So I’ve been meaning to do this for a long while, and recently made it happen… an interview with Jason Bassler of The Free Thought Project about the recent censorship afflicting the social media world. A bit of a disclaimer – I support TFTP by automatically tweeting their police brutality articles, and have a bias toward their way of thinking. If you’re looking for an impartial puff piece, this isn’t that. But if you want the story of a group of people ostensibly unpersoned by what are essentially state entities, you’re come to the right place. Not for nothing, either, but I’ve already talked about this. What Eli Blumenthal, resident Facebook stooge, said then was this.
Facebook’s fight against fake accounts and spam continued Thursday as the social networking giant took removed 559 Facebook Pages and 251 Facebook accounts over breaking the site’s rules for “spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
“Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites,” wrote Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy and Oscar Rodriguez, a Facebook product manager, in a blog post announcing the latest purge.
“Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate.”
And I stand by my response, where I said “Now, anyone who has followed these pages for awhile and who doesn’t have a pro-government, pro-corporation chip on their shoulder would be more than willing to say that these libertarian and anarchist pages were CENSORED, not removed for spam.” Feel free to read that response in the link above, where I explain my stance.
I say all this in the intro section to be transparent. I’m not unbiased. For journalistic integrity, one must make it clear that they might not be the most objective source. Still, I asked questions which took the conversation in interesting directions. Also, the only major platform to interview him before, Rolling Stone, promised him a piece focusing in him, and instead, delivered what Jason calls a “half-right” account of his side of the story, below that of Reverb Press, censored the same day.
I remember reading that article and thinking “I could do better”. This isn’t the first mainstream narrative I’ve wanted to add to, or outright smash, but I was nervous about doing it on platforms others controlled. Now that this place is here, I can do this, regularly, and I plan to. So with all that in mind, let’s get to the interview you came for. I hope you appreciate it.
Thanks for taking the time to do this – the grind has to be hectic since you lost so much funding. Before we get into the subject today, I understand you’re one of the cofounders of The Free Thought Project. Who is the other, and what inspired you to start the site?
Thanks Jeremiah, I appreciate you reaching out for this interview. Yes, ironically enough I moved into the first home I’ve ever bought 2 weeks before the purge (thanks universe 🙄😂) so it was quite the shock to see my pages, which cumulatively had 6 million fans, wiped away in a single day.I am indeed one of the co-founders of The Free Thought Project and also the founder of Police the Police and V is for Voluntary (RIP) – The other co-founder is Matt Agorist who also is our Editor in Chief for TFTP. We both met while working for a separatewebsite called “The Farmacy” which was more focused on natural living, growing your own food, health remedies etc. After a few months we realized we could create our own site and have more control over the content so we started The Free Thought Project in October of 2013 to focus on police and government accountability. We immediately had success and realized there was a demand for that specific type of information so our operation grew quickly. In the first 2 years our website was receiving so much traffic that we were ranked the 2500 (roughly) most visited website in the U.S. according to Alexa.com. Over the next few years that started to slowly change however even though we accumulated more and more fans on various social media platforms.
CopBlock was influencial to a lot of people including myself. Besides organizations like CopWatch, I think CopBlock was the first to really utilize the internet to document individuals empowering themselves by flexing their rights with cameras and uploading the videos to the still somewhat new YouTube. I am glad to see the movement has continued in a few different ways even if it isn’t necessarily under the CopBlock umbrella. That’s funny you mentioned the CopBlock FB page. I actually helped quite a bit with the page growth explosion. I was brought on by the co-founder of CopBlock, Pete Eyre to help grow the page because he saw how fast we were growing our page. When I was added the page had 44k fans. When I left the page in late 2015 it was at 1.3 million fans. I still to this day have never seen a page with that type of reach. Especially in 2014. There was a HUGE demand for police accountability information, videos, memes, articles… Then Facebook put the brakes on it and the page slowly imploded for multiple reasons. Total shame. It was a powerful page at one point.Well to answer your question, we did once get a cease and desist letter from a police officer who apparently thought he could put some words on paper that sounded somewhat legitimate and legal and it would scare us into submission. There was no lawyers name or attorney firms attached to any of the documents. He also sent it to me, my partner (Matt Agorist) our home addresses as well as a couple of our writers home addresses and our PO Box for TFTP. He was pissed we covered a story he was involved in and we called him out for the tyrant he is. He obviously did his homework though to find out all of our information and addresses. Otherwise no other incidents stick out in my mind although I would be extremely disappointed if my name wasn’t on a government list at this point! I think it probably is however seeing we had our pages and accounts removed by Facebook and Twitter on the same day.
