Unionist Voice has been contacted by a number of those from within the Unionist Community who have been targeted by a Sinn Fein orchestrated attack on their Facebook pages.
Sinn Fein have been using a army of trolls and ‘social media activists’ to target unionists online and also launch targeted and co-ordinated campaigns against social media accounts promoting unionist culture and identity.
Alongside this the Sinn Fein press office, headed by Sean Maguire who can be found on Twitter @seanmaguidhir17 , have been bullying the media demanding censorship of unionist voices of which they disapprove. Unionist Voice highlighted this campaign last week and you can read the relevant article HERE
As a result of today’s targeting of unionist pages, Unionist Voice has drafted a standard letter that victims of the online targeting can send to Facebook. The process is as follows;
1.Copy and Paste the letter included at the bottom of this post
2. Visit http://facebook.com/help/contact/317389574998690 and fill in the relevant form by adding your specifc page details and pasting the letter below. You can go straight to the complaints page by simply clicking HERE
I write in connection with the recent decision taken by your platform (Facebook) to take action against a page of which I am an administrator. This page is……………….
It is relevant to point out that a large number of pages with similar cultural content have also been suspended in what appears to have been either (a) a blanket Facebook decision to target such material or (b) based upon an orchestrated and discriminatory campaign of reporting the relevant content.
It is our view that (b) outlined above is the more likely explanation, and with this being the case we feel it pertinent to make Facebook aware of the partisan nature behind such an orchestrated campaign, but also the discriminatory targeting of one particular culture that has flowed from Facebook accepting the bona fides of such actions.
The content banned all appears to relate to historical images relating to material that refers to either World War 1, or past conflict related events within Northern Ireland. At this stage it is important to point out that many pages contain material relating to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and their political wing, Sinn Fein. In this regard we would make the point that if Facebook are adopting a zero tolerance policy in relation to Northern Ireland conflict related material, then such a policy must apply across the board.
In relation to terrorist material, we would further point Facebook to the assessment provided to the British Parliament by the Secretary of State in 2015 which was re-affirmed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in 2018, namely that Sinn Fein are inextricably linked to the IRA, a currently proscribed organisation. If Facebook’s policy is to target material that is deemed to be conflict related, then this policy must logically also apply to material posted by Sinn Fein pages, which act as the political wing of a currently proscribed organisation.
Facebook’s community standards are extremely broad and ambiguous, and therefore it is necessary to address each relevant provision and outline why material such as that which has led to the current suspension of our page, is not in breach of the community standards.
We can, from the outset, dismiss provisions II, IV, V, and VI and all related sub-sections as not relevant. It would therefore appear that we are left with provisions I and III as the potentially relevant sections of Facebook’s community standards. We will deal with each in turn;
- Violence and Criminal behaviour
- Section 1 deals with Credible violence. This provision applies whereby there is a “genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety”. None of the material removed could, by any stretch of the imagination, trigger such a provision.
- Section 2 deals with Dangerous individuals and organisations. In this it states that Facebook does not allow any group that “supports terrorist activity”. This is, in our, view one of the key areas upon which the decision of Facebook to suspend accounts hinges. It is clear within the community standards that the provision applies to “terrorist activity”- that would therefore suggest that the provision is designed to combat those engaging in ongoing terrorism, hence the inclusion of the word ‘activity’. This section also states that Facebook will “remove content that expresses support or praise for groups, leaders or individuals involved in these activities”. The wording of this is very clear; it states that Facebook will take action against pages that express support for those involved in such (terrorist) activity. The word involved makes clear that the provision is designed, as is explicitly outlined within the relevant portion itself, to deal with support for terrorism in the present.The material banned in some cases has been conflict related (past tense), and/or even World War 1 memorabilia. Loyalist organisations within Northern Ireland have maintained a ceasefire since 1994 and have fully committed to the rule of law and democratic process. It is not credible to suggest that there is any ongoing involvement in terrorism in relation to any of the groups for which conflict related memorabilia has been posted.If however Facebook are of the view that conflict related material does constitute current ongoing support for terrorism, then we look forward to action being taken against the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, and all Sinn Fein pages that have shared or promoted events or images pertaining to commemorations relating to IRA terrorism.
- Section 3 deals with promoting or publicising crime. This is not relevant.
- Section 4 deals with coordinating harm. This is not relevant.
- Section 5 deals with Regulated goods. This is not relevant.
III. Objectionable content
- Section 12 deals with Hate speech. The majority of banned material is conflict related images, or WW1 commemorations. Advertising support for commemorations pertaining to previous actions is not current support for terrorism. If, however, as aforementioned Facebook are taking such an approach as to deem commemorations into events from the past tense to be a current promotion of terrorism, then we again ask that such an approach is conducted on a bi-partisan basis and as such Sinn Fein pages advertising IRA memorabilia and/or commemorations are banned from the platform.
- Sections 13, 14 and 15 are not relevant.
It is therefore clear that Facebook need to have a clear and consistent policy in relation to their community standards. If Northern Ireland conflict related content is going to be banned, then it is important that all conflict related content is banned, and that means shutting down all pages belonging to Sinn Fein who are the political wing of a currently proscribed and active terrorist organisation, namely the IRA.
We would finally draw Facebook’s attention to an ongoing social media campaign of targeting the Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist community which is being orchestrated by ‘online activists’ recruited by Sinn Fein. This campaign is run in conjunction with the Sinn Fein press office which is run by an individual called Sean Maguire. Mr Maguire can be found on Twitter @seanmaguidhir17
In light of the above we would appeal the decision to remove our page, but on a much wider point ask for a consistent approach in relation to these matters and for Facebook to monitor the targeted nature of reports being made against accounts operated by one specific community for discriminatory and malicious purposes.