Recently my Facebook profile, on which I was connected to around 5000 people, was closed down by Facebook. This has had some impact on my ability to do my job as a researcher and journalist, tho I have since managed to repair much of the damage. However, the process by which the profile was destroyed is interesting and may be informative regarding the practices of Facebook with regard to the issue of freedom of expression on the site.


The last posting which I made on my profile related to recent events in Europe.  I wrote that I considered the wave of terror attacks in Germany and France to indicate that a ‘low level Islamist insurgency’ was now taking place in those countries. A few hours after placing this posting, my account was ‘disabled.’


I wrote to the appropriate Facebook address asking for clarification on this. A few days later, on July 29, I received an email from someone called ‘Justin’ saying:


’We have reviewed your account, and have determined that it is contrary to the Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities of Facebook. Due to the violation of these terms, we have permanently deleted your account.

One of the main priorities of Facebook is the safety of Facebook users. Credible threats to harm others, support for violent organizations or extreme graphic content are not allowed on Facebook.’


I am placing this post here so that readers will be aware of the apparent parameters of free speech at Facebook.


I have never expressed support for ‘violent organizations’ on my page, other than support for the armed forces of the state of which I am a citizen, Israel, and perhaps also a general support for the Kurdish-led, western-backed forces fighting the Sunni jihadis of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.


Facebook apparently considers that support for either of these, or expressing the view that a still relatively small-scale Islamist insurgency is taking place in Europe, constitutes a threat to the ‘safety of Facebook users.’ This is, I think, a point of some significance.


In any case, I want also to hereby apologize to any contacts who thought I had for some reason or another removed or blocked them. This was not the case and I invite them to connect to my re-constituted page. Regarding the broader implications of all this, it as a matter of grave concern that a private company that to a great extent now controls the ‘means of representation’ on the Internet is apparently practicing a form of censorship, ensuring that certain views cannot be expressed in what has become a vital forum for the public conversation.

About jonathanspyer

Jonathan Spyer is a Middle East analyst, author and journalist specializing in the areas of Israel, Syria and broader issues of regional strategy. He is the director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and analysis (MECRA), a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for strategy and Security (JISS) and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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30 Responses to Un-Facebooked

  1. Jonathan Karmi says:

    From my own limited experience reporting racist comments on Facebook, the people they employ are a bunch of brainless muppets.

  2. They also regularly stop the postings of Martin Sherman.

  3. Ruth Hirt says:

    FB logs me out when I don’t, must log-in with new password, all the time. I perceive there are occasions my shares don’t reach my timeline. After a day, when my favored share have not appeared, I repeat the attempt.

    I hope you got alternatives, please let us know.

  4. listsp says:

    There’s a big election campaign under way, don’t you know. Must stick to the script.

  5. JoanOfArgghh says:

    If it’s free, YOU are the product. Deleting you is their idea of product recall.

  6. Bob Germanovich says:

    I’m currently on a 30-day ban for citing the exact same subject matter. My words were more to the effect of “you brought in thousand of Muslims and you’re surprised rapes increased?”

  7. kaiserzose says:

    The silicon valley oligarchs are contemptible. Their hubris knows know bounds. Their arrogance knows know bounds. Their greed and power lust knows no bounds. Their decadence knows no bounds. I avoid all social media like the plague. They are a plague. Surely it must be possible to create a truly free alternative, assuming one’s needed. Their action toward you is borderline criminal. I spend a lot of time reading about MENA, and you are among the best and most courageous people writing about the region. Thanks for your work.

  8. Jonathan Engel says:

    Unfortunately this seems to be an increasingly intense ideological censorship. Obviously I have been cut off from time to time, and have recently seen Nick Cohen and Robbie Travers excluded supposedly permanently, but there FB relented, and they are back in, chastened one assumes. Personally I have decided to drastically prune my friend’s list, cut off access to my page to other than “friends”, and not post any “opinion” comment to any public post. It seems that the AI which FB uses has little ability, at this time, to work its way parsing through English humour, or sarcasm, and deduces that this is some form of “hate speech”.. Obviously it’s programming has been changed recently, to tighten up on “type 1” errors, which statistically accepting more “type 2” errors. Clearly with more than 1.5 billion users this whole aspect is a challenge.

