A number of activists and organizers in the Washington, DC area are disputing Facebook’s decision to remove a counter-protest event for a rally organized by Jason Kessler, the white nationalist figure who planned the deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Facebook removed the event, “No Unite the Right 2-DC,” after discovering that one account connected to the event exhibited what Facebook calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” The company defines this activity as “people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing.”
The Facebook page at the center of the controversy was called “Resisters.” TechCrunch confirmed that the Resisters page was created by “bad actors,” as defined by the company, who coordinated fake accounts to deceive users. Facebook ultimately removed the No Unite the Right 2-DC event due to its known interaction and engagement with the Resisters page and maintains that Resisters was an illegitimate page from its inception.
As the company explained in its blog post:
The “Resisters” Page also created a Facebook Event for a protest on August 10 to 12 and enlisted support from real people… Inauthentic admins of the “Resisters” Page connected with admins from five legitimate Pages to co-host the event.
The company also observed that a known Internet Research Agency (IRA) account joined the counter-protest event as an admin, though it only served as an admin for seven minutes. (The IRA has been assessed by the U.S. intelligence community as a content farm likely funded by a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence.) On top of that, Facebook noted that an IRA account the company was aware of shared a Facebook event hosted by Resisters in 2017.
Here’s where things get even more tricky. The event that Facebook deleted had been taken over by a handful of real DC area activist groups. These groups, including Smash Racism DC, Black Lives Matter DC, Black Lives Matter Charlottesville and other local groups, worked together under the coalition name “Shut It Down DC” and their actions and plans were not inspired by the “No Unite the Right 2” event, they just happened to cross paths. (Since then, the coalition has recreated the Facebook event as “Hate Not Welcome: No Unite The Right 2.”)
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