Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp all down globally
Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are all currently down for many users in Canada, Europe, parts of Asia, and the US.
Users currently receive a ‘this site can’t be reached’ message.
The following map by Downdetector shows the overall global impact.
All three of the social networks belong to Facebook.
The platforms previously went down roughly one month ago on March 13th.
Update: The site is now operating in Canada.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.
Update: On Thursday, Facebook accepted our appeal and reversed its decision. Our article and post were restored and it was determined that The Post Millennial and our author, Libby Emmons, were not in violation of Facebook policy.
Facebook has flagged The Post Millennial for hate speech … against “white women.” In an article entitled “Why are white women signing up for workshops that tell them they suck?” Our senior contributor Libby Emmons explored the phenomenon of white women self-flagellating over issues of race. The story was widely shared and written about workshops that affluent white women partake in to better learn about their own unconscious bias.
Emmons is a white woman, and by the rules of identity politics, a person of a given group is allowed to tell hard truths about that group, even if they’re not always easy to digest. Unless the rules of identity politics don’t apply to white women. Which was, in part, the point of the article.
Hate speech is a serious charge, one that we don’t take lightly. Bashing a group based on their race, sexual orientation, or ethnicity is not an acceptable means of discourse. But that’s not what this article does. Instead, the article points out that a person’s race does not determine their perspective or their worth. The article advocates against racial stereotypes and assumptions based on background.
Additionally, the article lists several articles that call out white people for being racist, based entirely on the colour of their skin. None of these articles were flagged for removal by Facebook. These pieces that specifically target white women for their complicity in racism were featured in The Washington Post, Salon, Jezebel, The Guardian, Harper’s Bazaar, AlterNet, and other sites, and some of them were written by writers of colour. Why were these articles acceptable but Emmons’ wasn’t?
This is what identity politics does to people. Some algorithm or some staffer at Facebook saw “white women” and “suck” and came to the wrong conclusion about our content. It was a provocative headline, but the meaning of the piece is that no one should be made to believe that they are lesser because of the colour of their skin.
This is our first “strike” and of course we are appealing. These allegations are simply unfounded. Social media platforms are an essential part of information dissemination, and those who patrol the feeds know this. When they flag items for content violation, much of what they are doing is interpreting user complaints. But social media users who complain about content are not neutral, objective observers. In fact, most of them have larger axes to grind that we do, and they take the job of deplatforming as a means to remove views that they disagree with very seriously.
Facebook should reverse their ridiculous decision. Our post and our article were not in any way hateful and did not violate any community standards. Exploring cultural phenomena is not “hate speech.” If Facebook doesn’t come to its senses, then it’s just a propaganda machine for identity politics apologists. It’s pretty clear that Mark Zuckerberg is actively trying to avoid this by hearing views from across the political spectrum, and refusing to police free speech. Perhaps his staff should try to limit their own bias by being more tolerant of a wide range of perspectives.
George Soros has claimed that Facebook Inc. may be working alongside President Donald Trump in an effort to have him re-elected. Soros said that Facebook has nothing stopping it from circulating disinformation. Soros is a billionaire investor and philanthropist.
At the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Soros said, “I think there is a kind of informal mutual assistance operation or agreement developing between Trump and Facebook,” he added, “Facebook will work together to re-elect Trump, and Trump will work to protect Facebook so that this situation cannot be changed and it makes me very concerned about the outcome for 2020.”
The National Post noted that Soros did not back up his claims with any evidence. A spokesman for Facebook, Andy Stone responded to the claims saying, “This is just plain wrong.”
Soros has previously made similar accusations against the company during a Davos speech in 2018. He said that Facebook treats its users in a similar way that gambling companies do when they get their users hooked.
Facebook has been accused of shady business by many in recent years. One incident that stands out is the Russian misinformation campaign which was on the website without being detected for months leading up to the 2016 election.
Some people are arguing that Facebook already unintentionally supports Trump by rewarding content that has viral potential which Trump produces a lot of.
The company made the choice not to take political ads that may contain lies down. Mark Zuckerberg noted that a corporation should not make the call on such things and he cited the first amendment.
On Thursday, Soros said, “Facebook basically has only one guiding principle: maximize your profits irrespective of what harm it may do to the world.”
When Soros made comments about the company in 2018, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer had employees investigate whether Soros was making the comments for financial reasons.
In a statement, Facebook said, “That research was already underway when Sheryl sent an email asking if Mr. Soros had shorted Facebook’s stock.”
Sanberg received criticism for mishandling the situation.
2019 was a landmark year for controversial decisions by Google, YouTube (owned by Google), and Facebook, where their power to snuff out political free expression became more publicly known. More and more evidence is surfacing that suggests efforts from the Big Three to minimize, or stifle, conservative voices.
