On Monday night those of us going pro-Sanders Facebook pages found that some were not available, seeing the message above. Word quickly spread that people believed to be Clinton supporters were posting porn on the pages and then, in a coordinated attack, multiple people would file complaints with Facebook, leading to the sites pages being taken down.
The sites did return later on Monday. Since then, many have changed from public to private groups, and some have restricted posting to prevent unknown members from repeating this tactic.
The attacks are believed to be from Clinton supporters considering that posts from Clinton supporters were found bragging about the attack. In addition, similar tactics had already been used on Facebook on a smaller scale. Clinton supporters would harass Sanders supporters in attempts to receive hostile responses, and then report responses from Sanders supporters in attempts to have their Facebook accounts restricted or terminated. This also follows reports of the the pro-Clinton Super PAC Correct the Record, which has been coordinating with the campaign, paying people to “push back” against progressives opposing Clinton on social media.
Supporters were concerned about potential Clinton PAC involvement because, according to the Daily Beast, a pro-Clinton Super PAC is spending $1 million to counter people on sites like Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter. The group is Correct the Record’s “Barrier Breakers.” According to the PAC’s press release, the digital task force will share positive content and “push back” against online progressive communities to counter “false narratives” and negative attacks. The Super PAC openly coordinates with Clinton’s campaign, Daily Beast reported.
However, there’s no proof of any connection between that PAC and this attack, and definitely no proof of any connection between the PACs and the pornography posts, which were likely from unrelated trolls and spammers.
They also included screen grabs which do suggest that Clinton supporter were behind this action.
The story was picked up by the mainstream media. The Hill reports:
Multiple Facebook pages supporting Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders were abruptly removed from the social media network late last night following a cyberattack.
The pro-Sanders pages — which include Bernie or Bust, Bernie Believers and Bernie Sanders is my HERO — were collectively followed by over a quarter-million supporters of the Vermont senator, and many had been operating continuously since Sanders launched his campaign last year.
The attack began around 9 p.m. EDT and lasted until just after midnight, when most of the pages recovered their accounts…
According to eyewitness reports, the pages were flooded with pornographic images in what appeared to be coordinated fashion and then flagged for obscene content, prompting Facebook to remove them.
“We had what looked like a kiddie porn posted in one of our groups today,” said Sanders supporter Erica Libenow, according to Heavy.com. “I reported that one. Seriously made me want to vomit.”
A Facebook spokesman confirmed to The Hill that a number of pro-Sanders groups as well as other pages “were inaccessible for a brief period” due to the company’s automated policies being “applied incorrectly.”
“We corrected the problem within hours and are working to improve our tools,” the spokesman said.
At least one Facebook user linked to the pro-Hillary Clinton group Bros 4 Hillary was reported to have participated in the attacks.
The Bros 4 Hillary team disavowed the user in a statement posted Tuesday morning, which condemned any “harmful or offensive rhetoric or harassing behavior targeting supporters of any other candidate in the race.”
Several websites and online forums and website attempted to draw a connection between the attacks and Clinton ally David Brock’s social media initiative, Barrier Breakers 2016, after noting that the former Bros 4 Hillary member had recently “liked” the initiative on Facebook.
In a statement to The Hill, Correct the Record denied any involvement in the attacks.
“Correct the Record’s Barrier Breakers 2016 had nothing to do with this,” said Elizabeth Shappell, the group’s communications director. “Currently, Barrier Breakers is exclusively engaged in positive messaging supporting Hillary Clinton.”
Former right-wing hit-man turned Clinton hit-man David Brock is one of the slimiest people in politics, but the desire to prevent opposing viewpoints from being discussed has been a hallmark of many Clinton supporters during this campaign. I doubt that the campaign itself was directly involved, and there is no way to know whether David Brock and his group were involved, or if this was organized by other Clinton supporters. Regardless of who was involved, the prospect of seeing so many Democrats turning into thought police to defend Clinton’s conservative views is one reason why many on the left think that electing Clinton would be even more dangerous to liberal and progressive principles than a Republican president.
There is more at AOL News and New York Magazine. The later shows a tie to the Bros4Hillary group, but also presents an alternative conspiracy theory blaming Donald Trump. While not impossible that the Trump campaign did this to further divide Democrats, I have seen a lot of cases of Clinton supporters trying to suppress discourse from Clinton’s opponents, while I have not encountered any similar on-line premise from Trump supporters. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have expressed a similar disregard for freedom of speech in the recent past.