Op-Ed by Joseph Thomas
All Facebook and Twitter accounts associated with Bangkok-based geopolitical analyst Tony Cartalucci have been deleted. The extent to which both American-based tech companies went to target Cartalucci could be seen in a recent Reuters article reporting on it.
The accounts removed in Thailand used “fictitious personas” to promote narratives about Thai politics, U.S.-China relations, protests in Hong Kong, and criticism of democracy activists in Thailand, Gleicher said.
“We were able to determine conclusively that some of the activities of this network was linked to an individual based in Thailand associated with New Eastern Outlook, a Russian government-funded journal based in Moscow,” Gleicher said.
The article cited “coordinated inauthentic behavior” and hailed the move as countering “deceptive political propaganda.”
No mention was made of how writing anonymously is “inauthentic behavior” nor were any examples provided of what was deemed “deceptive political propaganda” and why.
Matthew Tostevin, a Reuters correspondent also based in Southeast Asia and whose Twitter profile unironically invokes the hashtag, “Journalism is Not a Crime” celebrated the systematic, coordinated censorship, claiming in a tweet:
“Tony Cartalucci” Facebook and Twitter accounts inaccessible after Facebook said it had erased accounts of a network linked to “an individual based in Thailand associated with New Eastern Outlook, a Russian government-funded journal”.
The term “associated with” is often used to imply impropriety without providing any actual evidence of it. Tostevin’s defence of Facebook-Twitter censorship fails to explain how getting paid to write articles is wrong, especially considering Tostevin himself makes his living doing precisely that for London-based Reuters.
Human Rights Watch’s Thai representative, Sunai Phasuk, himself a verified recipient of foreign government funds, also celebrated rather than opposed Facebook and Twitter’s coordinated censorship.
In his tweet (translated from Thai), he claimed:
The end of IO [information operation]! Facebook and Twitter suspend the accounts of Tony/Anthony Cartalucci (source of “slim” information) as well as related accounts for using a fake identity, disseminating false information, creating hatred for democratic parties and human rights activists/linked to Russian IO.
The term “slim” is a derogatory term used by supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, an ousted billionaire politician now living abroad as a fugitive and guilty of the worst human rights violations in contemporary Thai history.
Sunai not only reveals a complete lack of impartiality as a supposed human rights advocate, but also is clearly promoting censorship of information he and his foreign sponsors deem “false.”
Regarding claims of using a “fake identity,” Cartalucci himself has repeatedly stated over several years that the name “Tony Cartalucci” is a pen name and that he writes anonymously, as many authors throughout history have, particularly those writing about sensitive political topics.
From Reuters to Human Rights Watch employees, attempts to “dox” Cartalucci and others presenting differing perspectives has become a disturbing trend.
Facebook and Twitter now deleting accounts of anonymous writers only serves to further chill the free speech “human rights advocates” like Sunai claim to defend.
Others celebrating Cartalucci’s suspension from Facebook and Twitter include BBC correspondent Jonathan Head.
West’s Losing Battle Amid the Information War
Facebook and Twitter have targeted many other alternative media sites and individuals, often using accusations of being “Russian-funded” to smear targets and justify censorship. Conversely, should governments overseas targeted by US or British-funded sites or individuals attempt to shut them down, they are depicted as “authoritarian” and guilty of indisputable “censorship.”
Such hypocrisy over free speech, media freedom and censorship stems from the much wider hypocrisy that drives Western foreign policy in general.
Other examples include decrying “Iranian aggression” while the US surrounds Iran with military bases built on nations the US illegally invaded and now occupy, or the US decrying unfounded claims of Russian interference in its domestic politics while openly funding opposition groups targeting Moscow.
The accounts of organisations and individuals across the West, including Reuters, the BBC, and HRW guilty of “disseminating false information” regarding “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, Russian interference in US elections, claims of sarin gas used in Syria or covering up Western interference in the domestic politics of nations worldwide not only remain unscathed by Facebook and Twitter’s “fake news” campaign, but the sole beneficiaries in an increasingly crowded information sphere where the alternative media has otherwise challenged their monopoly over information.
Facebook and Twitter are both suffering severely from attempts to control the flow of information on both platforms. A desire for alternatives is sought out not only by persecuted political activists being purged from both platforms, but from a wide and growing range of ordinary individuals who feel both social media platforms have become too invasive.
Cartalucci will likely continue writing and those who remain on Facebook and Twitter will likely continue promoting his articles. All the move to purge individuals and organisations from social media platforms will do is accelerate the search for alternatives.
Since Facebook and Twitter’s censorship fails to address the fundamental shortcomings of Western foreign policy that people like Cartalucci expose and have gained attention from Facebook and Twitter censorship for, such censorship is a band-aid at best. At worst, it is delaying the inevitable conclusion of an information war neither social media platform (nor the special interests they represent) are winning.