Today Facebook announced that it is designating several high profile people as “dangerous” and will ban them from its platform. Among them is Minister Louis Farrahkan of the Nation of Islam (NOI). Whether you love or hate Farrakhan, NOI and their theology, there is a much larger issue at stake. This announcement underscores the importance of Black people owning and controlling our own media platforms. We cannot rely solely on others to communicate our message.
What if Harriett Tubman relied on Twitter to communicate with slaves and their freedom was contingent on her being in favor with the platform? What if Dr. King only had Facebook and Instagram but his account was shut down once he began calling for economic boycotts of large corporations? Tubman and King, fortunately, had Black people and in King’s case, press and organizations, to help amplify their mission and message. Today, sadly, we are almost entirely at the mercy of others, in order to communicate with our own people. Facebook’s announcement simply brings home the fact that at any point we can be silenced, if we do not control the means of communication.
This realization also raises concern over the recent developments in Ice Cube’s bid to buy 21 California regional sports networks. Sinclair Broadcast Group has reportedly beat out Cube’s bid but there is lingering controversy. Cube has alleged that anti-competitive actions have hindered his group’s ability to fairly compete in the process. At stake in this process wasn’t simply the ability to produce sports content and sell ads but in fact ownership of communication channels. Those who own the channels control the message. Those who control the message, ultimately, control the masses. Cube has good reason to worry about whether or not all things were fair, with so much at stake.
A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNN Business, “We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology.” The spokespersons went on to say, “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.” From Barack Obama to Louis Farrakhan, Black people represent a range of ideologies and priorities. Some we will agree with and others we will not. What is important is that we are able to communicate freely, when any of us has a message of uplift for our people.