Telesur page takedown: Facebook becoming ‘US govt’s censorship vehicle’


Telesur page takedown: Facebook becoming ‘US govt’s censorship vehicle’
© Telesur / Instagram
The decision by Facebook to delete left-leaning Latin American news network Telesur’s English language page with no explanation has only added to concerns over censorship and US government interference on the platform.

Having been deleted on Facebook earlier this year, Telesur had been “even more careful” with its posts and broke “absolutely none” of Facebook’s terms, former director of Telesur, Pablo Vivanco, told RT.

Vivanco believes there is no justification for the social media giant to have removed the page once again, stressing that on Telesur, there was “always a process to ensure accuracy and journalistic ethics.”

While Facebook admitted that it was a mistake the last time it took down Telesur’s page, there are fears the incidents are links in a chain of tightening government censorship of dissenting voices.

Speaking to RT, James Petras, Professor Emeritus at Binghamton University and an expert on Latin America said that the US government — which did not recognize the recent re-election of president Nicolás Maduro as legitimate and has placed fresh economic sanctions on the country — is engaged in “an attempt to overthrow the [Venezuelan] government” and that targeting uncooperative media was one way in which they were doing it.

Washington, Petras said, is using social media platforms like Facebook to “isolate” the country and Facebook is willingly trying to “ingratiate” itself with US authorities. “The US is at war now with Iran, Russia, China, the EU and Venezuela and any dissident voices, so as the authoritarian position of the US increases, Facebook and other media are under increasing pressure to abide by the line that comes out of Washington,” Petras said.

He also predicted that more censorship from Facebook was likely in the future and that it would be directly correlated with US warmaking and economic sanctions around the world. “They want to create a global opinion that abides by US policy,”he said.

Telesur’s Head of Web, Tatiana Rojas, told RT that the outlet was one of the only news sources reporting “from a different perspective than US mainstream media” on recent events in Venezuela, including the recent assassination attempt against Maduro.

Rojas said that while she hoped it was a mistake on Facebook’s part, there are reasons to be worried that the platform will become “a place where plurality is not going to be allowed anymore” and where alternative perspectives will not be given space.

Vivanco said that “hysteria” around Russiagate had enabled further censorship and that there were now well-founded reasons to indicate that Facebook is “collaborating” deliberately with Washington to target certain kinds of content.

He said that reason why so many people are suspicious of “fake news” today is because there is “a generalized concern among people that they are being lied to about what is really happening in the world” and that this could explain the rise in outlets giving an alternative perspective on world events.

“There appears to be a concerted effort to shut down voices that will challenge the way people are told they should see the world,” he said.


Facebook vanishes Venezuela-based left-leaning news network again

Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro interviewed at Telesur studios in Caracas, Venezuela © Xinhua / Global Look Press

Telesur claims its page was abruptly taken offline on Monday. Facebook provided the vague explanation that the page had violated its terms of use, but did not elaborate further.

“This is an alarming development in light of the recent shutting down of pages that don’t fit a mainstream narrative,” the network declared.

While it is unclear whether there is any connection, Journalist Max Blumenthal has called it “deeply disturbing” that the removal comes after Facebook partnered up with the Digital Forensic Lab, an offshoot of the Atlantic Council, a neo-liberal think tank set up in 1961 to promote Western ideology around the world.


Facebook teamed up with the Digital Forensic Lab as part of its ongoing mission to police news and views on its platform. In a blog post announcing the partnership, the DFL said that it would strive to “expose and explain falsehood online,” and weed out the West’s favorite bogeymen – the ‘Russian bots.’

The apparent censorship of Telesur comes less than a week after the social media giant deleted the page of Venezualanalysis, an outlet that offered leftist commentary on Latin American affairs. Though Facebook reinstated the page, Venezualanalysis received no apology or explanation for its removal.

“We cannot help but feel that the removal of our page is related to an attempt to stifle the alternative and progressive perspectives that we feature on Venezuela,” the team explained, adding that they felt Facebook is clamping down on independent or anti-mainstream journalism “in the wake of Russia-gate.”

In the US, most accusations of bias leveled at Facebook have come from the right of the political spectrum. There, Republicans argue that Facebook – and other Silicon Valley tech giants – suppresses conservative content.

Most recently, Infowars’ Alex Jones was kicked off several online platforms, including Facebook. That decision was cheered by many in the US, including Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), who demanded even more censorship in the name of “saving democracy.”

Jones’ social-media excommunication was celebrated by a large swathe of the mainstream media in the US, including CNN, who ran multiple hit-pieces on Jones in the months before the ban, and by Vox, who immediately after the ban began pushing for the investigation of “extreme creators” on YouTube.

Telesur is based in Venezuela, and gets most of its funding from the Venezuelan government. It also receives funding from the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua, Uruguay, and Bolivia.

Telesur’s supporters and free-speech advocates argue that the network gives viewers access to viewpoints from outside the mainstream, and it has been defended by journalists, activists and academics including Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, and Danny Glover.

The network has broadcast worldwide in Spanish since 2005, and in English since 2014. Its now-vanished Facebook page had almost 400,000 likes.

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