And with the 2020 presidential election not so far away, the question remains: what effect will these Internet behemoths have on voters?
One of the biggest reveals came from whistleblower Zachary Vorhies. The former Google programmer blew the lid off of Google’s political bias, revealing the manipulation of search placements to tilt toward certain democratic candidates, and an autocorrect to favour them. Armed with his 950 pages of leaked documents, Vorhies asserted that Google programmed its algorithms to scale down the search engine’s results for right-leaning media, Republicans and Christian media.
Vorhies warned, “that they were intending to sculpt the information landscape… I saw something dark and nefarious going on with the company, and I realized that they were going to not only tamper with the elections, but use that tampering with the elections to essentially overthrow the United States.”
“If people don’t fall in line with their editorial agenda, their news articles get de-ranked. And if people do fall in line with their editorial agenda, it gets boosted and pushed to the top.”
Then there’s Project Veritas’ expose. Google executives were caught on undercover camera saying how they were going to influence the 2016 presidential election, and actively undermine Donald Trump. The video caught executives calling right-leaning personalities Jordan Peterson, Dennis Prager and Ben Shapiro “Nazis”.
The ramifications of data manipulation are just beginning to come to the surface. Confirming these theories, Dr. Robert Epstein spoke in 2019 to a Senate hearing to discuss his investigation into Google’s data intervention that he believes gave “at a minimum” 2.6 million more votes to Hillary Clinton.
The former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today is a visiting scholar at the University of California, San Diego, and the founder and director emeritus of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies in Concord, Massachusetts.
The “very liberal” Clinton supporter dropped this bomb, too: the number one donator to the Clinton campaign of 2016 was Alphabet, a corporation formerly known as Google.
“You can bet all these companies will go all out… (The Big Three are) more powerful than anything I’ve seen in behavioural sciences,” he said in a 2019 government deposition.
He warned that 15 million votes could be shifted to the Democratic Party in the 2020 election due to data manipulation, and search engine tweaking.
But the Big Three’s crosshairs aren’t limited to votes or parties. Scores of “undesirable” media have been placed under the guillotine.
PragerU–a weekly online video series running since 2010 run by the charitable organization of the same name–has seen some 25 per cent of its 400-plus videos placed on YouTube’s “restricted” list. That means schools and libraries cannot view them. One of those is a lesson on “Thou Shalt Not Murder” from the Biblical Ten Commandments.
According to Google, who owns YouTube, teaching youngsters that it’s wrong to murder is off limits. PragerU claims it is censorship, and that Google’s rationale is really noble-sounding cover for squelching right-leaning voices.
PragerU isn’t the only casualty. According to Vorhies’ documents, Google further blacklisted hundreds of media that include Christian Post, Megyn Kelly’s website, Newsbusters, Rebel Media, Daily Caller, and Glenn Beck.
Facebook appears to be gunning down the same road. Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer validated this, saying the media giant is “quick to attack–often in mobs–anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.”
So it’s the perfect storm: the amount of power that the Big Three wields, married to the political agenda of those who run them, could mean a 2020 presidential campaign marred by technological tampering.
A right-leaning publication, Epoch Times, is the latest victim in what appears to be the cyber-gagging of those with differing political viewpoints.
Spurred by a Snopes investigation in December 2019, Facebook barred Epoch Times from advertising on the platform, owing to what they believe was a breach of terms of service. They claim this was mostly because Epoch Times has a connection to another outlet, Beauty of Life (BL), accused of inauthentic behavior, spam and misrepresentation, by advertising and posting using fake accounts.
The BL, now banned from Facebook, at one point oversaw 610 Facebook accounts, 89 pages, and 156 groups, says Facebook.
The Post Millennial previously reported on the Epoch Times controversy in reference to a different matter, noting similar results to Capital Research, which found zero connection between Epoch Times and the BL’s online activities. Another rebuttal is unpacked by Epoch’s editor, Steven Gregory, who has stated that there is no link whatsoever to BL.
To whatever extent there was a remotely tenuous connection, happened to be that the two organizations had hired each other’s employees at separate times.
Facebook’s head of security policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, explained the issue (from their point of view) to NBC News: “What’s new here is that this is purportedly a U.S.-based media company leveraging foreign actors posing as Americans to push political content.”
Here’s the upper cut: Gleicher was also director of National Security Council, at the Obama White House, from 2013 to 2015. In 2007, he clerked with Democrat Senator from Vermont, Patrick Leahy.
So, if Facebook relies on “linkage”–tying two loosely-related organizations to the same thread–the same reasoning could be used for Gleicher. Might he have a vested interest in squelching conservative voices, given the liberal politics of his former employers?
Interestingly, Facebook, its investigators-for-hire Graphika, and the Digital Forensics Lab, appeared to overlook the tar-and-feathering by Snopes, laden with a political agenda.
