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‘Healthy and positive’ communities: Facebook and the restriction of political content

Recently Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that he and his team are working on stopping political content from circulating within the platform in order, as he puts it, to “make sure that the communities that people connect with are healthy and positive” (advancing the technocratic logic of “blissful” life freed from political deliberation).

This comes as no surprise as they have been already actively working in this direction for quite some time now, taking down pages and accounts of anti-fascist and libertarian groups.

When making the announcement, Zuckerberg remarked that “in many parts of the world, there’s been an unfortunate decline in community participation over the last several decades”. So in doing its part, his team’s response to this trend is… to put an end to the political discussions taking place on their platform altogether. Their decision is clearly entrapped in the dominant capitalist imaginary: by community participation, the people at Facebook actually mean consumerist excessiveness. And in one such setting political dialogue is nothing but an obstacle as it goes beyond narrow economism and contains the seeds of self-limitation. It is important to note here that politics does not equate to competition between parties for taking over State power, but the potential of people coming together on a grassroots level as communities and collectively managing public affairs.

The fallacy advocated by Zuckerberg and his people must be exposed: the root of the decline in community participation around the world is not political deliberation, but the very consumerist alienation advanced by capitalist enterprises like Facebook. It is neoliberalist de-politicisation that has proven a fertile ground for the rise of the every far-right group that Zuckerberg claims to be trying to stop. In this respect, his decision to continue in the same direction shows the dead-end of capitalism’s obsession with profit that is making our societies sick with apathy or hate.

In conclusion, Facebook’s decision to block political discussions from its platform comes as no surprise. Many of us are well aware that politics cannot take place over a privatized means. A genuine public space is needed, which has to be created from below and not from “generous philanthropy”. It is widely known that sooner or later we all will have to find/create alternative means for opening digital agoras where ideas can be exchanged and people can self-organize. But until then activists will have to continue taking advantage of “social” networks’ shrinking corners for interaction that hasn’t been subjected completely to the neoliberal dogma, in order to reach out to others. It is also crucial that readers support autonomous digital projects by subscribing to them, so that the latter are less dependant on “social” networks and thus the democratic dialogue can continue.

Yavor Tarinski

Yavor Tarinski is a political activist and author, currently residing in Athens.

Image by joelle L, published under CC BY 2.0.

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