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September 21, 2017

A Speech Deferred: How Facebook Shackled My Voice


Update: this article served as an inspiration to an article that discusses a broader infringement on the rights of all Americans titled “Ninety Five Theses for Justice”, go to the homepage or click a People’s Petition for Justice to read and sign the Declaration of the People’s Independence.

It’s the new rage these days; the minute someone says something that offends people’s sensibilities, too many jump and demand the silencing of the offender’s voice. We have become a society of minders where we keep reporting on each other as if we are living in some totalitarian nation. Social media companies like Facebook and Twitter actively encourage this type of impishness as the flag button has morphed into a panic button for people who get triggered by divergent ideas. It’s all fun until you become the victim; when people get fired for posting their opinion or their accounts get deactivated for some amorphous reason, that is when they finally realize the dangers of censorship and trampling on people’s freedom of speech.

I write this article in a state of shock and outrage to be honest. As the editor of the Ghion Journal, I will readily admit that I write articles and we post stories that challenge conventional wisdom and examines the various identities that are imposed upon us. Issues of identity, the dogmas of politics and the narratives of history are touchy topics, yet those who read our publication would vouch that the Ghion Journal could not be further away from being an outpost of hate or intolerance. To the contrary, almost all of the articles published at the Ghion Journal speak of our common hopes and our common struggles and the need to absolve our hearts the germ of hatred.

The main article posted today features a video that expresses a message of unity and overcoming injustice [read Let Love Win]. What motivated the article was a random person who inboxed me and then read me the riot act because I dared to condemn the Democratic and Republican parties equally. The level of antipathy that was aimed at me for having the temerity to state my perspective was mind-numbing in all honest. This lady whom I never met made it her priority to cuss me out in ways that should be reserved for people who hurt puppies and kittens. Instead of repaying her animus with equal antagonism, I recorded a podcast (below) that extolls the virtues of love instead of paying back enmity with animosity.

An hour later, moved a missive someone wrote on Facebook about the Black Lives Matter movement which I was tagged on, I decided to post an article I wrote in the past about BLM and my stance against their leadership [see Rethinking Race and Black Lives Matter]. I highlight the Let Love Win and the Black Lives Matter articles in this post so that you can get a first hand account and make a determination for yourself whether or not these two articles in any way rise to the level of hate speech or in any form preach intolerance.

Yet, just 45 minutes ago, I received a notice from Facebook telling me that the Ghion Journal page has been unpublished. When I logged on my laptop to make sense of it all, all I got was a message telling me that my page was deactivated because of complaints made by a user that led them to conclude the Ghion Journal page “ran afoul of “community standards”. There was no mention of which particular post was the offending post nor was I told whose complaint led to the eradication of Ghion Journal’s page. Facebook acted unilaterally based on some nebulous community standard so broad in scope that any of us can be cited for violating “community standards” on any given day.

This is a practice of autocrats in totalitarian governments that Facebook is reverting to. Tyranny is birthed by cunning benevolence; despots use the pretext of a virtue in order to implement systematic repression. This is exactly how the Patriot Act was implemented, our own government used the pretext of security to take away our rights to privacy. In this case, Facebook’s pretext was protecting the community from offensive posts. I’ve seen some of the most reprehensible content crawl in my news feed on countless occasions that rise to the level of pornography, yet his level of vulgarity is regularly accepted by Facebook. The people whose posts are always targeted for cleansing are those who delve into political issues which run counter to the narratives peddled by our corporate sponsored fourth estate—this is stealth state censorship we are witnessing.

My family and I fled Ethiopia in 1982 to get away from a communist government that made life in my birth land untenable. Mengistu Hailemariam, the Marxist despot, unleashed hysteria upon the public by rewarding people who reported their neighbors for being subversive agents. Everyone lived a life of continuous fear and apprehension. My parents brought us to America to get away from systematic repression so that we could pursue the American dream and speak our minds without fear of repercussion. America was the shinning city on the hill where freedoms were cherished and protected by the Constitution.

My fellow Americans, the Constitution, and our rights along with it, is being put to the shredder. Every day, we keep losing more and more of our freedoms. And just like my native land Ethiopia during the height of the communist Derg, the elites are now encouraging us to report on one another using PC and “fake news” as forms of totalitarian cudgel. Facebook came in promising a new day of free speech and platform for billions of people to exchange of ideas; now that they are the 8,000 pound gorilla, they are resorting to Orwellian practices in order to stifle free speech. They want us to speak less and be stepping stones more; they use account holders and our private information as platters by which corporations can pass around their trinkets.

I’ve already written Facebook demanding that the Ghion Journal be restored [this is the link for the page to so that you are kept apprise of our appeal process]. As an established journalist who has covered the intersection of history, politics and culture for more than a decade, what I am standing up for is not just my freedom of speech but the freedom of press as a whole. Do not let the fact that I am not a writer with one of the mainstream media outlets lead you to diminish my credentials. Journalism is not about fame and P/E ratios; journalism is about speaking truth to power. When those who speak up against power get silenced, what comes next is your ability to speak—this is the slippery slope into the abyss of dictatorship [read 95 Theses for Justice]. Let me be frank about this; whether or not you disagree with what is posted at the Ghion Journal is inconsequential. What I am presenting before you is a fundamental question of free speech as we know it. If we let a combination of ambiguous “community standards” be the rule, crowd source what is or is not offensive and then let Facebook be the final arbitrators of what is acceptable discourse, we will have rendered our rights convertible by corporate interests who are not accountable to any of us. Is this the America we know and the America we want to pass on to future generations? At what point will we say enough as the elites keep using paternalism to snuff out voices who refuse to toe “acceptable” narratives? Are we not creeping closer to Germany circa the 1920’s with each successive year?

