A leading digital rights organization on Tuesday said that Facebook was actively blocking its users from sharing a link to a web page critical of Amazon that labels its internet-connected home security products—namely, Ring doorbell cameras—a threat to “privacy, civil liberties, and security”.
Gizmodo independently confirmed that Facebook has blocked the URL, investigateamazon.com. At the time of writing, Facebook users who attempt to share the link receive a message in response informing them the page’s content “goes against” Facebook’s “Community Standards.”
Created by the digital rights group Fight for the Future, the page contains links to several news reports about Amazon’s home surveillance company Ring and its close partnerships with more than 600 police agencies across the U.S.
“Amazon’s ever-expanding surveillance empire threatens our privacy and civil liberties, especially in brown and black communities already vulnerable to racial profiling and heightened surveillance,” it says.
The page asks users to sign a letter addressed to members of Congress, urging them to host public hearings with Amazon Ring CEO Jamie Sminoff to answer questions about what the group calls a nationwide surveillance network that threatens Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.
Facebook told Gizmodo it was still investigating to determine what occurred.
Fight for the Future’s deputy director, Evan Greer, sought to link the block to an aversion that, she professed, Facebook holds against “giant tech monopolies facing congressional scrutiny”.
“Whether this was intentional censorship, some technical glitch, or just a mistake made by an overworked human or robot, the end result is the same,” she said, “the campaign page that we made to give people a voice in their democracy is being blocked by a Silicon Valley giant.”
Added Greer: “This underscores the fundamental danger of having a tiny handful of companies with so much power. This is why we need lawmakers to investigate and take meaningful action to rein in Big Tech companies like Facebook and Amazon.”
The Intercept reported on Tuesday that Ring had “crafted plans” at one point to use facial recognition to generate “watch lists” of “suspicious” individuals captured by its security cameras, citing internal company records. A Ring spokesperson told the Intercept the watch-list feature was not in development and that Ring products do not use facial recognition.
The Intercept previously reported that employees of Ring’s research division—including some working out of its Ukraine offices, where BuzzFeed reported Ring once had a “head of face recognition research” on staff—had “virtually unfettered access” to a shared Amazon server “containing every video created by every Ring camera around the world.”
Ring has already fallen under congressional scrutiny. Five Democratic U.S. senators wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last week airing concerns regarding a now-patched security vulnerabilities and the sharing of footage with Ring’s research and development teams overseas.
“If hackers or foreign actors were to gain access to this data, it would not only threaten the privacy and safety of the impacted Americans; it could also threaten U.S. national security,” the letter read.
This is a developing story.