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    Facebook apologizes for blocking Kansas Reflector, then expands crackdown to other news sites

    By Sherman Smith,


    Social media posts reflect Facebook's actions to block news sites that published Dave Kendall's column, which was critical of Facebook. (Illustration by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

    TOPEKA — A day after a Facebook spokesman apologized for blocking Kansas Reflector articles by mistake, the social media giant blocked all links to two other news sites that republished a Kansas Reflector column.

    Facebook on Friday removed posts pointing to The Handbasket , which is written by independent journalist Marisa Kabas, as well as posts pointing to News From The States , which aggregates stories and columns published by States Newsroom affiliates, including Kansas Reflector.

    Facebook restored the posts about three hours after they were taken down.

    Facebook spokesman Andy Stone in a phone call Friday attributed the removal of those posts, along with all Kansas Reflector posts the day before, to “a mistaken security issue that popped up.” He wouldn’t elaborate on how the mistake happened and said there would be no further explanation.

    On Thursday, Facebook prevented Kansas Reflector from sharing an opinion column by Dave Kendall about efforts to promote his documentary on climate change in the Midwest. The column is critical of Facebook and praises local media as more effective sources of information. Facebook then removed posts from across its platform that included links to stories on Kansas Reflector’s website.

    Facebook told users that the links were a cybersecurity threat, even though the website is safe and secure. About seven hours later, Facebook restored most of the posts that link to Kansas Reflector stories. Stone apologized Thursday in a post on X , formerly known as Twitter.

    But Facebook still wouldn’t allow anyone to link to the Kendall column — on any website.

    Kabas had reported on Facebook’s actions on Thursday, then republished Kendall’s column Friday.

    Kansas Reflector attempted to link to the Kendall column as it appeared on both The Handbasket and News From The States . Both times, Facebook rejected the post as a potential violation of its community standards.

    Minutes later, Facebook had removed posts linking to any story on either website, just as it had done to Kansas Reflector the day before. Facebook again used the erroneous language about cybersecurity in messages to users about why their posts were being removed.

    Stone insisted the issue was related to domains and not based on the content of the column.

    “It had nothing to do with the content,” Stone said. “It had nothing to do with the story that you guys wrote.”

    “It was a security issue related to the Kansas Reflector domain, along with the News From The States domain and The Handbasket domain,” Stone added. “It was not this particular story. It was at the domain level.”

    Stone said Facebook would not contact individuals to let them know about the mistake.

    “You guys will cover it,” he said.

    He declined to say whether other news media should be concerned about the kind of stories they share on Facebook.

    Kansas Reflector has published more than 6,000 news stories and opinion columns since launching in 2020, and shares those articles through Facebook and other social media platforms. Kansas Reflector’s Facebook account has 12,000 followers.

    By Friday night, Facebook was allowing users to link to Kendall’s column.

    “It’s disturbing that Meta is openly trying to censor the press,” Kabas said. “It’s also astonishing that a tech behemoth can’t handle a bit of criticism — especially around an issue as important as climate change. Fortunately, we have many other levers of communication and they won’t be able to keep this quiet. I’m proud to stand with the Kansas Reflector and other nonprofit and independent news outlets as we fight to take up space and make our voices heard.”

    Phyllis Zorn, a reporter for the Marion County Record, took notice of Facebook’s actions. Police raided her newspaper last summer under the false pretense that she had committed a crime by verifying public records.

    “This is a vendetta, and trust me, I know one when I see one,” Zorn said.

    Meanwhile, on his personal Facebook page, Kendall pointed out that Facebook was sending him “mixed messages.”

    The platform sent him notifications that read: “Nice work keeping up the momentum!” And: “Your content’s still getting attention.”

    “Even as this platform continues to block access to my Kansas Reflector piece, it’s cheering me on,” Kendall wrote.

    A Kansas City Star editorial about Facebook’s removal of Kansas Reflector links highlighted distrust in a social media platform that allows rampant disinformation to consume the platform.

    “If you care about responsible, verifiable news, we suggest that you directly visit the websites of the news organizations you value,” the editorial board wrote. “Cut out the social media middleman. And if those sources you like sell subscriptions, buy one.”

    “And,” the editorial board added, “we won’t be sharing this editorial on our own Facebook page. Just to be safe.”

    The post Facebook apologizes for blocking Kansas Reflector, then expands crackdown to other news sites appeared first on Kansas Reflector .

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