geybulla1_Mohammed TalateneAnadolu AgencyGetty Images_facebookgaza Mohammed Talatene/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Facebook Is Failing Journalists

The travails of a prominent Azerbaijani news outlet illustrate digital platforms’ vital role in the news ecosystems of authoritarian countries – and platforms’ carelessness about their responsibility. In Azerbaijan, Facebook is effectively abetting government repression.

ISTANBUL – On January 29, 2018, the prominent Berlin-based Azerbaijani news site Meydan TV had its Facebook page hacked for the first time. The attackers removed all admin accounts, deleted all content, and removed nearly 100,000 followers.

The next hack took place on May 10, 2019. This time, all of the content on Meydan TV’s Russian-language Facebook page was removed, along with two weeks’ worth of content on the site’s Azerbaijani Facebook page. The third hack, which occurred on June 18, 2020, resulted in Meydan TV losing all of its Azerbaijani-language Facebook content going back to 2018.

Following these attacks, Meydan TV tried in vain to restore the removed content. But repeated attempts to communicate with Facebook were met with an automated response. Eventually, owing to third-party intervention by Access Now’s Digital Security Helpline, executives connected with a Facebook representative, who could not even provide them with clear answers about the hacks or share any details regarding the perpetrators’ identity. “These attacks prevented us from doing our job,” Meydan TV head Matt Kasper told me.

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