Facebook doesn’t want you to know that some migrant children have been forcibly drugged

Looking out through a fence
Fréa Lockley

Investigative journalists at Reveal uncovered a story showing that migrant children in the US have reportedly been forcibly drugged. The story was based on legal documents. But Facebook tried to block the spread of the story, claiming the content was political and not journalistic.

Children “injected with medications that make them dizzy, listless, obese and even incapacitated”

On 20 June, Reveal reported:

President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy is creating a zombie army of children forcibly injected with medications that make them dizzy, listless, obese and even incapacitated, according to legal filings that show immigrant children in U.S. custody subdued with powerful psychiatric drugs.

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And it posted a summary of the story in a series of tweets:

These clearly backed up the fact that the story was based on legal documents:

Reveal also contacted experts:

Trump’s latest executive order claims children will no longer be separated from their parents. But, there’s no clarity about what happens to the existing detained children. As the Guardian reported:

It is unclear what will happen to the children already separated… Some critics have suggested the policy of separation may have already “orphaned” a number of children from their parents.

Censored?

In short, Reveal‘s report adds to the concerns about both the conditions these children are held in and their mental distress. But it met resistance from Facebook, which claimed the story couldn’t be boosted because it contained “political content”. Reveal was quick to question this decision:

ProPublica, another investigative journalism site, supported them:

It also looks like many online media outlets are facing similar issues.

The Reveal story has now been widely covered, which settles any arguments levelled against it based on reliability. But Reveal‘s Andrew Donohue praised people’s scepticism nonetheless:

And Reveal is keeping up its important work, releasing a harrowing audio recording from one of the drugged children:

Facebook responds

Responding to this case, Facebook’s Rob Goldman clarified that the issue was Reveal trying to boost its post so more people saw it, and highlighted Facebook’s apparent push for greater ‘political transparency‘:

But as one commentator put it:

https://twitter.com/quinnraymond/status/1009594614767026177

Don’t silence us!

Companies, meanwhile, are profiting from the Trump-made crisis. According to Reveal, this includes the centre where the alleged abuse took place:

Shiloh has contracted to house immigrant children since 2013. Last year, the most lucrative yet under its agreement, Shiloh collected $5.6 million.

And we need to hear the truth. But Facebook’s dominant role in the digital news landscape is problematic.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg – who is now “the richest he’s ever been” – faced questions recently in the US and Europe over Facebook’s continued growth and data mismanagement. But far from providing answers, Zuckerberg’s responses created more questions. As the Guardian reported:

There is so much we don’t know about Facebook. We know we have a corporate monopoly that has repeated serious violations that are threatening our democracy. We don’t know how their algorithm treats news organizations or content producers.

Apparent attempts to stifle Reveal’s story are deeply concerning. Every day, it looks increasingly likely that we’re walking into a dangerously Orwellian future. And the only way to counter this is to keep sharing information. Because it’s likely that the global outrage against Trump’s policy played a part in his latest executive order.

So when Facebook resists the spread of stories about the horrors faced by detained children, we need to take a stand. Because collectively, we do have a voice. And it’s a powerful voice, which we need to use to shout ‘don’t silence us’.

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Featured image via Pexels

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