by Andre Damon
05 June 2018
speaking at CyCon
Alex Stamos, Facebook's chief
security officer, presented an overview of the Orwellian censorship
regime implemented by the world's largest social media company last
week at an annual military conference in Tallinn, Estonia.
Speaking before an audience of generals, intelligence agents and
US-aligned Eastern European politicians, Stamos warned that millions
"people who feel they
have been ignored or oppressed" are using Facebook to "push for
The speech was an account
of how the company is partnering with the US and other governments
throughout the world to control public discourse online, with the
primary but unstated aim of suppressing access to left-wing,
anti-war and socialist viewpoints.
Stamos was speaking at
CyCon, a conference sponsored by
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on cyberwar and
The very presence of a
social media company at such an event, just a few hundred miles from
NATO's heavily-militarized border with Russia, makes clear the
extent to which the US technology giants have been integrated into
the US military-intelligence apparatus and its international
Stamos began by pointing to a map of the social connections
facilitated by Facebook.
"As the people who
have drawn those lines, and given folks the ability to make
those connections," Stamos said, Facebook has the
"responsibility to understand and to mitigate" the risks that
its platform might be "used for bad," which he called an attack
"against the ideals of Facebook."
First, Stamos said
Facebook is seeking to combat,
"fake news" through
"changes in the news feed that surface this content to people."
But instead of seeking to
determine if a piece of news is "fake," Facebook is carrying out
mass profiling of news sources by,
metadata around the people who have created the account, the
news site that's running it," to evaluate whether it is
Orwellian censorship regime,
Facebook segregates news organizations into categories and
determines how many people are able to view their postings on that
In other words, the company's evaluation of whether a piece of news
is "fake" is determined not by whether it is accurate, factually
grounded or verifiable, but rather by 'who' posts it.
The logical implication
is that if one of Facebook's "partners" in the establishment media
posts a story, no matter how inaccurate, biased, or poorly sourced,
the company will still promote it as "trustworthy."
Facebook's policy on "fake news," in other words, is political
In order to block,
operators," Stamos said, Facebook is carrying out "manual
investigations of organized groups," and it is using machine
learning to find "bad actors" at "scale" across its billions of
However, he added,
"The biggest growth
category of information operations that we're going to see over
the next couple of years is domestic influence operations" -
that is, political organizations who are seeking to "influence"
politics in their own countries.
Facebook is targeting
"people who feel they
have been ignored or oppressed," whose "goal" is to "push for
radical politics," he said.
These groups, he noted,
can be "quite large."
As an example, Stamos
Anonymous, a "hacktivist" group
that supported the Occupy Wall Street protests against social
inequality and was associated with support for the online journalism
Numerically, however, the largest target of Facebook's censorship
measures consists of,
participants," who are often motivated by "legitimately held
beliefs" to become "partners in information operations."
That is, millions of
people who are not part of any organized political group, but who
voice their agreement with the political views promoted by groups
targeted by Facebook by sharing their content or voicing their
operator," he said, can have "thousands and thousands of people
who believe in your cause."
The effect of "these
people should not be understated," he said.
To stifle the political
statements of the broader public is open political censorship.
For that reason, Facebook
must be careful not to appear to stifle public discourse, but to
block the "effectiveness" of the public in participating in
"Our response here
has to be very, very careful because part of free expression
means that sometimes people are going to say stuff you don't
agree with, right?
Part of freedom is
the freedom for people individually to be wrong, and we have to
allow people to be wrong and to say things that while they don't
fall afoul of our hate speech standards or standards meant to
ensure safety, but that are considered inappropriate, those are
the kinds of things that open societies have to accept.
But we do want to
implement product enhancements to make sure that we are reducing
the effectiveness of these people to be part of, unwittingly
part of, an organized campaign."
enhancements" include redirecting users to content that Facebook
approves of and providing "educational cues" informing them that
their views are "disputed."
Under American law, Facebook is regulated like a communications
utility, similar to a phone company or a package delivery
service. It has neither the "responsibility" nor the right to impose
its "ideals" onto its users.
In the company's view, however, the fact that it acts as a
communications platform gives it the paternalistic obligation
to police what its users say and block their speech if the company
disagrees with it.
The social content of these "ideals" is made clear by the
military-intelligence audience Stamos was speaking before.
Over the course of the
past two years, Facebook has come under relentless pressure from the
US government to serve as an agent of the state intelligence forces
to censor and suppress oppositional views on its platform.
Leading advocates of
censorship, including Democratic Senator Mark Warner and
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, have made clear that the
company will face intense regulatory and public pressure if it does
not comply with their demands to stifle political opposition online.
In so doing, Facebook is acting as an agent of
the American state, doing its dirty work to subvert the
public's constitutionally-protected freedoms of speech and assembly.
In perhaps his most ominous statement, Stamos concluded by calling
for broader social changes in line with the measures Facebook has
overall are going to have to start to adapt to the idea that not
all information is created equal," he concluded.
His conclusion harkens to
the motto of the pigs in George Orwell's
"All animals are
equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
With the vast majority of
written communication taking place online, Facebook's actions,
together with other technology companies, constitute the largest,
most comprehensive regime of censorship in human history.
Outside of and in
contradiction to fundamental constitutional and human rights,
Facebook claims the right to determine what hundreds of billions of
people read and say.
We are fighting to expose the effort by Facebook, Google and other
technology giants to censor the internet, which is the spearhead of
a drive to dismantle the freedoms of association and expression
across the world...