By Val Reynoso
The U.S. boasts itself on being the land of the free; however, this narrative shifts in regards to U.S. government censorship of non-Western media, particularly through major social media outlets such as Facebook.
Contemporary social media giants and politicians have been complicit in the censorship of media coverage that opposes that of mainstream news, with the justification that said outlets pose a threat to U.S. values, violate the safety of U.S. allies, and are backed by nations and proxies that are political opponents of the U.S. While some may argue that suppression of said broadcasts is beneficial to the general U.S. public safety, doing so is an infringement of free speech.
In addition to this, alternative media sources whose stances do not align with those of Washington are vital in helping expose government corruptions and U.S. involvements in the Global South—information that is oftentimes biased or uncovered in Western media in favor of hegemonic imperialist forces. Moreover, leading social media corporations such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have strengthened their artificial intelligence systems and repress content of their users, per request of the U.S. government and partnership with U.S. spy organizations.
According to a report from MintPressNews, the director of the Global Policy Management at Facebook, named Monika Bickert, stated that Facebook currently has a rapidly growing security team consisting of 10,000 members, with 7,500 of them being in charge of assessing what the media giant considers to be potentially violating content.
The team also has a counterterrorism group made up of former intelligence and law enforcement figures who were specialized in counterterrorism. Bickert adds that Facebook has collaborated with numerous other companies to form a blacklist of media content that is identified by the corporation as violating their standards and would ultimately be restricted from all social media.
Advocates of censorship of media which they perceive as a foreign threat justify this because they believe that said media endangers their existence and encourages opposition to their countries. Contrary to what these censorship advocates, such as some US politicians, believe, it is undeniable that state-backed media repression purposely targets anti-U.S. establishment media and anti-Western narratives surrounding the Middle East and affiliated groups.
For instance, early March of this year, congressmen addressed a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions stating that Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera is a mouthpiece for Qatari foreign policy views, appears to be a state-controlled operation, and is a source of deceptive propaganda. The congressmen also consider the news station to be anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli, given its commentary on organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
Reports that are contrary to those of the West are deemed a threat and therefore deserving of having its free speech infringed upon, but outlets that air favorably on Western views are not seen as a threat to the U.S. establishment and as a result do not experience media repression.
Congressmen are not the only ones who have explicitly voiced opposition to non-Western news companies; Facebook has also targeted publications that support said views. On March 24th of this year, Facebook closed the page of the significant Palestinian news source called Safa Palestinian Press Agency and removed their account on Instagram as well. The social media corporation provided no explanation for this action other than stating that the outlet violated community standards.
Given all this, it is more than evident that non-Western media is having its rights to free press infringed upon. The only solution is for these companies to have their full rights restored and for social media giants and the U.S. government to not restrict the speech of those who simply have a view that does not align with those generally associated with their own agendas.
Val Reynoso is a Politics and Human Rights undergrad, journalist and Marxist-Leninist activist.