Facebook Shuts Down Populist Italian Pages Ahead of EU Elections
Social media giant deletes pages supported populist parties
In another Orwellian move, Facebook has taken action to shut down 23 major populist Italian pages with a combined following of 2.5 million people in the run-up to the European elections.
The bulk of the pages supported populist parties La Lega (The League) and the 5-Star Movement (M5S), according to the Italian media.
But the move was 'justified' by Facebook who argued that the sites shared fake news, so-called “hate speech,” and what they called “divisive content” regarding immigrants, vaccines, and Jewish people.
A report from left-progressive NGO called Avaaz, which deals with “human rights” and environmental campaigns was used by Facebook.
“We thank Avaaz for sharing its research so we could investigate,” said a Facebook spokesperson.
“We are committed to protecting the integrity of the EU elections and around the world. We have removed a series of false and duplicate accounts that violated our policies on the subject of authenticity, as well as several pages for violation of the policy on changing the name.”
“We have also taken action against some pages that have repeatedly spread misinformation. We will take further measures if we find other violations,” the spokesperson warned.
The report, which was presented to Facebook on May 3, Avaaz confirmed it had identified 14 Italian networks including 104 pages and six groups, with a total of 18.2 million followers.
This week, Facebook shut down 23 pages in these networks, totaling in 2.46 million followers and 2.44 million interactions over the last three months.
Facebook also reportedly "weakened" pages that allegedly spread false news, making them virtually non-existent int he news feed.
Facebook Co-Founder: Zuckerberg is 'Dangerous,' 'Un-American,' 'Must Be Stopped' | Neon Nettle https://t.co/TO7Awu2Rt1— clare sullivan (@sullivan49j4) May 12, 2019
According to Breitbart: The technical motivation for the closing of the pages is linked to name changes: it is claimed they initially suggested themes that did not seem to allude to political parties or movements, but later changed the theme.
Among the closed pages are “We want the 5-Star Movement in government”, which had 129,000 followers and almost 700,000 interactions in three months, “Beppe Grillo for President”, “Lega Salvini Sulmona” — which had 307,000 followers” — “Lega Salvini Premier Santa Teresa of Riva”, and “We Are 5 Stars.”
The most active page in support of the Lega party was among those closed, just as polls are confirming that the Lega is currently the party with the most support among Italians for the upcoming elections.
Facebook’s efforts in Italy to influence the European elections are just the tip of the iceberg, Italian media noted.
On May 2 Facebook opened a “war room” in Dublin devoted full time to the European electoral campaign, with 40 teams of engineers, scientists, researchers, threat specialists, and experts for each country, According to the Italian daily La Repubblica
Five hundred people are working on the elections, with the assistance of 21 supposed “fact-checkers,” operating in 14 different languages.
Earlier this month, Facebook blacklisted various conservative figures from their platforms, including Infowars host Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, and Milo Yiannopoulos.
Some of the conservatives claim they were given no reason for the ban.
British conservative Paul Joseph Watson raised the alarm following his ban saying he has not broken Facebook’s rules, and commenting, “In an authoritarian society controlled by a handful of Silicon Valley giants, all dissent must be purged.”