This article was published on August 4, 2018

Activists aren’t happy after Facebook removes phony protest rally

Activists aren’t happy after Facebook removes phony protest rally Image by: StockSnap

Activists are in an uproar after Facebook removed an event in its recent crackdown on “inauthentic content.” In spite of the fact the event in question was created by a page which generates said inauthentic content, the would-be attendees say they were planning to go and Facebook’s deletion of the event undoes all of their planning.

By all accounts, the “No Unite the Right 2-DC” event — which was intended to run counter to a rally organized by infamous white supremacist Jason Kessler — looked sketchy af. It was created by the “Resisters” page, which Facebook identified as a fake news page created by a malicious actor. An account with ties to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a well-known Russian troll farm, was an event admin for seven minutes.

But even as they’re faced with evidence the event was created by phony pages who may have had ties to shady Russian fake news generators, the real users who were planning to attend the counter-rally are upset the event page where they did most of their planning was summarily deleted.

Speaking with TechCrunch, protesters sulk about how the deletion, saying it makes them “look like we’re Russian pawns” and demanding more evidence that the pages were inauthentic. Washington-based activist Brendan Orsinger, who was one of the event’s major organizers told Washington Post he recognized something was fishy about the Resisters account, but was nonetheless upset by the event removal. “It’s almost like Facebook has a disinformation campaign against us.”

This feels like a good time to give an example of how Facebook events were used to sew discord in the 2016 fake news blitz. According to the Texas Tribune, IRA-backed pages with names like “Heart of Texas” and “United Muslims of America” created two separate events in Houston which led to dueling rallies in front of the city’s Islamic Da’wah Center.

Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, who showed the ads during a congressional hearing, told Facebook’s general counsel, Colin Stretch:

You commented yesterday that your company’s goal is bringing people together. In this case, people were brought together to foment conflict, and Facebook enabled that event to happen. I would say that Facebook has failed their goal. From a computer in St. Petersburg, Russia, these operators can create and promote events anywhere in the United States in attempt to tear apart our society.

I’m sure people who attended both of those events truly had some feeling for their cause. But let’s not forget it was the inflammatory posts on both pages that whipped them into a froth — pages that were controlled by Russian trolls.

So let’s not fall for it again and let ourselves get overwrought. No matter how upset you are over the event being cancelled, remember that a malicious actor wanted you to be upset, wanted you to care about this event deeply. It’s just a Facebook event page — if your passion and determination is real, you can always make a new event and achieve the same results. When you know you’re being manipulated, it’s kind of on you to stop falling for it.

Those who don’t know their history…

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