down with fascism! Stand with all anti-fascists!”
—Brendan McQuade, Assistant Professor at the University of Southern Maine and author of Pacifying the Homeland: Intelligence Fusion and Mass Supervision
“That the U.S. government is working overtime to suppress dissenting voices is nothing new, nor is its dangerous revulsion for anarchists specifically, but each time they attack our community and ideology, more damage is done to the broader struggle against fascism, and for liberation. Facebook’s decision to ban a number of anarchist, antifascist, and anti-capitalist pages has made clear both their bias against the left, and their commitment to furthering the same “both sides” rhetoric that Trump and his lapdogs have used to deflect from their own firm support for violent white supremacist groups. The fact that this ban specifically targeted vital movement publications like It’s Going Down and Crimethinc only underlines the fact that the so-called free press is under attack, and yet the mealy-mouthed centrists and liberals who spend their time hand-wringing over “cancel culture” have said nothing. Those outside of the anarchist and antifascist community ignore this at their peril, because as we know full well, first, they’ll come for the radicals–but they’ll be coming for everyone else next.”
—Kim Kelly, journalist, author, and A12 Charlottesville attack survivor
“It has been three years but Facebook has never taken responsibility for the deadly Unite the Right event being planned and propagandized on their platform. It is nothing short of shameful for Facebook to now sit in judgment of the same groups and people who stood up against white supremacist violence that day.”
—Megan Squire, Professor of Computer Science at Elon University, Sr. Fellow at Center for Analysis of the Radical Right
“Facebook’s recent decision to ban radical leftist and antifascist groups that call for fighting back against the forces of fascism, genocide, and those that would wipe out our communities, while allowing, and even glorifying state-affiliated and sponsored groups that call for violence as well as right-wing militias is yet another example of tech companies finding it easier to punch down. Facebook’s decision reinforces the dangerous and false rhetoric emanating from right-wing media and politicians that seeks to demonize left-liberation movements at a time when they are being actively targeted and hunted by those in positions of authority. While hardly surprising, this decision by Facebook once again shows a willingness to put profits and access to politicians above scruples or access to diverse viewpoints.”
—B. Remy Cross
“Facebook’s decision to ban anti-fascist and anarchist pages at the same time they ban violent Militia’s and QAnon pages is unfortunately unsurprising and all too familiar. This is done as a visual sacrifice in the name of misguided attempts at centrism and being ‘fair.’
“Anti-fascist and anarchist resources on the internet seek to create community defense against bigoted violence and share information about how communities can take care of problems that governments don’t prioritize as important to address. The problem with this decision is that the very real problems created by violent racist militias and absurd conspiracy theories are actively opposed in cities all around the work by anti-fascists and anarchists. This decision does not help communities become safer, in fact it makes them even more vulnerable. This decision shows Facebook’s lack of a spine and lack of a moral compass. I am proud to stand in solidarity with Anarchist Publishers to condemn this ban; but I am furious that I need to do so.”
—Jake Johnson, artist, writer, reporter
“The ban of Crimethinc and other anarchist groups by Facebook is a clear step farther into a fascist American state. The Earth First! Journal stands in firm solidarity with all anarchist groups currently facing repression. Smash the state, for the wild!”
—The Earth First! Journal
“Facebook’s ban has nothing to do with stopping violence and everything to do with cracking down on protest movements. The banning of CrimethInc., It’s Going Down, Truthout author Chris Steele, musician MC Sole, and other left media outlets and journalists in the name of opposing violence is disingenuous. Facebook continues to host and profit off of right-wing media outlets like Daily Wire that regularly promote violent racist ideology and conspiracy theories that have catalyzed and influenced violent fascists and white supremacists on the right. This is political censorship, plain and simple.”
—Scott Crow, longtime anarchist organizer and author of Black Flags and Windmills