You have to hand it to the elites and the moneyed interests. They have us fighting each other about history and issues that don’t feed us while they are steadily chipping away at our freedoms. The minutemen who fought against the British in the Revolutionary War would gladly have submitted to King George had they realized that one day future generations would be treated to this type of maltreatment. We get taxed to death and more and more of us are getting swallowed by economic anxieties yet we keep getting distracted by catnip and sensationalism. But the status quo should be careful; hubris and an overplay of power can lead to unintended consequences—people can only be fooled for so long before they realize how they are being fleeced by the powerful.

I hope that Facebook come to their senses and restores a page that has been built painstakingly over the past nine months. Failing that, I reserve my right to take this through the legal system as a defense of free speech and the right to a free press. Facebook is no longer a private entity, it is a utility and a public domain that has certain responsibilities to the citizenry. As I await a response from Facebook, who knows how long that will take, I ask you—readers and social media users—to do what you can to raise awareness of this issue. This is a case of Goliath disarming the little guy because the little guy had the audacity to challenge the status quo, I ask you to hold Facebook’s feet to the fire until this issue is resolved (I’m phasing away from FB to Gab, click picture to follow me on Gab/Ai)Let Facebook, and other social media outlets, know that they can’t randomly shut down people’s accounts unless they can cite specific instances of hate speech that incites violence. These multinational corporations can’t dictate to us what our freedoms are using the pretext of “community standards” where anonymous complaints can nullify people’s right to express their ideas and voice their opinions. I wrote about censorship in the age of social media [read Twitter Farm], if my voice gets silenced for daring to challenge conventional wisdom, your voice very well might be next. Stand up for Ghion Journal; but more importantly, stand up for free speech and our rights to express our ideas. #RestoreGhionJournal

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” ~ Edmund Burke

If you stand up for free speech and you refuse to let bullies tell us what is acceptable expression of our views, share this article on social media using #RestoreGhionJournal and make sure to CC @facebook and CLICK HERE to contact Facebook and air your displeasure with their tactics. Please sign the petition as well by clicking on the picture below.This might have been one of the posts that led to Ghion Journal’s page being banished. We will never know because Facebook hides behind “Community Standards” to censor people. Does this look like hate speech? You be the judge.

Teodrose Fikre
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Teodrose Fikre

Founder at Ghion Journal
Teodrose Fikre is a published author and a prolific writer whose speech idea was incorporated into Barack Obama's south Carolina victory speech in 2008. Once thoroughly entangled in politics and a partisan loyalist, a mugging by way of reality shed political blinders from Teodore's eyes and led him on a journey to fight for universal justice.

Teodrose was born in Ethiopia the same year Emperor Haile Selassie was deposed by the communist Derg junta. The great grandson five generations removed of Atse (emperor) Tewodros Kassa II, the greatest king of Ethiopia, Teodrose is clearly influenced by the history and his connection to Ethiopia. Through his experiences growing up as first generation refugee in America, Teodrose writes poignantly about the universal experiences of joys, pains and a hope for a better tomorrow that binds all of humanity.

Teodrose has written extensively about the intersection of politics, economic policies, identity, and history. He is the author of "Serendipity's Trace" and newly released "Soul to Soil", two works that inspect the ways we are dissected as a people and shows how we can overcome injustice through the inclusive vision of togetherness.
Teodrose Fikre
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4 Comments on "A Speech Deferred: How Facebook Shackled My Voice"

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L M
Guest
Really? Facebook? My mother used to say, ” it’s not the godfather’s fault (in this case Facebook) but who ask him to baptize the baby (in this case you) meaning why would complain about something where you had the choice of Joining or not joining Facebook? Do you really you want to help (by joining Facebook or keeping your account) a multimillionaire company (when you know exactly where he stands on politics)? instead of using and promoting other social medias that don’t sensor or track down your work. I cancelled my account long time ago and stated promoting everywhere i… Read more »
Sharon
Guest
I believe exiting FB is a great idea, but not easily implemented on a massive scale, which is what is necessary to make the point of free speech. But the bottom line is that Facebook is not a private club that can circumvent the Constitution and the rights of citizens who join (though, as you know, it does constantly, even without the censorship issue). Facebook has grown into a major public forum, BECAUSE of the millions of people who have joined — it owes its very existence to its membership! — and has an obligation to respect the right of… Read more »
Tara
Guest

You have a right to your speech. I’m sorry you have been censured. I hope this leads to even greater numbers of people wakening and reclaiming their power. Thank you.




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Dave
Guest

And don’t be naive and think this was a mistake. All huge corporations are inherently ‘fascist’ in their policies and practices. They WANT to shut you down. They do NOT want to shut down fascists.




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