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The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

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NEWS: Facebook Blocks Kansas Reflector links and removes them from the platform

Editor in Chief of allegedly silenced Kansas nonprofit news publisher gives insight on the events that occurred
Graphic+made+by+Allison+Mayhew
Graphic made by Allison Mayhew

On Thursday, April 4, after the Kansas Reflector posted a column that was critical of Facebook, now known under the rebranded name Meta, removed every post made by the publisher on the platform. The news group saw four years of work — 6,000 articles, briefs and columns — along with every comment made by readers on the posts deleted from the social media application with no knowledge of whether they would get the media back. 

Andy Stone, the spokesperson for Facebook, has now denied that the flagging of the social media account was because of the critical column. However, there is so far no detailed explanation for the issue from the company. 

Current Editor In Chief of the Kansas Reflector, Sherman Smith, gave some insight into the little information that Facebook has given them about the situation. 

“It’s hard to say what their motivation is, in part because we don’t actually understand why it happened. The explanation that they provided was that it just happened to be a false alert about the domain for three separate domains. It’s an explanation that doesn’t make any sense to me, and it’s hard to say what about this particular article appeared to have triggered this across three different sites,” Smith said.

Soon after the posts were removed, anyone on the platform who had ever shared anything from the account received messages stating that the KS Reflector’s website was somehow a cybersecurity threat. Smith mentioned the impact that the temporary loss of the platform caused for the readers and the negligence that the company has shown in light of the events.  

“[Our readers] rely on us for accurate information. And so, they like to use meta platforms for that purpose,” Smith said. “It’s upsetting to me that they would ever hurt our readers in this way. It’s also upsetting to me that Facebook lied to our readers, and told them that we were a cybersecurity threat, somehow harmful, when in fact we are not. It’s upsetting that Facebook is unwilling to now notify those individuals and tell them that it was a mistake.” 

Smith also noted that the company’s reasoning for not sending out correction notifications for those who were fed misinformation about the publisher is less sufficient than it should be. This is because, according to Stone, they do not want the Reflector to write a story about the messages too. 

Moreover, on Friday, April 5, Meta reinstated the publisher’s account and all previous posts except for the column that was critical of Facebook. However, Smith noted that the disruption caused by the temporary loss of the social media platform was still significant for the KS Reflector, as it resulted in the alleged censorship of the publisher, somewhat tainted their reputation and caused them to alter their focus from other essential news to the issue. 

“In that moment, we had to step away to figure out what was happening with Facebook, to get answers from them and to write about it, and that’s disruption that can never be recovered,” Smith said.

Here is the link to Smith’s latest story on the events: Kansas Reflector

About the Contributor
Elliot Skillman
Elliot Skillman, Assistant Copy Editor
Elliot Skillman is a junior and reporter for the Free Press. Outside of journalism he is involved in NHS, art club, and wind ensemble. He enjoys traveling and listening to music.
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