On May 2, 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered to the USSR’s Red Army after a bloody and epic clash now known as the Battle of Berlin. Not only did the Soviet Union face the Nazi hordes single-handedly in this final struggle, but it also lost approximately 26 million citizens throughout World War II. However, this unimaginable sacrifice was not in vain; the vast majority of Nazi deaths during the war took place at the hands of the tenacious Red Army, whose brave soldiers also liberated several infamous Nazi death camps, including Auschwitz. As Geoffrey Roberts wrote in the Irish Examiner, “We must remember that without the efforts of the Red Army, the Nazis would have been able to complete their attempted genocide of Europe’s Jews.”
To commemorate this historic victory against fascism, I decided to post a colorized World War II photograph as my Facebook “profile cover.” The image in question depicts a Red Army soldier flying the Soviet flag on the roof of the German Reichstag building after the aforementioned Battle of Berlin. No words or links were included — simply the iconic image. Mere minutes after posting, I received a message from Facebook support. “Your post goes against our Community Standards on dangerous individuals and organizations,” it read. “No one else can see your post. We have these standards to prevent and disrupt offline harm.”
I was baffled. The message included the option to “disagree” with the decision, and I did so. My image had indeed vanished, and I felt compelled to inform my Facebook audience of this strange incident. Accompanying a screenshot of the initial message from support, I wrote, “Apparently it violates Facebook’s rules to post a historic photograph of brave soldiers defeating the Nazis.” This post received some attention — primarily being met with surprise and confusion. A libertarian friend responded with the following, which I believe summarized the incident well:
“Is that the photo of the Red Army in Berlin in 45? It’s a shame how Google and Facebook try to control our conversations. I probably disagree with most of your politics, but it’s criminal that [Facebook] would rob people of engaging in thoughtful debate and discussion around issues.”
After some additional online interactions, I discovered that another user had their photograph censored as well. Only this time it was a different photograph of the same event. Apparently, the removal of my image was no accident; it now appeared to be a coordinated and systematic effort. For what purpose, it was anyone’s guess. But these speculations were confirmed five days later when I received a final message from Facebook support that read, “We confirmed your post didn’t follow the Community Standards. We reviewed your post again and it doesn’t follow our Community Standards.”
This case is still an enigma, but it appears that Facebook is consciously censoring a 75-year-old photograph that portrays an important historical event and, though technically taken during wartime, contains absolutely no depictions of violence whatsoever. My only guess is that this blatant censorship is a vestige of the failed Russiagate conspiracy theory that enthralled MSNBC viewers for the better part of three years. Nevertheless, on this notable anniversary, history will not be whitewashed, despite the best efforts of tech billionaires and their ubiquitous social media empires. Take to heart this simple reminder from Ishaan Tharoor in the Washington Post: “Don’t forget how the Soviet Union saved the world from Hitler.”
Update (May 9, 2020) — An additional Facebook user contacted me after this article was initially published (see screenshot below).