Social Media Targeting Smaller Conservative Content Creators: My Story

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For over five years, I’ve managed several Facebook accounts. I kept myself abreast of all the nuances of public page ownership. I educated myself about the many algorithm changes and catered to the whims of my small following. I’ve managed to stay on the right side of our silicon valley overlords even as my colleagues on other pages were continually harassed or also suspended for a myriad of things.

2019 was showing signs of being our biggest year on social media. Our engagement was through the roof; having viral moments started to become a regular occurrence. Then in late July, that all changed for reasons I’m still trying to understand. For the past six months, our social media page has been dealing with major issues. We’ve been hit with a string of what seems to be petty violations.

Our First Violation

It all started on July 31st when our Facebook page received the very first violation. Little did we know this would be the first of many.

How I Curate my Content for Red River TV

Over the past few years, I’ve developed a routine for gathering news. I use the scheduling function on Facebook to plan my post from 1 am until 1 pm. I alternate between scheduling posts every 3 and 4 hours. I try to remain consistent with the sources I use. The night before I go over the news to post. Twenty sources are mainstream news sites, and the other 20 are sources from the Right. I go through each page, being careful to choose the best stories that are 24hrs old or newer. I go through each site and pick the best stories from each site.

I end up with 40 stories and from that, I chose the top 6 that I think my followers would get the most value from. Once those stories are scheduled, I moderate the comments as they post until 1 pm. At 1 pm, I start checking places like Twitter trending, Drudge Report, news wires, and Google trending. From 1 pm to midnight, I try to post the freshest content because I feel like this would provide the best value to my followers. It is the afternoon that I’m likely to post trending video clips, screenshots of tweets and memes.

This has been my routine more or less for most of the time I’ve managed RedRiver TV. When we created original content for our page, I would sprinkle that in. We took two years off from creating original content. During that time, it was strictly media from other sources. 

Back to the Violations

A day or two before July 29th, I took a screenshot of a tweet from Andy Ngo about Antifa. Andy is a journalist who covers all things Antifa. The tweet was about Antifa threatening to go to El Paso with weapons to launch what they called a “border resistance.” After sharing the story, it took off. I honestly can’t remember the number, but it may have been shared hundreds of times. That is typical for a tweet like that on our page. On the 29th, I received a message from a follower who informed me that after trying to share the tweet, Facebook informed him that the post was misleading.

I went to my page and checked my notifications to find that it had been flagged as fake news by a Facebook affiliated fact-checker. A message from Facebook informed us that our page would be curtailed for 30 days because of this transgression. Initially, I found the fact check odd because Antifa had put up flyers that stated that they were going to El Paso to launch a resistance. There was no ability to appeal the decision, so we took it and moved on determined to be more careful going forward.

Kevin Batts | FortySix News Andy Ngo Tweet & Facebook Fact Check
Kevin Batts | FortySix News Fact Check from Facebook

Taking Extra Time off After the Curtailment

Because of the exceptional growth of our page leading up to the first curtailment, we decided to bring back our original political commentary and planned to launch the show on Oct 1st.

Relaunch

The launch went off without a hitch. We built an entire studio in our home and purchased new video equipment. Before we took a break from our show, we averaged 1000 views per episode and had around 1500 followers. I anticipated over time we could average three times as much, and going into 2020, we would have room to grow even further. Our page had grown adding 1500 new followers in July alone. If we continued at our average of 100 to 200 new followers a month, between that and viral events, we could easily be at 10k followers and over 3k to 5k views per video by next November. 

Compared to the big names online this may not seem like much, but for my wife and me, this is all we need to have an impact on the political conversation in our state.

Second Strike

On Oct 19th, our page was hit with a second strike, this time for publishing a story from the Washington Examiner about Hillary Clinton calling Tulsi Gabbard a Russian Asset. A Facebook affiliated fact-checker deemed it to be fake news because a Clinton surrogate had come out that morning and stated the clip that was being cited by the media was taken out of context because Hillary was talking about Republicans, not Russians. 

Kevin Batts | FortySix News

The doubly outrageous part of this violation was that almost every major news agency had picked up the story framing it the exact same way. This was the first time we started reaching out to Facebook. It’s essential to mention throughout this process; we’ve reached out to Facebook over a half dozen times with NO response. 

