“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” -George Orwell
I have had many strange experiences as an education blogger.
People have adapted my writing into a play.
People have written to express a sincere desire for my death.
I’ve had a teacher send me pictures of essays his composition students wrote in response to one of my articles.
And I’ve had people email my workplace demanding I be fired.
I guess Internet fame is a mixed bag.
But after more than three years of blogging about education and social justice issues while teaching in the public school system, there’s one thing I’ve never experienced before: censorship.
This is social media, after all.
I’ve got no advertisers to please, no editor breathing down my neck. I can write whatever I want.
That’s the benefit of being a blogger. No one can stop you from telling the truth.
Well, no one except Facebook, apparently.
For the first time in my blogging career, I was blocked from Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking platform because I had the audacity to post my blog to it.
Now keep in mind I’ve been doing just that every week since July, 2014.
Moreover, the article I posted was in no way different from my previous work.
The article is called “School Choice is a Lie. It Does Not Mean More Options. It Means Less.” You can read it here.
But almost as soon as I posted it to the Facebook page I keep for my blog, Gadfly on the Wall, I got a message saying I was blocked for a week for “violating community standards.”
What community, exactly, is that?
My article contains no hate speech. For once I even managed to control my own potty mouth.
This is just an examination of why charter and voucher schools reduce options for parents and students – not increase them.
It’s an argument. I lay out my reasons with reference to facts and make numerous connections to other people’s work and articles.
I don’t understand how that “violates community standards.”
A blogger friend of mine tells me that someone probably saw my article and reported it to Facebook as spam. That’s happened to him multiple times, he says, especially when he criticizes groups like Teach for America.
Perhaps that’s what’s happened here.
Some folks get so furious when I criticize their charter and voucher schools.
Maybe they saw my latest piece and just wanted to silence me.
I don’t know.
I suppose another option is that it came from Zuckerberg, himself.
He’s a big fan of school privatization. Perhaps he changed Facebook guidelines to crack down on people like me who throw shade on his pet school reforms. Or maybe my work was targeted because I’m critical of President Donald Trump. I did, after all, write an article this week called “Donald Trump is a Pathetic Excuse For a Human Being” that includes a picture of the chief executive as a poop emoji.
Or maybe it was the National Rifle Association (NRA). The article before the school privatization piece was called “Guns and Profit – Why We’ll Do Absolutely Nothing New After This Las Vegas Shooting.” It was picked up by Commondreams.org, the LA Progressive and other left-leaning sites. Perhaps the firearms lobby had had enough.
Who knows? I’ve pissed off a lot of people in three years.
But I find it hard to believe I was actively targeted. I mean, this is still America, right?
Another option might be a rogue algorithm.
Facebook is known to use various processes or sets of rules to govern calculations about what should and should not be allowed on the site. After all, they can’t leave all these decisions to living, breathing, human beings. That would cost too much money. Better to leave it to bots and computers.
Perhaps something in my article tripped their robotic alarm bells. (ROBOT VOICE: He’s against Competency Based Education! EXTERMINATE!)
I guess I’ll probably never know.
In the meantime, Twitter is still open for my business. I can still share links in 140 characters or less – with hastags. And, the best part is that Trump might see it!
But what about friends not on the Twitterverse?
How do I even let people know what happened to me? Send a million separate emails!? Pick up the phone and – yuck – talk to people!?
I sent a note to friends through Facebook Messenger about what happened, but that soon stopped working on me. I can’t message anyone else now. Still, the story seems to have leaked.
People who know what’s happened have been kind enough to share the article. It’s being read and appreciated.
I don’t know if my Facebook imprisonment has had a major effect on its distribution. But it’s probably had some dampening effect.
I have to admit, it’s kind of frustrating.
After all this time, many of us rely on Facebook for so much. I’m a member of the Badass Teachers Association, a group of more than 64,000 members who use the social media platform to discuss, plan and engage in various actions against corporate school reform. I’m also in United Opt Out National. It’s increasingly difficult for me to help plan our protest in Washington, DC, without Facebook.
It never really hit me before how much of our lives flow through this one network.
If someone wanted to disrupt political organizations dedicated to reforming the status quo, censoring people and posts on Facebook could be very effective.
I haven’t been silenced, but I’ve been effectively muted. Most of my readers see my work through Facebook. Without it, my writing is out there, but much fewer people probably are in contact with it.
So I suppose that brings me to you, intrepid reader.
Somehow you found this article.
Assuming Zuckerberg and his bots don’t change their minds, I probably won’t be able to post this article to Facebook. So if you saw it, you found it somewhere else. Or perhaps a friendly radical took a chance and posted it on Facebook, themselves, defiant in the possibility that the social media gestapo might crash down on them.
Will you please do the same?
Share my story.
Let the world know what happened to me today.
It’s not the most important thing that’s happened this week. And hopefully it will all be settled in seven interminable days. 168 hours. 10,080 minutes. But who’s counting?
Or – who knows – perhaps I’ll be cleared of all charges, write a new article and the same thing will happen when I try to post it.
I don’t know.
In the meantime, I’m going to spend some time off the computer.
Maybe I’ll open the doors and windows, let in some natural light and see what this “outside world” is like that people used to talk about.
See you in a week.
Live from Facebook Jail,
The Gadfly on the Wall
This article originally was published on the Gadfly on the Wall.
UPDATE: As of 10-9-17, I am still blocked on Facebook. I can see and like posts. I can use Messenger. But I can’t comment or share.
Meanwhile, I’ve learned of several worrying actions conducted by Facebook that seems to imply what happened to me was no accident but represents a new trend in the social media platform moving forward. First, Facebook apparently plans to use a purveyor of fake news, the Weekly Standard, to fact check material. Second, school privatization propagandist Campbell Brown has been hired by Facebook to be a liaison with news organizations and block “fake news.” Third, I was by no means the only pro-education person blocked by Facebook for criticizing charter and voucher schools. The same thing happened to the Network for Education. Finally, as has widely been reported, Facebook allowed Russian hackers to use the platform to conduct a disinformation campaign during the last Presidential election.