The DT page
I had been curating for nearly five years on Facebook
has been the victim of brutal censorship by the company. It started with one post there, on 20 April 2020, mentioning the birthday (and suicide) date of Adolf Hilter
, accompanied with a photo of a display at the Mémorial de Caen
of a toppled bust of the dictator and a smashed-in portrait, relics from the time of the liberation of France
when people vented their anger at the former occupier. I presume some algorithm must have picked up on the image and/or keyword, so the initial notification saying the post went “against community standards” was probably auto-generated. I tried to appeal against the decision, but in the process a window popped up that required me to request a TAN code by text message, which I did and received one, but on the website it said “could not send code, please check phone number” – yet the phone number *was* correct, as evidenced by me receiving the code. But as I could not enter it anywhere the whole procedure ground to a halt. They threatened a 30-day ban, even though I was a “first offender”. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before in all those years.
Then the next day I suddenly received a notification saying that my account was at risk of being shut down
plus a whole string of emails saying other posts were also “against community standards”. Evidently they must have been trawling through my posts finding fault with several of them. So this was more likely not just some dumb algorithms at work, but it must have been active, targeted censorship
. Either that was indeed a person (some 'content manager' maybe, who can’t read English properly?), or if not then FB’s algorithms must have gone really out of control, automatically triggering ever harsher mechanisms. If the latter is the case then that’s actually in violation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, namely Article 22 (see here
– external link, opens in a new window).
Anyway, indeed, before I knew it my personal account on Facebook was closed – and thus I no longer had access to the ‘darktourismtravel’ page I administered on that platform either. I was told by friends though, that at that point it was still visible, including that initial “offending” post from 20 April, which I found rather bizarre.
Which those other posts allegedly going against “community standards” were, or what could possibly have been so “wrong” with them, I have no way of knowing. The email notifications from Facebook all say “only you can see this”, but when I click on the “view on Facebook” button or the “see options” link, these simply take me to the log-in page, where obviously I can no longer log in, so I could do nothing.
So I was effectively silenced, just like that, from one moment to the next, with no means of appeal and with no explanation given.
I can assure you that my posts followed the same standards as this website, no offensive content or abusive language, just short accounts of various bits of history, often with the “on this day in history” pattern, and sometimes linked to current affairs (like the coronavirus pandemic). It is baffling and intimidating to see that anti-vaxxers, flat-Earthers, racists, fundamentalists, Trumpists, conspiracy theorists, white supremacists, and what not, can all carry on spreading hate speech and misinformation on Facebook unhindered, but that a sober, enlightened historical debate is suppressed, no, in fact simply stamped out. It’s a disgrace and I am considering legal action – though what chances that could possibly have is questionable, given that Facebook has more power these days than half the world’s governments put together.
What riles me most is not so much that I can no longer post on that platform (I would probably have discontinued anyway after this), but that I’ve lost the contacts to my over 3000 followers
I had slowly accumulated over five years. Had the ban been lifted I would have asked all of those followers to migrate with me to a different platform, maybe a kind of blog
page on here, in order to salvage at least some of those contacts and somehow carry on the idea of regular photo posts with the option of commenting, if on a smaller scale and with far less reach, but still. But since I can’t even log on any more that avenue has been cut off
I suddenly got a glimpse of what it must feel like being a silenced
dissident in China
. I feel like I’ve been pushed into the underground. Well, then, welcome to the underground!
I quickly gave up on the idea of legal action. It's pointless against such a powerful and at the same time secretive company (also check out this documentary
– external link, opens in new window). But I then tried to use one of the forms Facebook supplies on their “help” pages (a friend had alerted me to this option, they don’t make it very obvious themselves), namely one where allegedly you can appeal
against an account having been disabled. First, though, I had to supply my account name, email address used to log in and upload some ID (I used a photo of the International Driving License I had bought for Taiwan
and Namibia just before the corona pandemic started, but which now is unusable ... that way it was at least good for something). But then a box popped up claiming that the email address provided was not linked with any disabled account – even though that was precisely the very email address they had sent me all those notifications to and which is the one I’ve always used to log in. I even made screen shots this time as proof of the fact that the email addresses were indeed identical (so no mistyping was to blame). But the upshot was, yet again, that I could do nothing further. I was cut short
at the first step. It’s as if my very existence was being denied.
On the other hand, after a few weeks without Facebook, I got slowly used to it. Moreover, I’ve been thinking more about finding alternatives. One could be starting a Blog page
right here on my own website, out of reach of the Facebook Gestapo. I’m still working on options as to how to implement that technically. And if I ever do get back on Facebook, I’ll try to get my followers to migrate over to whatever alternative solutions I come up with. We’ll see.
The initially announced 30-day ban from Facebook should by now have been over. But not only have they not reactivated my personal account, they’ve now also deleted the entire dark-tourism page I had curated there for almost five years. So I’ve been thoroughly purged, erased, exterminated. As far as Facebook is concerned, I’ve never existed, nor has my DT page. At no point have any explanations been given, and all avenues of appeal have remained blocked (as described above).
This also means that I’ve lost my 3000 followers – which is bad for business too
, as I would have advertised my book
there when it’s published, which quite a few of those followers had already expressed an interest in buying. So on top of the whole injustice
of it all (I feel even more like a Soviet
-era silenced dissident now), it’s also harming
This has convinced me that Adolf, … er Mark Zuckerberg’s company really has to be regarded as something like a criminal organization.
Another thought: my initial “offence” of posting a picture featuring a toppled Hitler bust and a kicked-in portrait painting of him was apparently seen as constituting “Führerbeleidigung
” (literally ‘insulting the leader’), which was also a criminal offence during the Third Reich
. So in that sense, FB is reviving that old law from that dark era, just by more modern digital means … but no Allies seem to be getting together to defeat it this time.
By the way, since I archived
my posts on my DT Facebook page, I've been able to partially reconstruct
old posts, including the one that started all this craziness; it's the second one in the batch for 2020
. So you can go and see for yourself if you agree that this post was a crime warrenting a digital death sentence or not.
Oh, and the new BLOG
is up and running too now. Do take a look and please subscribe to the newsletter!
UPDATE June 2021: over a year has now passed since my Facebook purge. The initial outrage has calmed down, though the whole thing still angers me, just the colossal injustice of it. But the blog and newsletter
have taken over the old role of that DT page, with 85 posts and 55 newsletters so far, and a small community has grown that has subscribed to the newsletter. It's a following still on a far smaller scale than what I had with Facebook's reach, but better than nothing. Privately I've lost touch with quite a few friends because, unfortunately, many of them refuse to communicate in any form other than via Facebook (or its subsidiary WhatsApp) these days. Emails are considered "old-fashioned". So that's a bit sad. What I do absolutely not miss at all, on the other hand, is all that nonsense and unrestrained vitriol that dominates so much on social media. My blog/nesletter
feel like a nice and civcilized bubble in comparison.