After thousands of people for a week protested on social media against the removal of anti-war videos by Facebook produced by Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei (SGP) [Tysklands Socialist Equality Party], the tech company recovered the video on Sunday. This marks an important success, but it also raises fundamental political questions.
On Saturday, March 26, Facebook removed a video entitled “No Third World War! Against the Ukrainian war, NATO aggression and German rearmament!” without giving any reason, and without the possibility of objection. The SGP also did not receive a response to its request to recover the video immediately, and respect the party’s constitutional rights.
The removal was undoubtedly an act of political censorship. The video does not contain hate speech, does not violate any laws, and does not violate Facebook’s community policies. It was removed for purely political reasons, to silence those who opposed the deafening propaganda of war and the father
for a nuclear world war. The video emphatically condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but also shows how it was fueled by countless wars by NATO forces and Russian military sieges.
Above all, the video explains the program of international socialism, which provides the only way to end war and to prevent disaster. Unless the international working class intervenes independently and builds an international movement against war and capitalism, a world war is inevitable.
After watching the video more than 20,000 times in just a few days, Facebook decided to block it. Its purpose was to suppress the SGP’s independent anti-war policies, and to intimidate broad popular opposition to the war.
It took Facebook more than a week to recover the video and with it the nearly 100 comments and nearly 200 responses it generated. This decision is undoubtedly a reaction to the massive support given by the SGP.
Just one post from SGP on Facebook, which defies video censorship, was shared 81 times and backed with over 400 thumbs up. The three main topics for the #SpeakOutAgainstWW3, #StopCensoringSocialism and #defendSGP campaigns were used more than 1,500 times. A repost of the video, and publication on another platform, totaled nearly 20,000 views.
In addition, WSWS received a number of statements from workers and youth from Germany and around the world, who strongly protested Facebook’s censorship.
“Facebook has taken a stand for death and destruction, through censorship. This is a criminal act and must be fought vigorously! Not for war, not for censorship,” said one British reader.
A programmer urged his Facebook colleagues to form an independent land plan committee to fight big corporate censorship and war incitement.
“Video censorship is an attack on the population’s broad anti-war sentiment. The high number of views of the video before it was removed underscores the widespread interest among the population for perspectives on the war against war, and real analysis of the causes of war,” said a student from Baden-Württemberg .
But while Facebook was unable to maintain censorship in the face of these protests, the move had a significant impact. First of all, the damage is still there because the video was blocked at the height of its popularity and just as it was about to be widely shared, and the wave of distribution was thus stopped.
Above all, however, the incident emphasizes that Facebook has the right to arbitrarily censor unwanted facts and opinions that are not shared by the company. By doing so, the company has clearly violated the applicable law. As recently as last July, the German Federal Court ruled that Facebook should consider basic rights when removing content, informing affected users and giving them the opportunity to appeal.
Facebook recognizes that SGP videos do not violate any laws or community guidelines [‘community policies’] and therefore cannot meet the requirements of this law. However, the company censors the videos and ignores all jurisprudence.
It must be assumed that the tech giant cooperates closely with the German government authorities. Facebook has more than 20,000 employees on its team for security and enforcement, to monitor and censor posts on the platform. Many of them were “former intelligence and law enforcement officials”, said Monica Bickert, head of Counter-Terrorism at Facebook, in January 2018.
In Germany, more than 1,000 people are employed to monitor content on Facebook. Cooperation with the government is very close. With the Network Enforcement Act (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz), the state not only encourages technology companies to censor, but also encourages Facebook to remove as much content as possible, threatening companies with heavy fines. According to the Transparency Report, 11,699 posts were removed from Facebook in Germany on this basis in the first half of 2021 alone, which is a ninefold increase compared to the previous half.
Facebook should explain how the Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei got into this censorship engine. Who is involved in making the decision to remove it without giving reasons and without the possibility of appeal? What role do public bodies play in Facebook’s decisions? If Facebook does not answer these questions, it is impossible to ensure that they will refrain from arbitrary and politically motivated acts of censorship in the future. We therefore encourage all of our readers and supporters to continue to protest the censorship, and demand Facebook answers to these questions. In addition, SGP and WSWS are fighting alongside all war opponents who see their content still censored on Facebook, and other social media platforms.
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