Meta has been accused of censoring newspapers and reports that are critical of the company

Meta faced criticism for blocking a newspaper’s critical report about it on Facebook and other social media platforms for several hours. The backlash intensified when it appeared that Meta also blocked links to the website of an independent journalist who republished the report.

The issue started on Thursday morning when users noticed that all links to the non-profit newspaper the Kansas Reflector were flagged as a cybersecurity threat and their posts were removed. After about seven hours, most of the links were restored, except for one column that had criticized Facebook and accused it of suppressing posts related to climate change.

Meta apologized to the Reflector and its readers, with communications chief Andy Stone calling it “an error that had nothing to do with the Reflector’s recent criticism of Meta.”

However, on Friday, users trying to share the column on Facebook, Instagram, or Threads received a warning that it violated community guidelines. This raised suspicions for Marisa Kabas, an independent journalist in New York, who asked the Reflector for permission to publish the column on her website, the Handbasket.

“I thought it would be a cool experiment,” Kabas told CNN on Friday. She published the story on her site around 1 pm ET “in an attempt to sidestep Meta’s censorship,” as she wrote in a preface to the column.

She then posted her article on Threads. “A couple of minutes later, I received an alert that it had been flagged and removed for malicious content,” Kabas told CNN.

Kabas’s post was banned from all Meta platforms for several hours on Friday. Additionally, she stated that for about two hours, all links to her site were blocked. However, by late afternoon Friday, all her links were restored. In a Threads post on Friday, Stone explained that the blocked links were “due to a security error” that also mistakenly blocked links to The Handbasket and the nonprofit news aggregator site News From The States.

“The incorrectly applied blocks have now been lifted,” he wrote. “This is undoubtedly frustrating, and we sincerely apologize to all who have been impacted.”

Stone did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for further details about the security concern.

Instagram head Adam Mosseri commented in a Threads post on Friday, saying, “Sounds like a bug with our share scraper or possibly that the domain is getting caught up in a safety measure by mistake. We certainly don’t block links to articles that are critical about us … I’ll talk to the team now, though, and chase down the bug so we can get it fixed ASAP.”

Sherman Smith, the editor-in-chief of the Kansas Reflector, wrote on Friday that Stone “wouldn’t elaborate on how the mistake happened and said there would be no further explanation.”

Kabas expressed that the damage had already been done because the articles had already been flagged as malicious. “That’s a big problem because that undermines our trust,” she said.

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