**UPDATED: Facebook has republished Cowspiracy's page as of August 28**
Facebook has deleted the page for vegan documentary Cowspiracy as part of an apparent purge of 'alternative health' outlets - prompting some activists to speculate that factions of the animal agriculture lobby could have instigated the crackdown.
The team behind the page, which was removed on June 29, appealed the decision to delete it on July 6 - believing its disappearance was the result of an algorithm or technical glitch.
A spokesperson for AUM Films - the production company behind Cowspiracy - revealed to Plant Based News that AUM sent 'numerous' emails to Facebook, asking for an explanation of the 'violation', but has 'received zero response, other than that the case was closed on August 11'.?
'Cautious to question intent'
AUM added that it is 'cautious to make any assumptions in regards to Facebook's intent', but claimed a long list of recently deleted pages appears to show a correlation, with organizations including 'Collectively Conscious', 'Natural Cures Not Medicine', and 'Organic Wellness' disappearing from the platform.
According to AUM: "We recognize that this compiled list only includes unpublished groups relating to our industry, but the quantity of removals over the last few months appears to be more than coincidence and quite possibly targeted.
"We also recognize that Facebook's reason for removing the Cowspiracy account may be completely unrelated, but its refusal to provide any sort of explanation is suspect in and of itself, and gives us no other recourse but to seek answers based on the information available to us."
While Facebook has not yet responded to AUM's requests for comment, it has published a number of press releases in recent months, relating to its crackdown on 'false news'. In July, the organization claimed transparency, saying its 'Community Standards have been publicly available for many years, and this year, for the first time, we published the more detailed internal guidelines used by our review teams to enforce them'.
But Facebook has also admitted that it doesn't share some specific information. For example, it will not disclose 'the number of strikes that leads to a temporary block or permanent suspension' in a bid to prevent people 'gaming the system'.
Some believe the lack of transparency around these policies makes them easy to exploit. Ryan Shapiro is President of Property of the People - a nonprofit organization including attorneys, activists, and scholars 'devoted to Governmental transparency'.
In a statement regarding the deletion of the pages, Shapiro says: "Though Facebook is fairly secretive about precisely what makes certain content so offensive it requires removal from the platform, content deemed to be 'violent', 'dangerous', or promoting 'terrorist activity' falls within that category. However, these designations are often vague and subjective, and this renders them open to abuse."
Silencing pro-vegan groups?
Government documentation acquired by Property of the People, via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, leads Shapiro to posit that Big Ag groups are 'aggressively monitoring and seeking to silence pro-vegan and pro-animal social media efforts'.
He cites collusion between the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the egg lobby in an attempt to 'ruin' plant-based startup JUST, when its egg-free mayonnaise was seen as a potential threat to egg farmers as an example of this, as well as attempts by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance to prevent plant-based companies from using Twitter handles containing the term 'clean meat'.
'Threatening corporate profit'
Shapiro's statement adds: "Because animal rights activists threaten corporate profits by exposing the horrors of factory farming and other forms of systemic animal exploitation, animal industry groups and their allies at the FBI have long sought to cast animal activists as terrorists.
"Indeed, largely as a result of heavy lobbying from industry, in 2004, the FBI classified the animal rights and environmental movements the number one domestic terror threat in the United States. This is despite the fact that neither of these movements has ever once physically injured a single person in this country.
"Big Ag and other animal industry groups have subsequently exploited this preposterous designation to marginalize animal activists whenever possible. It is entirely plausible that industry groups successfully pressured Facebook to remove Cowspiracy's page by falsely reporting Cowspiracy for alleged promotion of so-called animal rights terrorism."?
Cowspiracy inspired huge numbers of people to ditch animal products for the environment
Shapiro says his organization has obtained documents through FOIA requests revealing that 'the USDA’s Cattlemen's Beef Board and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association [have] identified Cowspiracy as a potential 'crisis', [and] were 'closely monitoring the social media conversations' about Cowspiracy, and strategized about how to counter Cowspiracy's social media influence'.
He also claims that the USDA’s National Pork Board 'monitored Cowspiracy's tweets, as well as those of celebrities endorsing the film'.?
Plant Based News contacted all three of the meat boards regarding this documentation - as well as the disappearance of Cowspiracy's page. At the time of going to press, only the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association had responded.
While a spokesperson admitted to 'regularly monitor[ing] social media for topics related to the beef industry' they added: "We have no knowledge of any changes to the Cowspiracy Facebook page. We recommend you contact Facebook directly with questions regarding them."
"While we don't know for sure that representatives of Big Ag conspired to have Facebook improperly remove Cowspiracy's page, we do know this is exactly the sort of underhanded tactic the factory farming lobby has been using to silence pro-animal speech online for years," says Shapiro.
"Perhaps the Ag groups didn't do this, but their extensive history of deception and sabotage makes them the obvious and most likely culprit."
Kip Andersen, who co-directed the film along with Keegan Kuhn, told PBN his focus is on resharing the information Cowspiracy's page published around animal agriculture and environmental damage. He said: "Regardless of how and who the instigators were that took the Cowspiracy page down, we will be unyielding in our quest for re-publication, for a liberated voice."?
Facebook has not yet responded to AUM's request for comment.