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Facebook censors me – the first step in my action against them

March 14, 2019 - 21:02 -- Admin

Dear Readers, this is a copy of the letter I sent to the A.C.T Human Rights Commission about Facebook censoring me and one of my posts.

To: The Human Rights Commission

Dear Dr Watchirs and
staff

On Monday 11 March
2019 Facebook advised me, and I quote:

‘You’re temporarily
restricted from joining and posting to groups that you do not manage until
Wednesday at 10:03 AM. If you think this doesn’t go against our Community
Standards let us know.’

I did let them know
that I had not breached community standards (whatever that is) and this
breached my human right to freedom of expression but of course once again have
had no response.

Independent Australia background

I am a member of the
Parliament House Press Gallery and the Canberra correspondent for Independent
Australia (IA). IA is an online media site.  On its site, it says about itself:

Independent Australia is a progressive journal focusing on politics, democracy, the
environment, Australian history and Australian identity. It contains news and
opinion from Australia and around the world.

Established in June 2010, IA supports quality
investigative journalism, as well as citizen journalism and a diversity of
voices. It believes Australians are short-changed by the mass media — and so it
dedicates itself to seeking out the truth and informing the public.

Independent Australia believes in a fully and truly independent Australia — a nation
that determines its own future, a nation that protects its citizens and its
environment. A land that is fair and free.

IA is also
opposed to partisan politics and supports Independent politicians. (Read more
about this here.)

IA‘s editorial
team possesses a wealth of experience through its senior editorial team*, which
is made up of founder and managing editor David Donovan, senior editor Michelle Pini, contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence and
assistant editor Dan Jensen.

Also on the team, contributing hugely to IA‘s
success, are media editor Dr Lee Duffileld, history editor Dr Glenn Davies,
entertainment editor John Turnbull, Sydney bureau chief Ross Jones and Canberra correspondent John Passant.

IA also
features regular columns from outstanding journalists, political commentators
and cartoonists including Alan AustinDr Jennifer WilsonLee Duffield and Mark David, among others.

Independent Australia is a member of the Australian Press Council and is represented in the Canberra Press Gallery by Canberra correspondent John Passant.

IA IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH OR ENDORSED BY ANY OTHER ORGANISATION.

* Note: No-one on IA‘s editorial team is a member of any
political party.

I have been writing
for IA for about four years. I am now an employee of IA.

My role sees me write
a weekly Monday morning political article for them and report back regularly
from Parliament House when it is sitting. 
I was admitted to the Press Gallery in August 2018 but major illness
effectively prevented me taking on that role until late last year and then this
year, as my 2019 Press Gallery sketches show.

IA gets its funding
from subscriptions, but remains committed to providing free and open access to
its articles.

Social media such as
Facebook and twitter are a key part of spreading the word about IA’s recent
publications (three a day is the aim).

Facebook

I administer a few
sites on Facebook. I am a member of many more. All of them (or almost all of
them) are left, progressive or socialist sites. Some are associated with my
poetry, or poetry generally.

My more than 4000 Facebook
friends are progressive and left wing, in the main.

I have been providing
my weekly articles and my more recent Press Gallery sketches to a range of those
Facebook sites of which I am a member and other sites which accept my posts. It
improves the readership and the reach of my articles in particular and of IA
more generally.  It also improves my
rewards. If 5000 people click on my article I receive a bonus payment. Not many
do, I should add.

To help improve the readership of my IA articles, I often boost my summaries and links on one of my own Facebook sites, En Passant with John Passant, and occasionally from my other site Put a socialist in the Senate. This typically costs me $X or $Y for two days of Facebook boosting, generally reaching a much lower audience than Facebook suggests I might reach.   Banning me from posting I should point out might remove an alternative but free form of advertising for my articles.

I have in the past
occasionally been suspended from posting my material to Facebook sties I do not
administer, for the same reason as outlined above, from memory. In the last
year, apart from today’s ban, there might have been two other instances of the
same or similar bans.

Freedom of expression

It seems to me that
Facebook’s actions (perhaps driven algorithmically, perhaps not) contradict
section 16 of the Human Rights Act 2004. As you know, that section says:

16 Freedom of expression

(1)   Everyone has the right to
hold opinions without interference.

(2)   Everyone has the right to
freedom of expression.  This right
includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all
kinds, regardless of borders, whether orally, in writing or in print, by way of
art, or in another way chosen by him or her.

One of the ways I
choose to disseminate my ideas is through posts on Facebook of my freely
available material to groups who may be interested and to people in those
groups who might be interested. The ‘temporary’ ban Facebook has on my posting
to sites I do not administer interferes adversely with my legislated right to
freedom of expression, and the right of others to read my views as part of that
exercise, or attempted exercise, by me of my freedom of expression, which
Facebook has, in my view, clearly interfered with. It has done this by denying
me access to my audience with my often time sensitive articles.

I look forward to
hearing from you soon. I would forward a copy of this to Facebook Australia but
they are a group well insulated from normal business interactions and one
difficult to contact.

John Passant

Here is a link to the article that prompted Facebook’s censorship. It is called Morrison government takes fearmongering to another level

I have also provided my union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance with details of my complaint.