In a mass crack-down on Syrian and Lebanese journalism today, Facebook has closed down several news-media pages, leaving millions of followers confused and perturbed.
Among the pages shut down are the Syrian television stations Sama TV, its sister channel Addounia TV, Syrian News Channel, Alikhbaria, as well as the Lebanese Al Mayadeen, based in Beirut and known as the 'Al Jazeera of the Arab world'. Most of the pages were non-government organisations, privately owned and funded.
The sudden shut down has been attributed by followers to 'mass reports' in which large groups of Facebook users with opposing views target the pages they want censored. Often these movements are run by 'paid trolls' who have been known to be funded by entities associated with governments or corporations.
In these cases, the reports are usually not related to violations of Facebook's community standards. Instead their purpose is to suppress free speech as well as damage the organisations financially, as they rely on social media outlets for revenue.
Sadly, millions of people around the world who rely on these pages for breaking news have now been left in the dark.