The New Normal ‘Reality’ Police

So, according to Facebook and the Atlantic Council, I am now a “dangerous individual,” you know, like a “terrorist,” or a “serial murderer,” or “human trafficker,” or some other kind of “criminal.” Or I’ve been praising “dangerous individuals,” or disseminating their symbols, or otherwise attempting to “sow dissension” and cause “offline harm.”

Actually, I’m not really clear what I’m guilty of, but I’m definitely some sort of horrible person you want absolutely nothing to do with, whose columns you do not want to read, whose books you do not want to purchase, and the sharing of whose Facebook posts might get your account immediately suspended. Or, at the very least, you’ll be issued this warning:

Now, hold on, don’t click away just yet. You’re already on whatever website you’re reading this “dangerous,” “terrorist” column on (or you’re reading it in an email, probably on your phone), which means you are already on the official “Readers of Mass-Murdering Content” watch-list. So you might as well take the whole ride at this point.

Also, don’t worry, I’m not going to just whine about how Facebook was mean to me for 2,000 words … well, all right, I’m going to do that a little, but mostly I wanted to demonstrate how “reality” is manufactured and policed by global corporations like Facebook, Twitter, Google, the corporate media, of course, crowdfunding platforms like Patreon and PayPal, and “think tanks” like the Atlantic Council and its Digital Forensic Research Lab (“DFRLab”).

First, though, let me tell you my Facebook story.

What happened was, I made a Facebook post, and a lot of people tried to share it, so Facebook and the DFRLab suspended or disabled their accounts, or just prevented them from sharing it, and sent them the above warning. Facebook didn’t suspend my account, or censor the post on my account, or contact me to let me know that they have officially deemed me a “dangerous individual.” Instead, they punished anyone who tried to “boost” my “dangerous” post, a tactic anyone who has been through boot camp or in prison (or has watched this classic scene from Full Metal Jacket) will be familiar with.

Here’s the “dangerous” post in question. (If you’re particularly sensitive to “terrorist” content, you may want to put on your “anti-terrorism” glasses, or take some other type of prophylactic measures to protect yourself from “offline harm,” before you venture any further.)

The photo, which I stole from Gunnar Kaiser, is of an art exhibit in Düsseldorf, Germany. My commentary is self-explanatory. As you can see, it is extremely “dangerous.” It literally radiates “offline harm.”

OK, before you write to inform me how this was just the work of a dumb Facebook algorithm, think about what I described above. If an algorithm was preventing sharing and suspending people’s accounts based on keyword spotting, it would have censored my original post, and presumably suspended my account. Or, if Facebook has an algorithm that recognizes certain “dangerous” phrases, and then censors or suspends the accounts of people who share a post including those phrases, but doesn’t censor the original post or suspend the account of the author of the post … well, that’s kind of strange, isn’t it?

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