Well, I guess when I say “HUGE demand” I more meant from the readers/users. However there is a demand for us to cover stories and incidents from individuals who feel like their local media didn’t give them a fair representation. For instance just todaywe covered an exclusive story of a video of a man who had a gun pulled on him by an overzealous law enforcement officer during a traffic stop over a victimless speeding ticket infraction. Here is the link if you want to check it out and watch the video.
Besides that, one another story that stands out is one involving a man name Roderick Talley. This dude is an American hero. He had his door literally blown off the hinges when a SWAT team did a raid of his apartment based off of bad information from an untrustworthy informant. Police found nothing illegal and were just as complicit as the bad informant by falsifying evidence and making up information, which they apparently had a long history of doing. Roderick didn’t accept what happened to him laying down, so he started doing his own research and investigating. He ended up discovering numerous cases of SWAT raids in his city of Little Rock, Arkansas all stemming from the bad informant that yielded no illegal guns or substances. His case and work got national attention from outlets like The Young Turks and Journalists such as Radley Balko after we covered his story and helped him get some exposure. I will provide a link to Roderick’s story/video, and also a podcast we did with him. Stories like that make me happy that we could play a small role in helping someone wronged by the police.
And that’s an interesting segue into the subject of this interview – you were censored recently by all major social media, in a similar way to what happened to Alex Jones. A major difference is that you were a much smaller operation, with less bounceback capability. First I want to ask – when you first found out you were censored, did you see it as a natural, expected result of challenging the establishment, or did you think it had to be a glitch, or something?
Well, in many ways we were smaller than Alex Jones and Infowars but we did technically have a larger social media presence by the numbers but yes there were a lot of similarities between the censorship he endured and what we’ve experienced. At least his was a bit more in the public eye and spread out. We were unpublished by Facebook, suspended by Twitter and given a strike on our YouTube channel all on the same day for two different organizations (TFTP & PTP.) That seems much more nefarious in my opinion especially because its the first time in history (I know of) that social media companies colluded to remove social media accounts at the same time. And of course with absolutely no mainstream coverage. Not a single word by anyone except Rolling Stone and they only got the story half right.To answer your question though, I came back to my computer after a shower and saw that our pages were unpublished and thought it could be a glitch because Facebook is infinitely glitchy but shortly after someone on our team (Johnny Liberty) put a link in our TFTP chat from the Los Angeles Times about the purge, which was odd because the article was written 2 hours prior to the purge even taking place. Makes you wonder a bit, doesn’t it? So at that point I kind of realized what was going on. Here I was reading about this major implementation of massive censorship with statements from Facebook already being trotted out to the public literally 20 minutes after watching 6 years of my life’s work being removed. Of course their excuses for the censorship were complete and utter bullshit. It was a pretty shitty moment and a very overwhelming day to say the least.
Yeah, man. It was beyond frustrating. Especially because we were simply lumped into 800 other accounts Facebook claimed was using ‘fake accounts’ ‘inauthentic behavior’ and ‘spam’ but offered no proof of our “offenses” so I guess we will just
have to take their word for it and swallow the bitter pill of losing 6 years of work. We ended up losing 5 writers and 2 full time employees.1. Johnny Liberty – Social media (still works limited hours for us when we can pay him)2. Rachel Blevins – Editor/Writer (working for RT now as a correspondent)3. John Vibes – Writer (he still participates with our podcasts)4. Jay Syrmopoulos – Writer5. Jack Burns – Writer6. Justin Price – Writer
Yeah, pretty much. It’s crazy. We didn’t get any responses from our appeals to Facebook after our original pages were taken down. Our Police the Police 2.0 page was taken down by Facebook less than a month after it being up but surprisingly they admitted they made an error and put it back up after about a week. It’s still up and going strong. We just crossed 60k fans! Our The Free Thought Project 2.0 page was taken down on the 5th of this month (February) which had 30k fans and we have yet to hear back from our appeal about that (not holding my breath) but I put up the 3.0 page the same day the 2.0 version was taken down and by the next day it had already accumulated 3,000 new fans! Its obvious people want our content even if Facebook is trying their best to eradicate it and us from their platform. I will just continue to make new pages. 4.0, 5.0, 6.0, 7.0… it’s going to look terrible for them if we get up to The Free Thought Project 24.0. The crazy thing is, they were throttling our 2 big pages so much that even though our pages had millions of fans, we still drive about as much traffic now with roughly 66k fans as we did with 2 huge pages with millions of likes. That really speaks to the horrors and detriment of shadow banning pages.
