Online news website blocked on Facebook

CMFR/Philippines – The online social networking site Facebook has disallowed the sharing of links of a news website in the Philippines since December 2013 for allegedly being “abusive” and “unsafe”. The news website’s editor  denied the allegation and told CMFR she doesn’t know who reported the website content as abusive,  and why.

Noemi Lardizabal-Dado, features editor of Philippine Online Chronicles (POC), told CMFR last 18 January 2014 that the news site was blocked on Facebook after a user flagged their content as “abusive.”

“(This is) One way to censor our articles,” Lardizabal-Dado said on Twitter, another online social medium.

CMFR confirmed that links to the POC site cannot be shared on Facebook. A prompt warns that  “The content you are trying to share includes a link that our security systems detected to be unsafe”.

Facebook blocking links from thepoc.net – 18 January 2014, 12:45 a.m.

Facebook blocking links from thepoc.net – 18 January 2014, 12:45 a.m.

Lardizabal-Dado told CMFR that a previous prompt  also tagged the site as abusive. She said she first noticed the prompt on 10 December 2013 and immediately reported it to Facebook.

According to Facebook’s infographic, “Reporting Guide: What Happens When You Report Something?”, when a site is blocked for abusive content, a user must have first reported the content as spam or as sexually explicit.

The report goes to Facebook’s Abusive Content Team, which checks the content against Facebook’s Community Standards. The “reportee” would then be warned, blocked and allowed to appeal the decision “in some cases”.

Lardizabal-Dado said  she had “no idea” who could have reported the site’s content as abusive. She added they also checked their servers for malware, pointing out that a site safety checker has tagged POC’s website as safe.

In September 2013, CMFR reported a similar incident involving the website of the Manila-based daily newspaper Manila Standard Today (MST). The paper’s online articles could not be shared on Facebook before it almost shut down due to a barrage of bogus page-requests, in a “distributed denial of service” (DDoS).

The hackers also exploited vulnerabilities of the MST’s content management system (WordPress) to redirect requests for news reports and opinion articles to a porn site, which resulted in Google and Facebook’s marking the web-pages as spam and banning the links from being shared.

An MST columnist said that the Presidential Communications Group could have been behind the cyber-attack. But a presidential spokesperson denied the claim.