A group of conservative activists and bloggers is urging right-wingers to defriend Facebook this Independence Day.
The 24-hour “Freedom From Facebook” boycott is necessary, they say, because the social-media giant has been systemically targeting and discriminating against conservatives, blocking content, and suspending or outright banning users.
“I personally have been thrown off Facebook six times,” says Diane Sori, a Florida woman who writes a blog called The Patriot Factor. “I am a conservative blogger now gaining national recognition. They didn’t like what I wrote, so they kicked me off.” Sori, who maintains a number of Facebook pages, including Patriots Against the Islamization of America, describes herself on her blog as “an American Patriot who refuses to let our beloved country be changed into something unrecognizable by a man who wants to radically alter and destroy our America and take away our children’s future.” Facebook kicked her off once, she says, because she wrote that Sharia was not compatible with American society. Another time, she was accused of pornography after posting a 1994 photograph of dead soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, she says.
On The Patriot Factor, she writes that she was banned because she tells the truth about the “corrupt and traitorous Obama regime.” “I cannot sit idly by for 60 days and watch the lame stream media (who has been hijacked by this regime) feed everyone a bunch of lies and half truths as Facebook removes, blocks, bans, and banishes those of us trying to get the truth out,” she writes.
The social-media network’s supposed slights have been well documented in the conservative blogosphere. Joe Newby, an Idaho blogger and columnist for Examiner.com, has highlighted several instances of what he sees as overreach by the company. One Texas man found his account frozen after he wrote “Seizing the day with baby Obama” to a friend, and an anti-immigration group was unable to get the word out about an anti-Obama protest it was holding.
Meanwhile, Newby noted, a page called “Kill Mitt Romney” was permitted to stay up for nearly two weeks, and a page called “I hate it when I wake up and Sarah Palin is still alive” stayed active long enough to attract 3,000 members. Most galling to conservatives, however, was when Todd Starnes, a Fox News radio host and TV commentator, found himself banned for writing, “I’m about as politically incorrect as you can get. I’m wearing an NRA ball cap, eating a Chick-fil-A sandwich, reading a Paula Deen cookbook and sipping a 20-ounce sweet tea while sitting in my Cracker Barrel rocking chair with the Gather Vocal Band singing ‘Jesus Saves’ on the stereo and a Gideon’s Bible in my pocket.”
Newby said Starnes was banned for writing positively about Paula Deen, the NRA, and Jesus. Facebook says it was a mistake.
“In the course of reviewing more than 1 million weekly reports stemming from more than 1 billion users, we occasionally make a mistake, as we did in this case,” Facebook spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg told the The Daily Beast. “I’m always surprised that both sides of the political divide are always convinced that the individual mistakes that our reviewers make stem from partisanship, but I suppose I shouldn’t be by now. The mistakes that we make are in fact human error.”
Conservatives say they are being targeted because of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s supposed liberal bent and point out that donations from the company vastly favor Democrats. Julia Sieben, a 51-year-old blogger who runs a site called Lady Patriots, points to FWD.us, an advocacy group founded by Zuckerberg that pushes for immigration reform.
“They started a lobbying business,” she says. “They are lobbyists now, which are the filthiest, richest people in Washington, D.C. They are all about putting forward Obama’s liberal agenda.”
She and other organizers of the Fourth of July protest say that they see in Facebook a mirror image of the liberal media’s bias.
“When the people who are in charge of your media have a political agenda, you are taking us back to the days of Napoleon and his propaganda, or when Hitler purchased the papers in Germany to put out his propaganda,” Sieben says. “It is a Marxist mentality pushing towards totalitarianism.”
But the organizers say the boycott isn’t only about the alleged political targeting. They would like Facebook to become more responsive. Users, they say, are disciplined without a clear idea why, and the company has no help line for appeals.
“It takes next to nothing for someone to get in trouble with Facebook, and all it takes is pretty much the click of a mouse and a person’s reputation or livelihood is destroyed,” says Newby. “Suspects in criminal trials have more rights than users on Facebook. If you are getting to a judge in a court of law, you get to hear the evidence against you. You get to hear the accusation. You get a presumption of innocence. You don’t get any of that with Facebook.”
The protest calls on conservatives to spend one day, the Fourth of July, off the social-media site. Users are being asked instead to try out a conservative-only social-media site, such as Tea Party Community or United Patriots, even though they realize, in the words of one organizer, “we are just preaching to the choir over there.”
The organizers say they are aware that they are engaged in an uphill fight. Facebook, after all, has more than 1 billion users, and the Fourth of July is not a day when many are online anyway.
Asked if she thought the protest would be effective, Sharon Schuetz, a blogger with Lady Patriots, echoed many when she said, “Not really.”
“It is not going to put a big dent in Facebook’s 1.1. billion subscribers, but people need to feel like they are accomplishing something.”
The choice of day is symbolic, of course, with the organizers deliberately draping themselves in the history of the American Revolution.
On an invite featuring the logo of the company silhouetted against an American flag and a soaring bald eagle, the organizers write, “On July 4, 1776, the Founding Fathers signed a document laying out their case against King George, pledging to sacrifice their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to throw off the shackles of tyranny.
“Today, Americans who use Facebook have a similar set of grievances against the largest social media site on the planet. They have been falsely accused and punished without the benefit of due process, and without the benefit of seeing the evidence against them. Many have found themselves blocked from using features for reasons that appear arbitrary and capricious.”
And where is that invite posted?
Facebook, of course.