In an NPR interview, Snopes VP of Operations Vinny Green highlighted positive coverage of President Trump as a problem. “What we saw was an extreme amount of pro-Trump content,” Green said. “Almost exclusively what we were looking at …was the amplification of pro-Trump media…” [emphasis mine]
This has the whiff of a politically-motivated hit job.
There’s reason the Big Three should be gnawing at their nails about Epoch Times. Its reach, resources, and readership are gaining a foothold.
At last year’s CPAC–the annual conservative megaconference–the media outlet scored major interviews with Republican politicians, conservative pundits, and Trump cabinet members. Overall, their videos have been viewed billions of times over social media, which analytics company Tubular says ranks eleventh “among all video creators across platforms, outranking every other traditional news publisher.”
And with ten million Facebook followers, “the Epoch Times now wields one of the biggest social media followings of any news outlet,” according to NBC.
All the more reason for any liberal organization to target it as persona non grata.
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz told me a sobering thought after he published his book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are.
“I think there are, definitely, ethical concerns that come with this powerful data source. Big Data isn’t good or bad, it’s just powerful… we don’t really have any way to regulate what information they are allowed to use, and what information they are not allowed to use.”
Perhaps this sums up the 1984-like Big Brother, in the year 2020. Except now it’s called Big Data.
Facebook recently concluded an investigation into two unconnected, networks of accounts that combined were responsible for almost 650 Facebook accounts and over 400 pages on the platform. Per Facebook, the first was “part of a domestic-focused network that originated in the country of Georgia,” while the second, the Beauty of Life (BL) network of accounts, caused much more of a stir.
Facebook took down “these Pages, Groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted. In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.” Basically, these accounts had created sock-puppet accounts that looked like real people, using AI-generated photos, etc.to drive traffic to BL pages. It was effective, it breached the terms of service, so the accounts were taken down. Facebook is clear that this is a terms of service issue, and not a content one.
However, NBC reported that “Facebook took down more than 600 accounts tied to the pro-Trump conspiracy website The Epoch Times for using identities created by artificial intelligence to push stories about a variety of topics including impeachment and elections.” This is misleading phrasing that correlates content to removal.
As part of its investigation, Facebook claims that it found links between BL and Epoch Media Group (EMG), which is the parent group of The Epoch Times. It is this affiliation that mainstream media outlets like NBC and NPR used to make the argument that there was a connection between The Epoch Times content and the removal of the BL network of accounts from Facebook.
The BL, or Beautiful Life network, operates primarily within the US, though it is based in Vietnam. During the course of its investigation, Facebook says it found ties between BL and the EMG, which operates The Epoch Times, among many other news media properties. BL shared The Epoch Times content, as so many other pages. Due to the perceived ties between BL and EMG, Facebook is now investigating the EMG.
EMG has stated that it is not linked to BL. Per a blog post from EMG, “The BL (BL) and its activities have been portrayed as being part of Epoch Media Group (EMG) and by extension The Epoch Times. This is categorically false. EMG has never been affiliated with BL and does not engage in or support the behavior BL is alleged to be involved in… The situation is complicated by the fact that BL is connected with the independent company Đại Kỷ Nguyên (Vietnamese Epoch Times, or VET), with which EMG was forced to cut ties in October 2018.”
Facebook and EMG are in disagreement over the connective tissue between the two networks. The founder of BL had once been employed by the EMG, and employees from Epoch Media came to work for BL. Prior to their leaving the employ of EMG, some of those individuals had been listed as Page admins for EMG Facebook Pages. There was a long lag in those former employees names being removed as admins on the EMG pages.
When asked about the perceived links between The BL and The Epoch Times, a Facebook company spokesperson told The Post Millennial “with all due respect to the publisher of The Epoch Times, he may not know executives at The BL were active admins on Epoch Media Group Pages as recently as this morning [December 20] when their accounts were deactivated and The BL was removed.”
Facebook’s reason for removing BL were that “The people behind this activity made widespread use of fake accounts—many of which had been automatically removed by our systems—to manage Pages and Groups, automate posting at very high frequencies and direct traffic to off-platform sites. Some of these accounts used profile photos generated by artificial intelligence and masqueraded as Americans to join Groups and post the BL content. To evade our enforcement, they used a combination of fake and authentic accounts of local individuals in the US to manage Pages and Groups.”
They go on to say that “Although the people behind this network attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation linked this activity to Epoch Media Group, a US-based media organization, and individuals in Vietnam working on its behalf. The BL-focused network repeatedly violated a number of our policies, including our policies against coordinated inauthentic behavior, spam and misrepresentation, to name just a few. The BL is now banned from Facebook. We are continuing to investigate all linked networks, and will take action as appropriate if we determine they are engaged in deceptive behavior.”
