Facebook Censors Story of a Persecuted Afghan Girl From a Conference It Helped Pay For
Just how bizarre is corporate cancel culture? The Stream’s John Zmirak spoke to Marilis Pineiro, Legislative and Diplomatic Liaison of the Vulnerable People Project, a pro-life and human rights group founded by Jason Jones, about the VPP’s recent experiences with an apparently schizophrenic Facebook.
John Zmirak: Please explain the Vulnerable People Project, if you would.
Marilis Pineiro: VPP’s mission is to defend the vulnerable from violence by promoting human dignity and inspiring solidarity. As a human rights, non-profit organization, VPP advocates for the vulnerable. It responds to false humanitarianism, and narrow or incomplete visions of human dignity. VPP stands with the most vulnerable and persecuted peoples in the world during times of war, persecution, chaos, and genocide.
When Biden Cut and Ran
What work are you doing in Afghanistan among those abandoned when Biden cut and ran from the country?
VPP has many projects in place in Afghanistan. Primarily, my job entails working to evacuate and resettle people with SIVs (Special Immigrant Visas). Those are Afghan allies of outside countries (such as the U.S.), and members of persecuted religious and ethnic groups whose lives are in danger. I also build relationships with various countries to get SIV visas for the deserving, and I advocate and lobby with government officials.
In Afghanistan, the Vulnerable People Project has also
- Built and opened a women’s health clinic.
- Built a system that provides fresh potable water to multiple villages.
- Secured several schools so children of threatened groups can study safely.
- Provided safehouses for those in need of resettlement.
- Paid for medical care, surgeries, and even funerals.
Just this winter, we delivered over 500,000 meals to Afghan individuals and families. Our numbers are exponentially higher if you include all the meals we have delivered in the past. Our goal is to deliver 1 million meals before the end of winter.
Fighting for Religious Freedom
VPP took part in a recent religious freedom conference. Please tell me about the conference, and what VPP presented there.
That was the International Religious Freedom Summit (IRF). It is a gathering of organizations from all over the world and varying faith backgrounds which advocate for religious liberty. The IRF was moved by the story of a Arizo, a young Afghan woman who had two friends murdered by extremists, before we managed to rescue her from that country. Arizo wrote up her experiences, and we submitted that to IRF. The IRF made a short but beautiful film telling her story, and it was shown on the afternoon of the first day of the IRF Summit (Jan. 31, 2023).
Did you publicize the film?
I posted it on my Instagram (@exnunontherun) along with VPP’s Instagram (@thevulnerablepeopleproject). Instagram is owned by Meta, Facebook’s parent company.
Facebook’s Parent Company Censors … Itself
When you posted the film, what happened?
It was immediately flagged, and plastered with various “fact-checker” screens that tried to discredit it and discourage people from watching it. There is now a cover on the video censoring it, claiming it is “False Information” as it was “reviewed by independent fact-checkers in another post.”
A video like this would typically play right away. But because of this censorship, the viewer needs to click “See Post” to watch it. This significantly decreases plays of the video, which then significantly decreases the number of views it gets and messes up the algorithm.
When I dug deeper, Instagram indicated that this video contained false information about vaccines. (It doesn’t mention them.) The Instagram censor put up a warning: “There is no evidence Kissinger said this quote about vaccinations.” However, there is absolutely nothing about vaccines, or any mention of Henry Kissinger, in this video post. It makes no sense. Since I posted the video, Instagram has indicated that my “Account Eligibility is at Risk.”
Did you approach Meta about the fact that it was censoring a project the company itself had sponsored? What was the response?
I tried but have received no response whatsoever.
What went wrong, do you think? Who on Instagram’s staff could possibly be opposed to religious freedom and educating Afghan women?
Facebook/Instagram is notorious for silencing conservative-leaning voices, and yes, I’ll admit, mine has definitely been one of those. So I have experienced censorship in the past. However, I was stunned that a platform that claims to “support women’s rights” would not only silence my voice, but silence the voice of this Afghan woman.
Serving the Vulnerable
How can Stream readers help promote religious freedom?
Visit the Vulnerable People Project and support our many projects that support people persecuted for their faith. Visit my Instagram (@exnunontherun), give me a follow, and like and share our video so that more people can see it despite Instagram’s censorship and shadow ban.
How did you come to do this work?
I discerned religious life for 8 years with a Franciscan Order of sisters. For three of those years, I served at the Vatican. I worked under Pope Francis directly during his Apostolic Visit to the United States in 2015. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was Nuncio at the time, was my boss. Though I left before taking my Final Vows, I remain grateful for that time and formation. I continue to love the Catholic Church deeply, am passionate about my work serving the vulnerable through VPP, and using my platform to help raise awareness about what is happening both in the Catholic Church and in the world, specifically regarding human rights and religious freedom.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”