An Air Force veteran who lost three limbs in the Iraq war is concerned about his livelihood after Facebook shut down pages of his coffee business and a political commentary website.
Brian Kolfage was severely injured in combat on Sept. 11, 2004, losing both legs and his right arm when an enemy rocket hit the Balad Air Base north of Baghdad. “I’m the most severely wounded U.S. Airman to survive,” he said in an Oct. 11 article.
After retiring from the military, Kolfage founded a coffee company, called Military Grade Coffee. He also started to work with conservative columnist and author John Hawkins—the founder of the political commentary site RightWingNews.com.
But Kolfage refuses political categorization. “I’m not a ‘conservative,’ I’m not a ‘liberal.’ I’m an American, with deep beliefs in what our country stands for,” he said.
Former Democrat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords called Kolfage her friend and inspiration as she was recovering from a severe shooting injury. He even served on her veteran advisory committee, he said.
Right Wing News
Starting this year, Kolfage took over the management of the Right Wing News (RWN) Facebook page from Hawkins, which was followed by more than 3.1 million people.
In March, he set up the RWNOfficial.com conservative political news and commentary website, and used the RWN and other Facebook pages to promote content from the site.
A cursory review of the site showed headlines in sensational tone and articles written as a mix of news and commentary.
To satisfy Facebook’s policies against “fake news,” Kolfage had to get a special authorization from Facebook to post political content. He dutifully provided pictures of his passport, his driver’s license, his home address, and set up a two-step account authentication. Still, his personal account was repeatedly disabled and then enabled again after he complained.
Two RWN articles were flagged for misleading headlines but in both cases, the issue was addressed and the complaints overturned, he told The Epoch Times in a phone call.
As Facebook constantly evolves its content policies, Kolfage tried to keep his Facebook pages in compliance. He repeatedly reached out to his contact at Facebook, Katie Harbath, to set up a call with Facebook personnel to get some answers about the tightening regulations.
He spent over $300,000 to promote RWN articles on Facebook and managed to arrange a webinar with Harbath, scheduled on Oct. 3. A weak before, however, she canceled.
On Oct. 11, all three Kolfage’s pages were shut down. Not just the ones with political content, but also one page for his coffee business with over 200,000 fans.
We have some updated family photos to share!
“My income as a father and husband is threatened,” he said.
About four pages set up by individual RWN writers were taken down too.
The official explanation was that, ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, Facebook removed “559 pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
These actors, Facebook stated, were posting political content, but the company was clear it wasn’t the content that got them removed, noting “the ‘news’ stories or opinions these accounts and Pages share are often indistinguishable from legitimate political debate.”
Instead, it was the “behavior.” These users, the company stated, promoted their content “using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names” and/or posted “in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period” and/or used “networks of accounts or Pages working to mislead others about who they are, and what they are doing” and/or directed users to “ad farms,” that is sites that don’t provide promised content and lure users to pages filled with ads.
Kolfage maintains that nothing of this applied to his business.
“We did run multiple Facebook pages; Facebook allows businesses to have more than one page, and we did own them and had them for years,” he said. “We were not ‘spamming,’ we were not using fake accounts, we were not doing anything ‘wrong’ … except we supported President [Donald] Trump, and apparently that’s not allowed.”
Facebook didn’t respond to a request for a comment.
“Never once did Facebook come to us to say there was any issue with Right Wing News or our other pages. Never,” Kolfage said. “But they sure loved taking our money.”
Kolfage believes Facebook targeted him for his political views.
“Tech giants have been implementing their own bias into business, blatantly attacking anyone who has a view that differs from theirs,” he said.
Former senior Facebook engineer Brian Amerige previously told The Epoch Times he didn’t see the company intentionally filtering conservative perspectives. He acknowledged, though, that there is an entrenched leftist culture within the company that may reflect in its content policing.
“Facebook’s community standards are chaotically, almost randomly enforced with escalations and occasional reversals happening when the screw-ups are prominent enough to cause media attention,” he wrote in an Oct. 17 Facebook post.
At least two left-leaning Facebook pages were also part of the Oct. 11 purge, according to The New York Times. Both had fewer than a million followers.
Kolfage intends to fight Facebook to get his pages back and is asking people to support him at Fight4FreeSpeech.com. He lawyered up too and is looking into whether Facebook acted illegally by moving against him.
“They’re going to learn that they’re not untouchable,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated when was Brian Kolfage’s webinar with Facebook cancelled. It was on or around Sept. 27. The Epoch Times regrets the error.
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