Facebook briefly bans journalist's post slamming Trump supporters

The latest in a series of temporary press bans.

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David Lumb
December 31st, 2016
In this article: ban, culture, facebook, internet, speech, trump
Dado Ruvic / REUTERS
Dado Ruvic / REUTERS

Journalist Kevin Sessums, known for celebrity profiles and memoirs, called Trump supporters "a nasty, fascistic lot" in a Facebook post yesterday. Shortly thereafter, it was removed for violating the network's "community standards" and Sessums was blocked from posting for 24 hours. Only after being contacted by The Guardian did Facebook reinstate it and issue a mea culpa, stating the post was removed in error, but it's the latest in a year of questionable actions in which the social network temporarily locked out journalists or briefly banned content in alleged error.

I have been banned for 24 hours posting on Facebook because I shared a Matthew Dowd post about being trolled by Trump voters and his being called a "retard and faggot and Jew" even though he pointed out he is a divorced Catholic. I then called them Russo-American oligarchical theocratic fascists and was was flagged by someone - no doubt a fascist or fascist collaborator - and FB told me that what I posted did not meet its community standards and this would serve as a warning but they if I continued to post such things I would be permanently blocked. To be censored and blocked rightfully naming the rise of fascism is a form of fascism itself and corporate collaboration. On the same day that the celebrity fascist Milo Yiannopoulos gets a $250,000 advance from Simon $ Schuster to write a book they are spinning as one about free speech I am censored for my political speech and banned from posting on Facebook. We are living in dangerous Orwellian times. Maybe take a screenshot of this and post it on your own Facebook pages. Thank you. RESIST.

A photo posted by Kevin Sessums (@kevsessums) on Dec 30, 2016 at 9:20am PST

Back in September, the network banned a post containing the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Terror of War" photograph (better known as 'napalm girl') for indecency and suspended the journalist who posted it before reversing both actions after heavy complaint. That same month, anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protesters claim Facebook censored their video stream, though the social network claims its automatic spam filter blocked the live feed site in error. Then Palestinian journalists were briefly locked out of their own accounts, which Facebook again cited as an innocent mistake.

Once again, the social network chalked Sessums' ban up to internal error.

"We're very sorry about this mistake," a Facebook spokesman told The Guardian. "The post was removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate. Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong."

In each apology, Facebook cites the sheer volume of algorithm and community-reported posts. But less understandable is the arbitrary ruling of what violates the network's community standards. During the presidential campaign, the social network's employees argued to ban Trump's posts for hate speech against CEO Mark Zuckerberg's command, who ruled it would be inappropriate to censor a candidate. Even if Sessums' post was blocked in error, it's worrying that it took a major newspaper's inquiry to reinstate his speech and access, especially when he was critiquing the followers of a man whose posts evidently don't run afoul of the network's community standards.

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