EMG believes that “The language used by Facebook is irresponsibly unclear. By saying that EMG is ‘linked’ to BL’s activity, Facebook suggests that EMG is responsible for BL’s activities or has coordinated with BL, without Facebook’s statement providing any evidence that this is so. Media outlets have then jumped on the hint Facebook has given, and reported EMG is guilty of activities it has had no part in.”
Facebook security is all about procedure, technical violations and terms of service breaches. They do not credit content, other than those that violate hate speech restrictions, etc., as a reason for removal. Yet NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navaro interviewed Snopes VP of Operations, Vinny Green, about their independent investigation into the link between BL and The Epoch Times.
Garcia-Navaro asks: “This investigation centers around a group called the BL, or Beauty of Life. And you found that it has extensive links to The Epoch Times. So remind us where The Epoch Times sort of lives in the media ecosystem.”
“Yeah. Well, it’s really far-reaching,” Green replied. “Not only do they have a print edition that distributes pretty widely, but they have a very dominant online presence. They’ve really—have established a vast multimedia, multiplatform distribution channel and artificially, through advertising, boost their prominence. And it—so it’s widely read and widely distributed. But it is this very fringe publication. And we’ve discovered that it’s got some other tentacles that are reaching out into the media landscape and—one of which was this vast network called the BL.”
“Yeah. I mean, their main page has more than 6 million followers on Facebook,” Garcia-Navaro chimed in, “and they have ties to the Falun Gong movement, which is a spiritual practice which the Chinese government calls a cult. And these fake pages and profiles had a lot of pro-Trump content but also anti-Chinese government, too. What were they pushing out?”
Snopes is primarily concerned with invalidating The Epoch Times, who it disparages for running content that supports President Trump. “What we saw was an extreme amount of pro-Trump content,” Green said. “Almost exclusively what we were looking at on the BL was the amplification of pro-Trump media… And that content plays well on Facebook.”
Garcia-Navaro noted that “Some people have called this sort of industrial-scale misinformation.”
However, the founding mission of The Epoch Times, founded in 2000, was “in response to communist repression and censorship in China.” The originators were “Chinese-Americans who themselves had fled communism, sought to create an independent media to bring the world uncensored and truthful information.” Part of their early work was in writing about the persecution faced by members of the Falun Gong religious sect, which Snopes additionally stigmatizes in repeating the Wall Street Journal reporting that “Beijing declared Falun Gong an evil cult and launched a brutal crackdown on its practitioners in China,” which Garcia-Navaro then echoed.
Snopes attempts to discredit The Epoch Times by trivializing its founding mission, and by using the Chinese government’s defining of a religious group as a cult, which has been persecuted by that same government, as evidence of wrongdoing by The Epoch Times.
To recap, The Epoch Times was founded to bring light to human rights abuses in China, many of which are undeniable. Because the outlet has reported favourably about the sitting American president, who is well derided in mainstream media, the Facebook investigation into their parent company’s link to a media outlet with improper account practices is now being used to discredit the validity of their content.
The Epoch Times is not free from run-ins with Facebook security. In July, The Epoch Times pages were barred from placing any further ads on the site. The ads The Epoch Times were running were primarily to drive subscribers to their print edition, and they spent a large sum of money doing this. After they were ad-banned, The Epoch Times tried to get clarification from Facebook as to why this had happened. Unable to get a clear answer, The Epoch Times set up additional accounts, and used them to run the subscription ads. The ads were approved. However, because this was a work-around of the ad ban, those accounts were then removed. The Epoch Times is no longer permitted to run ads on Facebook.
The Epoch Times has tried to reach out to Facebook and get an audience as to how to reverse the ad ban. Facebook’s assertion is that “a total ban is so rare, the review so conclusive, and the violations so egregious,” that there is no formal appeals process. Despite Facebook’s assertion that the ban of BL was procedural and not based on content, mainstream media outlets have framed the story that the content was partially to blame. While EMG claims no connection to BL and has provided documentation to clarify, Facebook claims it is still investigating.
The Post Millennial reached out to The Epoch Times publisher, Stephen Gregory, regarding the assertion by mainstream media outlets that “misleading” content is part of the reason EMG us being investigated. Gregory stated that “The Epoch Times is an independent media organization. Which means that our reporting is oftentimes different from other media. We can’t speak to the motives of other media organizations, but we are disappointed by the continued inaccurate reporting about us. EMG’s Facebook pages were not affected by Facebook’s actions against the BL. As stated in our public statements, EMG is not affiliated with the BL. We are also disappointed in Facebook issuing a statement suggesting Epoch Media Group responsibility for BL’s actions without first contacting us to find out if their assumptions about us were accurate. The result was that Facebook has damaged our good name.”