On Friday night, a dire looking message popped up on my Facebook page. 

A status update I had posted in February was removed, I was advised in this stern message. It violated community standards on cybersecurity and I was being cautioned that blah blah, yack yack yack. 

There are few things I care less about in the world than what Facebook thinks of me. If they’d dismantled my profile on the spot and banned me forever, my life would have been vastly improved. 

I ignored the message, in other words, and continued on with my night. 

But then I started seeing that others had received similar warnings about old posts that had been removed. 

A local cop had received the same message about a post he had made nearly a year ago about plans to phase out gas-powered vehicles. Yank! That post was gone. 


An area school teacher had an old post removed but Facebook didn’t even bother to tell her which one. A fellow who runs an area homeless shelter experienced the same thing. 

Every one of them had posts inexplicably removed and it all came down to one common element — they all had shared, at one point in their Facebook lives, a link from the local news outfit known as the Maine Wire. 

This is where the story leaps from merely curious to maddening. Frightening, even.

Over the course of the night, nearly 4,000 Facebook posts that contained links to the Maine Wire were yanked. It didn’t appear to matter what the content of those posts involved. If it linked to the Maine Wire at all, it was out. 

If you don’t see the problem with this, I don’t know what to tell you. 

Consider the arbitrary nature of Facebook’s explanations for why these posts were being yanked. 


My post, for instance, had been a link to a Maine Wire story about a bank robber who was captured in South Portland. I had shared the link way back in February merely because the suspect in the booking looked a lot like me. 

They called that one a “cyber security” risk and sucked it down into the memory hole. 

Facebook took down a guest column about the New England Patriots for no other apparent reason than that it contained a link to the forbidden publication.

They also removed an opinion piece written for the Maine Wire by Rep. Reagan Paul, who had written about a wind power scheme that would impact her district. Facebook deemed that a cyber security threat, as well, and like that, an elected official was unceremoniously censored.

And yes, “censored” is the right word. You better believe it is.

I don’t want to hear arguments that Facebook is a private company and can do anything they want, either. Facebook, and social media services like it, have become the equivalent of the public square, and shutting down speech there is a violation, if not of a constitutional right, then of a human one. 


“For years, anti-free-speech figures have dismissed free speech objections to social media censorship by stressing that the First Amendment applies only to the government, not private companies,” writes constitutional attorney Jonathan Turley in one of many news columns on the topic. “The distinction was always a dishonest effort to evade the implications of speech controls, whether implemented by the government or corporations. The First Amendment was never the exclusive definition of free speech. Free speech is viewed by many of us as a human right; the First Amendment only deals with one source for limiting it.”

Facebook itself acknowledged as much a year ago when it admitted it had censored speech surrounding the COVID pandemic at the behest of the Biden administration. A lot of the speech they censored as misinformation back then later turned out to be true, as it happened, including the fact that the pandemic measures were not all based on science.

When confronted on this, the Facebook folks pretty much shrugged and agreed that those censorship efforts had been a mistake.

“We were under pressure from the administration and others to do more,” Facebook’s vice president of content policy said before Congress. “We shouldn’t have done it.” 

And yet here they are, doing that very same thing again and the timing is as suspect as can be — just a week ago, the Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit that could have put a stop to efforts by the government to influence the way social media companies moderate certain content.

Suddenly it was OK for the Biden administration to whisper into the ears of Facebook executives again, and almost immediately after the ruling came down, the Maine Wire purge was underway. On top of the 3,600 posts that were removed, thousands and thousands of comments made on those posts were also removed. 


“To be clear, it’s not just the Maine Wire that was censored here,” said Steven Robinson, editor-in-chief of the publication. “It was Maine Wire readers. Nearly 4,000 posts were removed from their profiles. 

“In other words,” he said, “this was a broad attempt, based on sketchy untrue reasoning, to censor anyone from sharing content, and no one at Facebook will give an honest answer why.” 

The Maine Wire, some may know, covers area news with an emphasis on conservative topics. They are not unlike many other independent news groups that have appeared in recent years except for the fact that they lean right and so their work is considered verboten by some.  

But here, the usual trappings of left vs right should not matter even a whit. If Facebook was presently at work shutting down the Marxist Gazette or the Che Guevera Tribune, I’d be equally outraged, honestly. It’s not who they censored, it’s that they censored at all. Censorship in all forms is abhorrent to me and should be to everyone who fancies himself free. 

As we move toward yet another heinous presidential election, the people need uninhibited access to information more than ever. They should be free to consult with sources on both ends of the political spectrum and everything in between without interference from Big Brother or his obnoxious cousins.

But now, with just months until Election Day, the meddling has begun again, and that should infuriate both red and blue. Our government went before the Supreme Court last week to argue they should be free to pressure social media companies to limit what information we the people can see with our own eyes. And they won that fight, which ought to make your skin crawl, your spine tingle and your face redden to the point of boiling. 


Independence Day is upon us and I can’t think of anything more antithetical to that than the suppression of speech. 

Love the Maine Wire? Hate it? It shouldn’t matter. This poisonous coupling of government and corporate power should be a thing that is repellant to every one of us. 

By Monday afternoon, Robinson was still getting emails from readers wondering why they were being threatened and scolded by Facebook. He plans to take legal action against Facebook and to fight the decision to target his publication wherever he can. 

Frankly, I hope when the time comes, he has a legion of supporters behind him.

Now THAT, friends, is how you celebrate Independence Day. 

When he isn’t championing free speech, Mark LaFlamme is the crime reporter for the Sun Journal, and can be reached at mlaflamme@sunjournal.com

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