It’s definitely just more damage control and more bullshit on their behalf. They are trying to “clean up their image” after being attacked by both politicians and the media about “not doing enough to stop fake news” so for them this is just posturing and grand-standing to give the appearance they are proactively removing “bad actors” and “fringe publishers.” You know what my 85 year old grand mother in-law said? She is smart as a whip by the way. She said: “We have always had fake news. We, also, have always had discernment.” I think they aren’t really concerned about “fake news” they are concerned about people not voting predictably like they expected in 2016 and they are worried about too many people starting to see through their charades and house of cards. Tabloids have existed for years but yet I have never seen any calls for them to be banned from grocery checkout lines. But this is the new form of censorship in 2018/2019 where government uses think tanks and front groups such as the Atlantic council (which partnered with Facebook in May 2018) to quell dissent and censor internet activists without government technically violating any laws or amendments. Its quite deceptive actually and unfortunately no one seems to see what is going on.
So no we never were told anything about looking like infowars and yes their official reason this past unpublishing was “we violated their recidivism” policy… which basically translates to… if big Zuck kicks you out of his kingdom he doesn’t want you back under any circumstances. I suppose that is what the recidivism policy is REALLY about. But we know that Facebook engages in selective enforcement of their always changing and arbitrary community standards which in reality is a way for them to target anti-establishment groups and information while maintaining the illusion of quality control. In October they tried to lump us in with the Russian collusion nonsense. Now they are trying to smear us by associating us with Infowars. They are really playing dirty and breaking out all the tricks. Luckily our fans are smarter than that and see right through it.
Well I don’t want to be considered a “conspiracy theorist” Jeremiah but I think I already might be… so, yes! I think it is safe to say with the patterns observed and the continuity of information surfacing points to a coordinated attack by the old guards. Look, we were the new media creeping in and taking not only valued readership away from them but also exposing their illegitimacy. The old dinosaur media didn’t like obviously. They realized they lost their control around the 2016 election when the establishment candidate (Clinton) wasn’t elected. Censorship was ramping up before that but it significantly escalated shortly after the 2016 presidential election. As far as working with other organizations, that is still a work in progress but we are definitely making headway. Myself and Derrick Broze organized the first of it’s kind ‘Alt-Media Summit’ in Houston last month which was, as far as I am concerned, an historic event. 55 different individuals ranging from journalists, social media influencers, activists, comedians, lawyers and even a CEO of a social media platform (Minds.com) all came together to fight back against the current epidemic of censorship. People from the left, the right, libertarians, anarchists and everything in between united for this because they all realized the gravity of the situation and ramifications of inaction. So yeah those of us affected by this aren’t taking it lightly. We will organize, we will double our efforts and we will put our minds together to be as effective as we can to fight back against this. It was naive on the part of these social media companies to think they could pick a fight with activists, influencers and publishers and there would be no consequences.
Well, I suppose it means we are doing something right when we are attacked by both sides, right? I wear it like a badge of honor. Who are these people to claim to be the arbiters are all truth on the internet? Let’s get one thing straight. All outlets and organizations have bias, they all have their own agenda and they cannot be factually correct 100% of the time about 100% of all issues. To claim that is being dishonest. I have no problems or qualms with being the “fringe publishers” who DON’T mindlessly repeat the media/establishment narrative and allow people to have open discussions about culturally taboo topics such as vaccines, geo-engineering and the efficacy of the State. If we don’t allow people to have discussion about these topics we will never be able to form our own opinions and possibly never know the REAL truth. There needs to be organizations and platforms dedicated to that goal. That is why we are called “The Free Thought Project” after all and the fact that these social media companies can’t respect that or even recognize the irony of removing an organization called ‘The Free Thought Project’ proves what we are up against ideologically speaking in these info wars.
Funny story about Politifact… They along with the ‘AP fact checkers’ both retracted their claims about our stories being “false news” after we reached out to them via email to highlight their errors ‘fact checking’ our articles. Unfortunately by that time the damage was already done. Facebook hired these “third party fact checkers” to fact check stories being published on Facebook. The problem is Facebook would send a push notification to anyone who clicked on or shared the story and also every user of every page that shared the link. So if The Mind Unleashed shared the article, all 9 million of their fans received a push notification calling us “false news.” The worst and most unforgivable part is they sent out the push notifications before even allowing us to dispute it. So even though the AP and Politifact were ultimately wrong and had to retract their statements, millions of people still saw that our article(s) were labeled as “false news” which is a great way to kill the reputation of ANY website or organization. I will gladly provide the screenshots from both the AP and Politifact proving they overturned their initial statements calling us “false news” – This is just part of the horror stories we have dealt within the past few years regarding censorship. It’s truly insane.
