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Climate activists are being silenced on Twitter and Facebook


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Environmental activists are being suspended on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook after moving their protests online following the coronavirus pandemic. According to the environmental movement, Fridays for Future, several Ugandan climate activists were recently suspended on Twitter after they had been protesting against the country’s government and industries linked to deforestation. "More and more climate activists' accounts are being suspended," they write on Twitter. "This is unacceptable. Having a platform to talk about the climate crisis is crucial."

The Verge reports that Twitter claims that at least two of the suspended accounts "were caught in a spam filter and have since been reinstated." But Twitter did not give any information on why those accounts was flagged as spam accounts in the first place.

And just last month, more than 200 people who protested the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline was banned on Facebook. The Verge reports that:

"In May, Wet’suwet’en activists, Greenpeace, and other environmental and Indigenous groups hosted a Facebook event calling on pipeline opponents to bombard the pipeline’s majority funder, a company called KKR & Co Inc., with calls and emails. They had a near identical event planned for September 21st. Then on September 19th, every person with administrative access to the 15 Facebook pages that co-hosted the event received notices that their accounts would be suspended for up to three days."

Facebook said in a statement to the Verge that their "systems mistakenly removed these accounts and content." Facebook also said that "they have since been restored and we’ve lifted any limits imposed on identified profiles." But Facebook did not say why this "mistake" even happened in the first place and why it only seemed to affect people who had been organizing and protesting against the pipeline.

Social media sites offer great opportunities for climate activists and environmental movements to reach out to people and spread their message. But these stories show just how vulnerable climate activists really are – and how easily Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms can silence them. Climate activists and environmental movements simply can't rely solely on the goodwill of these corporate social media giants. "Facebook can silence much of the climate movement at their discretion, without explanation for any duration," said Lindsey Allen, chief program officer at Greenpeace USA. "That’s unnerving." 

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