Facebook suddenly disabled the account of video journalist Ford Fischer as he was covering armed protest groups Saturday in Louisville, raising fears that Big Tech censors are classifying newsgathering as incitement to violence.
“I am a journalist, verified on Facebook,” Fischer wrote Saturday evening on his Twitter account. “Today I spent the entire day covering various armed groups throughout Louisville. As I just finished a livestream, I tried to log in and it appears Facebook deleted my account.”
Fischer, co-founder of News2Share, was unable to get an explanation in efforts to follow up with the social media behemoth until his account was restored without comment Sunday evening.
While Facebook never informed me why this happened, this was my last post before Facebook deleted my account.Presumably, @Facebook mistook me writing about gun violence as me somehow endorsing or participating in it.Facebook needs to fix this.Algorithms cannot judge humans. pic.twitter.com/09PkJqa4so
— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) September 6, 2020
Before the fix, when trying to access his account, he got a notice saying it had been disabled and invited him to visit the “help center” if he thought it was shut down by mistake.
I’m honestly so shocked at the lack of explanation… I have no idea what happened or why they would do this.
Fischer had been posting a series of videos showing clashes between armed right-wing demonstrators and Black Lives Matter counter-protesters, some of whom also had guns, when his account was shut down.
He said his last post before the shutdown showed protesters holding firearms and had a caption with Fischer commenting on his concerns that some of the individuals weren’t handling their guns safely.
“Meanwhile, a few dozen members of the “National Patriotic Defense Team” militia reached downtown Louisville, according to Ford Fischer, the co-founder of Washington D.C.-based online media outlet News2Share.”Thanks @courierjournal for featuring my work!https://t.co/nSLtIa4BMb
— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) September 6, 2020
As you can see from the rest of the thread, there’s no explanation given whatsoever.However, my last post on Facebook today was basically the same as this one: one of these photos and a comment about how dangerous these events I cover are when people don’t handle guns safely. https://t.co/n3L1NGXW3T
— Ford Fischer (@FordFischer) September 5, 2020
While Fischer speculated that the disabling of his account was “a glitch,” likely the result of an automated system misidentifying his content, the incident raised concerns among other journalists.
Chuck Modi, a Deadspin reporter who has worked alongside Fischer at news events, tweeted: “If Facebook deleted his account, that is a threat to all journalists and threat to all those trying to hold Nazis and police accountable. Time to hold Facebook accountable.”
Ford is journalist in DC who has covered Nazis & police violence. Ford has filmed at protests beside me many times. If Facebook deleted his account, that is threat to ALL journalists, and threat to all those trying to hold Nazis & police accountable. Time to hold FB accountable. https://t.co/y63k3mpFzt
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) September 6, 2020
Reporter and progressive activist Rania Khalek called the incident “totally outrageous.” Another Twitter user credited Fischer as being an unbiased journalist “holding everyone accountable, not select people or groups, unlike other journalists who have set agendas.”
I would add ford is actually unbiased and is holding everyone accountable not select people or groups unlike some other .journalists who have set agendas .
— Michelle Jones (@1MichelleJones) September 6, 2020
But some other critics had an anti-media bent, saying “Oh, the double-edged sword,”“Cry more,” and “Help, help, they’re censoring the wrong people.” Another said, “Learn to code and make an alternative,” mimicking the reaction of some leftists when conservatives are censored by Big Tech.
Help! Help! They’re censoring the wrong people!
— AJ Bailor 🇺🇲 (@AriBargolani) September 6, 2020
Fischer said he got “caught in the crossfire” during YouTube’s 2019 purge of accounts alleged to purvey “hate speech.” Fischer’s account, which documents activism and extremism, was demonetized, and it took him seven months to get YouTube to fix the problem.
Fischer thanked fellow journalists and other Facebook users for their help in pressuring the company to restore his account. “They probably thought it wouldn’t make enough waves to be a problem,” one observer tweeted. “Facebook thought wrong.”
They probably thought it wouldn’t make enough waves to be a problem. Facebook……thought wrong.
— Shane Crumpton (@ShaneziG) September 6, 2020
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