Why isn’t Facebook taking Yellow Vests Canada seriously?

A screenshot of the Yellow Vests Canada Facebook page.

In January, Facebook started removing some content from the main Yellow Vests Canada page after the company was made aware of comments calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be killed. At the time, a Facebook spokesperson told Global News it was taking action to mitigate any “real-world harm” that may stem from activity on the platform.

“We do not tolerate harassment on Facebook, and it’s our aim to prevent any potential real-world harm that may be related to content on our platform,” the spokesperson said. “That’s why we remove content, disable accounts and use a combination of technology, reports from our community and human review to enforce our policies.”

But recent activity on the Yellow Vests Canada page indicates that these efforts are falling short. And as Canada’s federal election fast approaches ⁠— with all the fierce rhetoric that the campaign is sure to elicit ⁠— real-world consequences, which are already in evidence, could quickly pile up.

In recent weeks and months, yellow vest demonstrations across Canada have frequently attracted far-right extremists and hate groups. In numerous cases, yellow vest members have faced criminal charges for threats they posted on Facebook, while others have been arrested and found to be in possession of weapons and explosives after leaving threatening posts on the social media platform.

Violence continues to be a problem at rallies organized and attended by the yellow vest, thrusting communities like Hamilton onto the “front line” of extremist activity in the region. On any given weekend, white nationalist figures and far-right groups like the Canadian Nationalist Party, Soldiers of Odin and Wolves of Odin, Proud Boys and Northern Guard can be seen marching alongside demonstrators in yellow vests — and in many instances, engaging in acts of hate and violence.

According to activists who monitor the yellow vest movement, none of this would be possible without Facebook.

In the process of building social networks and connections to friends, Facebook has also helped create networks of hate and, potentially, new pathways to extremism in Canada.

“It’s their primary tool for networking and advertising events,” one of the operators of the Twitter account Yellow Vests Exposed, which monitors incidents of hate and violence posted to social media by yellow vest protesters, told National Observer. “Without Facebook there would be no yellow vest movement in Canada.”

Extremism is a feature, not a bug

Members of the yellow vest movement are, in many ways, using Facebook exactly as it was meant to be used. They’ve created anextensive network of local and national chapters under Facebook’s “groups” feature, and created affiliated Facebook pages for many of those groups. They also use Facebook’s “events” feature to organize and advertise events across Canada.

This is what Facebook was designed for — and that’s why it’s so alarming to see what the platform has enabled in the case of Canada’s yellow vest movement. In the process of building social networks and connections to friends, Facebook has also helped create networks of hate and, potentially, new pathways to extremism.

The connection between the yellow vests’ online activity and the mounting real-world consequences couldn’t be clearer. MORE


What 35,000 political ads on Facebook reveal about Canada’s election-year message battle

More Frack Quakes Rattle Alberta, Cause Deaths in China

Regulator shuts down operations near Red Deer. Thousands protest in Sichuan.

Gail Atkinson
Seismic hazard expert Gail Atkinson on dangerous earthquakes triggered by fracking: ‘It is not just happening in Western Canada. It can happen anywhere.’

On Monday Albertans living around the oil-service city of Red Deer, got an early morning wake-up call – a 4.6 earthquake.

Vesta Energy, a privately owned oil and gas company, halted its fracking operations west of the city after the company most likely triggered the quake that temporarily shut down power to nearly 5,000 residents.

It was one of the largest recorded tremors ever to shake central Alberta.

A day later, Mar. 5, the provincial energy regulator ordered the company to suspend fracking operations and report all seismic data for the last three months.

The order announced the regulator was suspending operations at the well site “in order to protect the public and the environment.” Among the harms fracking induced earthquakes can cause are “adverse effects to the environment, public safety and property damage and/or loss,” said the order. MORE

Climate concerns rise as clock ticks for aging reactors

Units 2 and 2 of Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station. Photo credit: Exelon Nuclear/Flickr
Exelon Corp.’s Peach Bottom Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania. Exelon Nuclear/Flickr

PEACH BOTTOM, Pa. — As younger nuclear reactors across the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest are struggling to keep their own lights on amid a surge of cheap gas, one Pennsylvania plant is fighting a much more traditional source of extinction: old age.

Located in southeastern Pennsylvania near the Maryland border, the Peach Bottom Nuclear Generating Station wants to continue churning out electricity, much as it has done for the past 45 years.

To do so, its owner, Exelon Corp., needs to secure a federal license extension for its two reactors to enable the plant to operate out to 80 years. Without the extension, the plant will run up against a 60-year approval in 2033 and 2034, much like the nearly 100 other reactors across the country.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval would represent an unprecedented length of time for a commercial plant to operate — a fact that has some critics warning about the public safety implications of an aging facility originally licensed to run for half that time.

Also looming large over the fate of the nearly 2,800-megawatt plant are growing climate implications.

Any meaningful national effort to curb the electric sector’s carbon emissions will likely need a lot of the carbon-free power produced by the existing nuclear fleet, already under economic attack from cheap natural gas, waning demand and cratering costs for renewables.

With limited new nuclear on the immediate horizon, some believe pushing the age of current reactors may be the needed bridge to a zero-carbon energy future. MORE