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Remember when we started talking about Facebook gaining a worrying power to censor the news?
>Facebook has censored a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist for publishing a series of posts alleging corruption by the prime minister of Malta and his associates. Matthew Caruana Galizia, a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ award-winning Panama Papers team, was temporarily locked out of his Facebook account over four posts, which were deleted for violating the social network’s community standards.
>“For me, this process was enlightening because I realised how crippling and punitive this block is for a journalist,” Caruana Galizia told the Guardian by email.
>The posts, which were written in Maltese, contained allegations of wrongdoing by prime minister Joseph Muscat, his chief of staff Keith Schembri, and minister of energy Konrad Mizzi. Each post included images of documents from the Panama Papers leak. The censorship of Caruana Galizia comes amid considerable political turmoil and intrigue in the Mediterranean island nation, where a snap election is scheduled for 3 June. It also again raises concerns over Facebook’s incredible power to disseminate – or block – news and information.
>On 7 May, Matthew Caruana Galizia, who is the son of Daphne Caruana Galizia, began publishing his own reporting on offshore companies and Maltese political figures on his Facebook page, using the hashtags #FattiKorrotti and #CorruptionFacts. The posts include scans of documents from the Panama Papers, including passports, bank statements, and letters, as well as Caruana Galizia’s explanation of their meaning.
>On Tuesday 16 May, Caruana Galizia was locked out of his account for 24 hours. Several #FattiKorrotti posts were deleted.
>The deletions raise questions about how Facebook moderates journalism. In 2016, the social media site ignited a global controversy when it censored an iconic Vietnam war photograph of a naked child fleeing a Napalm attack. Facebook initially defended its decision, going so far as to delete a post by the Norwegian prime minister, because it was consistent with its policy barring nudity. Facebook subsequently amended its policy, announcing that it would allow people to publish material that would otherwise violate its standards if it was found to be “newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest”.
>Documents related to alleged wrongdoing by public officials in the weeks before an election are in the public interest, and they have certainly been deemed newsworthy by the Maltese press, which has followed Caruana Galizia’s lead in reporting on them. “It’s important that journalists can publish information that is in the public interest,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “We are investigating these posts and have spoken with Mr Caruana Galizia today so that he can publish what he needs to, without including unnecessary private details that could present safety risks. If we find that we have made errors, we will correct them.”
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