In a troubling sign of where Facebook’s crackdown on political extremism may be headed, the social media giant recently blocked acclaimed Marxist economist Richard Wolff from sharing an article by the Indypendent about the striking workers at the Hunts Point Produce Market.
For years, Facebook happily served as a breeding ground for violent far-right extremist groups and conspiracy theories including Q-Anon. It’s algorithms steered “Q-curious” viewers in that direction because it was great for business. More reader engagement, more clicks, more eyeballs delivered to advertisers. More profits—$32.7 billion in 2020 pre-tax earnings, a 36% increase over 2019.
The social media giant has come under intense scrutiny since the January 6 Capitol Hill insurrection and has vowed to root out these same extremist groups. But in a troubling sign of where Facebook’s crackdown on political extremism may be headed, on Wednesday night it blocked a post by Richard D. Wolff, one of America’s foremost Marxist economists, from being read or shared by his 56,000 Facebook followers.
Wolff’s post highlighted an Indypendent story on the recent strike by workers at the Hunts Point Produce Market and in his caption he approvingly noted, “US political winds are shifting left. Key example is Hunts Point food market for New York City. First labor union strike since 1986: strong, solid, supported by socialists and much public opinion. Victorious and widely celebrated.”
The story by the Indy’s Amba Guerguerian featured five of the 1,400 striking workers speaking in their own words about how disrespected they felt by their bosses and how essential they felt it was to be unionized.
“All workers should be unionized,” explained Francisco Flores who has worked in the Bronx market for 27 years. “Take care of the working man. We are the ones that make this country move. So just throw us a little crumb. You guys are still gonna be rich.”
When Wolff’s Facebook followers went to click on the article, they were redirected.
When they went to share it, they received this notice:
Some of Wolff’s readers cried foul in the comment thread.
“I can’t share this specific post,” Jennifer Watson wrote. “I was able to post a NPR post right after getting this pop-up. I have shared other posts from Wolf today tho. It’s this specific topic.”
“I tried to share this, and found another shadow-ban on my account,” Richard Beresford added. “FB may be over as a place to share any idea outside of the mainstream before too long/snip of my ban/first i have heard?”
Stand up for free speech and share this article and/or the original story about the Hunts Point workers on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
When contacted by the Indypendent, Wolff responded via Twitter message.
“After many years of Facebook posts,” Wolff wrote, “a typical posting of ours is suddenly censored. ‘Private’ property on a ‘social’ media platform is a contradiction now exposed glaringly every day. Our comment on a well-known, publicly reported labor-management dispute gets silenced by some anonymous Facebook employee. Wow. Will such obstacles to freedom of expression continue?”
The Indypendent left a message with the Facebook “help desk” demanding the company reverse its block on Wolff sharing of our article and that it provide an explanation for why this incident occurred. We have not received a response.
“Facebook arbitrarily denied Professor Wolff and his readers the opportunity to share their views on an important labor battle. It also denied the workers at the Hunts Point Produce Market the chance for their words to be heard,” said the Indypendent’s Editor-in-Chief John Tarleton. “We must be vigilant to ensure that Facebook and other Big Tech companies don’t use their monopoly power to marginalize independent media voices reporting on labor struggles and other vitally important issues in our communities,”
The story that Facebook censored is titled “What I want for me, I want for you’: Hunts Point Produce Market Workers Talk About Why They Went on Strike.” In that same spirit of solidarity, we are asking for our readers to stand up for free speech and share this article and/or the original story about the Hunts Point workers on Facebook, Twitter, etc. When we fight back, we win!
For more about the Indypendent and how it became “diary of the New York Left” over the past two decades, click here.
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