  9. Who cares says:

    Go to reddit. It’s much better

  10. sevenofnine54 says:

    Scary how any attempt to discuss the Muslim slow take over, is shut down.
    A few years ago I’d hardly heard of Muslims now turn on tv/radio and it’s all about them.

  11. Arye Kadosh says:

    לפי התקריות האלה
    נראה שפייסבוק מתיישר עם הממשל האמריקאי יותר ויותר
    הוכח כבר בעבר שלחץ משפטי כספי משפיע עליהם
    אנחנו צריכים איזה דרשוביץ שיכניס להם על העוולה הזאת
    מה גם שלא יזיק לחשוב על רשת אלטרנטיבית

  12. I once read an article that said Facebook’s complaints review is outsourced to North Africa. We have found that complaining about boldly violent antisemitic posts usually got an initial response that the content did not violate Facebook community standards. However, when many of us would complain, eventually some critical mass would be reached and the post would be removed.

    You may recall at the beginning of the year Shurat HaDin made two mirror image Facebook pages. One anti-Israel and one anti-Palestinian. The content was nearly identical. Then they submitted complaints. The anti-Palestinian page was removed almost immediately. The anti-Israel page was removed only after they publicized their ruse.

    You are an important and influential journalist. It is not hard to imagine that people hostile to your writing – such as the Islamist groups that you report on – follow your page and submitted multiple complaints against you.

    Keep up your wonderful work, and most of all, stay safe.

  13. Beth says:

    I remember reading an article (I think by CAMERA but I am not sure) that started 2 pages on Facebook. One was pro-Palestinian and one was pro-Israel. They posted identical pictures on both pages with a slight change in captions. The pro-Israel page was shut down by Facebook but not the pro-Palestinian page. There is no rhyme or reason as to why they shut pages down.

  14. sandra says:

    I think there is a stupid algorithm, that is relying on numbers rather than truths. If enough people complain, you’re blocked. And the “Julians” have the sorry job to find reasons for something they have no idea about because they never read the whole thing. thats why political islam has more freedom: there are less people complaining – especially when it’s about Israel. In your case you wrote about Europe and there are few Europeans that are aware of you..
    this is no excuse, of course not. Its – IMHO – the target that should be addressed. Facebook is rich enough to get more real people working rather than a few that have to clean up the mess the algorithm started…

  15. Shalom Jonathan, you may – or may not – be aware that a book on this very issue will be released within a few weeks. In fact, it’s title is, “Banned: How Facebook Enables Militant Islamic Jihad.” Its link can be found here – https://adinakutnicki.com/2016/06/18/listen-up-linked-radio-interview-for-banned-how-facebook-enables-militant-islamic-jihad-connecting-the-dots-commentary-by-adina-kutnicki/
    In fact, the proofs within will blow the lid off of this incendiary subject, and then some.
    Stay tuned.
    Adina Kutnicki, Israel – http://www.adinakutnicki.com/about/

  16. Tammy says:

    They deleted my profile a while back, and I’ve yet to get an answer or reason why… I had 800+ friends ( which is not a lot to some but for me it was) and I was trying to reconnect with my real father whom I’d met at 14 family / my family via Facebook. Anyway , due to my limited contact with that family they DID think I deleted and blocked them, and refuse to re add me ! ( and I have no other way to reach them to explain) I also had been networking with people through that page selling my handmade jewelry. I had to start a new profile from scratch, LOST EVERYTHING on my original profile !!! I DO wish there was a way to get ppl to leave FB, And that there was an equivalent minus the bias and censored BS that Facebook currently practices …. Ugh grrrrrrr!

  17. SMH……Free speech for everyone EXCEPT those that tell the truth!

  18. Rjg says:

    I think you’re wrong, but your opinion on violent political Islam & whether is constitutes an insurgency you describe it is far more benign than many I encounter every day.

  19. brianoflondon says:

    Posted about you here, I’ve just been banned for 3 days again.


  20. Kay says:

    Don’t you know? There is an active campaign against anything said against Muslims in Europe on social media. Zuckerberg already met Merkel about it in Berlin. People are being arrested in Germany for their facebook posts. And now the London mayor is going to enforce hate speech laws in social media. We are all being muzzled and have to take the murders, rapes, and attacks like the good global citizens George Soros wants us to be. Agenda 21.

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