Dear Mr Zuckerberg,
PANDA – Pandemics Data & Analytics is an independent grass-roots civil society organisation formed in 2020 by a large multidisciplinary group of concerned professionals. PANDA’s central mission was to analyse the cost-benefit of the COVID-19 response. Encouraged by our members and supporters, this mission has expanded to include the assessment and evaluation of the future outcomes and trajectories of these policies.
PANDA’s Facebook page has been published since April 2020 and it attracted over 23,000 followers. We have supported your platform financially, including through an advertising campaign.
On 21 October 2022, without notice or any justification from Meta, our Facebook page was de-platformed. In addition, the personal accounts of all of the PANDA page administrators were suspended. The justification given for such suspension references the content of these individuals’ feeds, whereas it is plain that they have been targeted purely for their association with PANDA and in breach of Meta’s own terms. The PANDA page was maintained in part by professionals who offered moderation and page maintenance services to other clients, so the deletion of their personal accounts has had far-reaching consequences for their clients and their own livelihoods. None of these individuals received any warning that these consequences might follow.
Even more egregiously, and in what surely represents a breach actionable in law, the paid advertising campaigns PANDA had taken out with Meta were kept running, draining our precious crowd-funded resources, with no ability to switch them off given the removal of all the personal accounts of the Page administrators. Some people might call this theft.
Needless to say, PANDA’s community has been left entirely dumbfounded and disappointed by what appears to be a determined act to censor PANDA’s voice.
We are writing to request an explanation.
PANDA believes that the voices of organisations representing the public’s interests in upholding core principles of democracy and human-rights, are absolutely crucial – especially in such critical times. When the foundations of civil societies are being overhauled at speed, and when tried and tested laws and policies are being replaced, people need open spaces for inquiry and debate more than ever before. Social media platforms should not only take responsibility for facilitating such fora, but should actively embrace and encourage them.
So we ask, how can it be right that platforms such as Facebook, which act like public squares, censor civil society voices that question the consensus with no explanation or accountability? The Meta Transparency Centre web page states, “we take great care to create standards that include different views and beliefs”, “The goal of our Community Standards is to create a place for expression and give people a voice”, and finally, “Meta wants people to be able to talk openly about the issues that matter to them, even if some may disagree or find them objectionable.” Your treatment of PANDA and those associated with the organisation is inconsistent with these principles. Moreover, the consequences for the individuals associated with PANDA are inconsistent with these principles and have a chill effect on speech by dissuading professionals from associating with civil society organisations.
We urge you to reinstate PANDA and all associated persons immediately and join us in upholding the values of free speech and open inquiry that are foundational to building and maintaining democratic societies in these critical times. We eagerly await your response.