It would be a lot to explain to go through what they claimed was false so I will just leave these links here so people can come to their own conclusions.
We literally had to harass these “fact checking” agencies to even answer our emails. Facebook set it up so that anyone who wants to dispute their 3rd party fact checking ratings would have to email the “fact checking” organization to appeal. That to me is perfectly highlights the laziness and the systemic passing of the buck Facebook indirectly engaged in during all this. Ask yourself why would “fact checkers” ever have any incentive to reverse their decision? Luckily 2/3 of our attempts were successful after pointing out their errors and misunderstandings. That didn’t really work out with Snopes though which isn’t a surprise as they are known for their flagrant political bias. They were actually the most difficult to get a response from. I sent at least 10 different emails attempting to get them to acknowledge our request. I had to start labeling the emails “email attempt #7, email attempt #8” as if I was documenting the emails for legal action. Only at that point did they start to take our inquiries seriously. Its a totally broken system but hey Facebook doesn’t care, in the public eye they are ‘cleaning up’ their site while page owners like myself had their life work taken away from us while enduring endless hours of “the run around” trying to rectify their soulless censorship.
I think issues like CGI manipulation are concerning but in my opinion nothing is more concerning to me than the shameless censorship that these social media companies have engaged in the past 6 months. At least with alt/indy media we could bring attention to the issues of possible CGI manipulation or deep fakes to get those cards on the table as red flags to be mindful of but if we don’t have an audience we can’t even do that effectively anymore. I think like any other media publication, even the small guys are susceptible to manipulation whether it be by their own doing or simply by being persuaded by what comes with mainstream media influence and dollars. Its like this; the small guys need clicks to stay afloat, so some organizations have incentive to bend the truth, exaggerate and sensationalize. But mostly the smaller outlets are in this business because they care about the topics they are covering and most remain true and authentic to the cause. However the large media publications incentives are much more nefarious in my opinion. If they are being funded by ad dollars from big pharma, big oil or any of the other giant and bloated industries why would they ever cover certain topics that challenge those industries narratives or demonize their practices? There are also some bigger publications that aren’t quite mainstream (think Vox, Alternet, Buzzfeed) but don’t fall into the alt/indy media context either. Those outlets usually get bought up by bigger multinational corporations (think Vice.com) and maintain their deceptive independent stature while repeating mainstream media narratives and biases. I think the best strategy the average news consumer can take is to ask themselves is what incentives do these news outlets have to lie? Follow the money and look at who owns them. That will speak volumes.
As far as the Rolling Stone article… ugh, it’s complicated. Before I interviewed with Rolling Stone I was told by colleagues that the writer/journalist Matt Taibbi who was interviewing me was on our side and he wanted to hear the full story so he could represent our point of view. That was about half correct. After several conversations with Taibbi he told me that I was going to be the lead focus of the article and he would be reaching out to Facebook, Google and Twitter for more answers. So when the article finally publishes it turns out that I wasn’t the lead focus of the story. Another gentleman by the name of James Reader was. James also had his FB and Twitter pages/accounts removed that same day (10.11.18) during the purge. His site is ReverbPress.com. I have nothing against James but this did confuse me a bit until I realized that A.) Reverb Press were progressives that leaned left and B.) the owner of Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner is a devout Democrat and Rolling Stone endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. So it started to make sense. Why would they want a political atheist/anarchist to be the poster boy for this important article on their site/in their magazine? No big deal. I wasn’t really upset, it was still cool to be featured in Rolling Stone and have my picture in the magazine. I personally wasn’t exactly thrilled how Taibbi framed me as “fringe,” “controversial” and basically a conspiracy kook although he did say I was ” one of the most extensive recorders of law-enforcement misbehavior in America” which was nice. I guess I should have known. Taibbi was very friendly and understanding with me on the phone during the interviews but alas Rolling Stone, with what little influence they still have, didn’t want to be seen as siding with someone who questions the “efficacy of vaccines” or questions the legitimacy of the State. To me that is pandering to the normies and the mainstream and NOT telling the full story but instead using labels and trigger words to evoke negative connotations. There were also a few random errors in the article too such as they claimed that TFTP was from Los Angeles even though I never said that and even though I had a separate call with a “fact checker” from Rolling Stone that I specifically said I lived in Sacramento, California at least twice.Like I said, I am still grateful. It was just a bit disappointing. You want to share something of this magnitude with friends and family but not when you are being called a “fringe” kook by a national publication. Here is the article though.