After this violation, I started writing an article similar to this about the issue we had been having because I felt like we weren’t being treated fairly. I knew there was no way the BBC, ABC, or CNN were being flagged on Facebook or violated for sharing this story, probably not even the Washington Examiner for that matter.

Kevin Batts | FortySix News Facebook Fact Check The Story We Posted & Other Media Stories
Kevin Batts | FortySix News Page Quality Page

Before I could finish the story, Facebook reversed the strike, and the entire violation disappeared. We received zero correspondence from Facebook as to what had happened. I later found out from a source that didn’t want to be named that they were in contact with Facebook. That left me to assume that this entity inadvertently resolved the issue with our page. 

Kevin Batts | FortySix News

If I’m correct about this, it presents a new, more chilling aspect few have been willing to speak on. Smaller media entities like ours are treated differently than mainstream and maybe even some larger media entities on the Right. If punishments are being applied or withdrawn according to who has access to those applying the punishment, it is incredibly problematic. Even after the violation was fully withdrawn, we were still punished. Our post would not show up in our follower’s newsfeed for a week. 

More Violations

So we moved on from this, but then on Nov 6, our page was hit with not one, not two, but four violations in a single day. The odd thing about these violations was that fact checks didn’t accompany them. These violations wouldn’t even tell me which post had caused the violations. I, of course, appealed immediately, but I had no idea what I was appealing. Facebook wouldn’t tell us or respond to our repeated questions.

Kevin Batts | FortySix News
Kevin Batts | FortySix News
Kevin Batts | FortySix News
Kevin Batts | FortySix News
Kevin Batts | FortySix News

They informed us that the posts were taken down. Still, after inspecting the past week’s posts, I only found one article was missing — a story from Real Clear Investigations that named the Whistleblower in the Trump impeachment inquiry. After a few days, all of the violations disappeared. There was no reason given about why or what had happened. We discovered after they disappeared that our page would still face punishment for what is still unknown. To make matters worse, our punishment was due to be up on Nov 13th, and on that date, the punishment was extended one more week to the 20th. Then it was extended to the 27th and yet another extension until Dec 4th. 

Every time it was extended, I reached out to Facebook with no response. I’ve never received a response from Facebook about any of this and the momentum of our page has been suppressed. The only correspondence we’ve ever received from Facebook outside of violations has been a request for identity verification. They told me I had to send them a scanned copy of my ID to verify my identity. They said this was due to our page’s ability to reach a large audience. I wish I had taken screenshots of this request, but at the time, things had not gotten so out of hand. 

What I think this means?

With all this, I’m left to conclude a few things. 

  1. A possible scenario is that we’re the victims of some very crazy glitch, and Facebook has incredibly crappy service. 
  2. The second scenario is that I publish a lot of fake news, and this is entirely my fault. I find this hard to believe because I’ve been on Facebook for over ten years, managed this page, and many others for years with no violations at all.  
  3. The third scenario is more sinister, but I think it is more likely. Facebook has chosen to target smaller Facebook pages they see as up and coming. If you go after a big page, it requires more effort on the part of social media companies. Larger pages have access to resources to fight back such as legal aid, and they have a large following that can amplify any unfair practices. Make no mistake, they can collude with media and orchestrate a digital assassination, but that requires a lot more work. They know what pages are growing and what pages are having above-average engagement. They know exactly which pages are dying and which pages aren’t. They have algorithms in place that make it harder, but these aren’t impossible to surmount. Social media is dominated by grassroots conservative media that continues run circles around the mainstream.
Kevin Batts | FortySix News Screenshots of My 28-day Trends

What Can We Do?

There isn’t much we can do. If our original content had a higher average watch rate, we might be able to drum up some opposition to this. We would be able to get someone’s attention. Last year we joined Minds, Bitchute, Parlor, UGE Tube, and a few other startup social sites. We’ve reached out to friends about any legal implications or policy proposals that could help pages like ours. Outside of sharing our story and prayer for strategy, there is absolutely nothing else we can do.

This article was made simply to memorialize the issues we’re facing up to this point.

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