Facebook ‘censors’ Dakota Access pipeline protest livestream – activists

Protesters demonstrate against the Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. September 9, 2016. © Andrew Cullen
An alternative media group’s live coverage of riot police clashing with protesters at a construction site of the Dakota Access pipeline was blocked by “Facebook’s automated censorship system”. However, the social network hasn’t been doing much about it.

Unicorn Riot was in North Dakota Tuesday, covering a “direct action” protest against the Dakota Access pipeline. Any time they tried to post their livestream, Facebook rejected the link as one that “our security systems detected to be unsafe.”

Twenty-two protesters were arrested by police in riot gear, including two Unicorn Riot journalists. The crude oil pipeline is the subject of protest, in part, because environmentalists and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe claim its construction is destroying sacred sites and natural resources or risks damaging them.

In an emailed statement to RT, a member of the Unicorn Riot said, “our collective members immediately noticed that the full Livestream event URL (https://livestream.com/unicornriot/events/6340986) was being blocked from Facebook.”

“Posts and comments with the URL both immediately triggered popup security alerts,” the team member continued. “We tried putting the same URL through Bitly shortening and that official Unicorn Riot page post was deleted by Facebook within a few minutes. Finally we went with sharing our ‘Live Channel’ URL on our own website which had the embed included on it.”

The statement went on to clarify that “the ‘Facebook Debugger’ warned that our live video URL violated ‘community standards.’”

In its response, Facebook offered little more than words to make up for blocking the news content.

“The link was removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate. Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We're very sorry about this mistake,” a Facebook spokesperson told Motherboard.

Blaming “both Facebook and law enforcement” for blocking their media distribution, the collective member vowed, “we will not let them stop our mission to amplify the voices of people who might otherwise go unheard, and broadcast the stories that might otherwise go untold.”

“Also, as one member of the collective, I should point out it is obviously concerning when a large media conglomerate blocks URLs to competing video platforms,” the Unicorn Riot member concluded.