I actually will send you a screenshot of what I would say to Zuckerberg if I could. I wrote this a few days after the purge and I was still fired up.
Well we are still plugging away at TFTP. It’s only basically 3 of us now. Matt our Editor in Chief and main writer, myself doing all the social media posting/scheduling and the memes with help from Johnny Liberty. It’s been quite the ride but we aren’t ready to give up and we are hoping to accumulate enough capital to bring back a couple of our writers. Its not about the money for us but the money does help obviously. If it was about money we would have quit a few years ago when things started to get really bad as far as ad revenue goes. We just want to employ hard working journalists and activists to do that full time instead of having to work some shitty job they don’t really like. In some ways though this purge has been a good thing. It has opened a lot of doors for us. It has created new allies and partnerships, increased our brand exposure by getting media attention and brought more speaking opportunities and interviews. It’s a bitter pill to swallow losing millions of fans and 6 years of work but it’s important to try to look at the positive as well. We are in this for the long fight and as I’ve said a few times now… they can delete us but they can’t stop us.
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So there you have it. Censored by the two major platforms, and maligned by the mainstream, The Free Thought Project soldiers on. Anyone from Facebook or Twitter is welcome to contact me about their decision, obviously, but right now, it seems as though Jason, Matt, and the FTP crew threatened something they wanted maintained, and they declared war. I’ll be contacting other censored pages as well, so if there’s one you want me to interview, tag them in the comments or replies wherever I post this, to see if we can set that up. My site, and myself, are going to be unflinching enemies to censorship, and that’s exactly what this is. There would never have been a need to break Facebook’s “recidivism policy” if they hadn’t have lied about their TOS so they could ban hundreds of pages violating none of them. Yet here we are.
And isn’t it amusing that they use that term… “recidivism”. It’s almost an admission that they’re prosecuting thoughtcrime with a corporate kangaroo court, unthinking and unfeeling… just serving the interests of whoever pulls the strings. And hey… given that Matt Agorist already reported on the “Government to Facebook Pipeline”, it definitely wouldn’t surprise me if those directly pulling strings were involved with the state. He wrote:
It is a telltale sign of a corrupt industry or company when they create a revolving door between themselves and the state. Just like Monsanto has former employees on the Supreme Court and Pharmaceutical industry insiders move back and fourth from the FDA to their companies, we found that Facebook is doing the same thing.
He went on to detail eight government officials, from medium to high position in the US government, who all just-so-happen to be working for Facebook now. Also, user Anarchitext on YouTube has a great vid on how Facebook got some of its funding, as well, from CIA venture-capital firm Keyhole, and she also briefly discussed the pipeline referenced above.
What I am asserting is that Facebook, whether by purpose or accident, has settled into the role of being the government’s bitch, and seems all too happy to transfer that same role to all of its users. A select minority of users are standing up against it, however, and it’s those people who deserve some thanks for their service. The Free Thought Project has been invaluable in my journey to understanding how things really work, and the fact they’ve been censored in this magnitude speaks volumes about the state, who no longer needs to conduct these operations in private, behind closed doors, and can simply unperson someone who does not share their views. Whether intentional or not, Facebook and Twitter have declared themselves enemies of anyone who wants to think independently.
That’s one reason I’m glad to have my site, so that no matter what they do, I cannot be stopped. It’s also why, when people in the so-called “anarchist” and “libertarian” camps cry foul on me calling these companies out on this sort of thing because “they’re a private company”, I take strong issue with that… there’s nothing private about a company staffed and funded, even partially, by the state, to serve as a propaganda platform, crush dissent, and collect more than enough info about all of us to bring the world to its knees, should we not have the spine to use our superior numbers against them.
Let this serve as a cautionary tale – Big Social is an industry, and you ain’t in it. Step out of line, and they’ll remind you of it, using the language of criminality to describe your actions, no matter how victimless. So the only way out is through. Break down their walls. Never cease persisting. And smash the system before it smashes you…
Before you have no voice left with which to speak.
So this interview took days of research and discussion to properly conduct, and hours to write. However, as yet, I have not profited from this site. Hell, I haven’t even gotten half minimum wage. You can help change that.
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