Ohio Republican Janet Porter was fed up with Facebook restricting the voices of conservatives like her. So on Tuesday, she launched ReaganBook.com, “the Facebook for patriots.”
The site features a picture of Reagan’s smiling face colored in the hues of the American flag, next to a quote that functions as the social networking platform’s manifesto: “We built it, we paid for it, it’s ours and we’re going to keep it.” Take that, Zuckerberg.
This is by no means the first time that conservatives have established private social networks. ReaganBook follows in the footsteps of The Tea Party Community, Social PostUp, and FreedomTorch, among others. If none of these sound familiar, it’s because they’ve all failed to attain tangible resonance outside of the niche communities that populate the sites.
ReaganBook shows no discernable signs of longevity. It’s already been forced to temporarily shut down, after many of its thousand-plus members are trolls calling themselves things like “Albradorft Lincler,” “Al Zheimers,” and “Ben Ghazi.” The site runs tremendously slowly, and its attempts to interact with members through a messaging platform have proven fruitless. There’s hardly any involvement in thought-provoking (and clearly troll-created) pages like “Cut Dicks for Christ,” which simply says: “Calling all cut dicks.”
But a page devoted to the metal band Slayer has garnered the likes of “Dick Cheney,” “Manuel Noriega,” and “Israel.” An impressive roster of interested parties for a website that has only been around for a day.
Porter, who is the president of Faith2Action, “a pro-life, pro-family” advocacy group that wants to “ADVANCE the cause of Christ and the kingdom of God,” did not return a request for comment from The Daily Beast about her fledgling Internet venture.
Although it’s easy to chalk up ReaganBook as an abject failure, loading at a snail’s pace and overrun by trolls, Facebook has given conservatives incentive to go rogue in the past.
“Tomorrow Facebook employees are gathering to go march at the gay pride parade in San Francisco,” Porter said last weekend at the Ohio Liberty Coalition event called Reload 4 Liberty.
“While they kick people off [Facebook] who happen to have an unpopular belief, like being in favor of marriage—a buddy of mine Peter LaBarbera, [of] Americans for Truth—taken off Facebook. They’re censoring things and I’m saying we shouldn’t use it,” Porter said.
Porter was referencing an organization called Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, “a national organization devoted exclusively to exposing and countering the homosexual activist agenda,” according to its website. She alleges that the Illinois-based group, whose most recent campaign involved pressuring Starbucks to take down an ad portraying two lesbian mothers, has been censored on Facebook. But it’s clear that they have an active page, helping them to wage their “culture war.”
LaBarbera did not responded to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.
Other conservative groups claim to have faced the threat of shutdown from the Facebook overlords, too. The popular page for conservative media site Chicks on the Right, run by Amy Jo Clark and Miriam Weaver, was briefly shut down after a 2013 post which read: “Jay Carney can kiss my assular area.” At the time, Facebook apologized for issuing a block to the page.
Weaver and Jo Clark were far from bowled over when they visited ReaganBook.com.
“We noticed a lot of pornographic photos right on the front page when we first looked at it,” Weaver said. She and Clark were quick to recognize that the site closely resembled the earlier Facebook conservative knockoff The Tea Party Community, which looks quite a bit like Zuckerberg’s original brainchild.
Ken Crow, a proud Texan and co-founder of the Tea Party Community, told The Daily Beast that he was happy ReaganBook exists.
“I’m thrilled,” Crow said, having not explored the site yet. “Listen, if Warren Buffett or whoever –I just went blank—Mr. [Sheldon] Adelson put $100 million and said ‘Let’s do this. Let’s build the world’s largest social media platform for conservatives,’ I would be thrilled. Because our goal was to try to make a difference in America.”
Crow, who intersperses conversations with the affable label “my friend,” wants to change the face of American politics with conservative social media, as he is convinced corporate interests at Facebook promote liberal ideologies.
But ReaganBook is struggling to even begin an intelligent dialogue. “I think they’d attract more people and less trolls if they didn’t put that brand on it of Reagan. If they called it something else,” Clark said. Clark and Weaver suggested that the site’s branding is essentially offering itself up for people to do outlandish things (like creating fan pages devoted to the mammaries of the former President).
The decision by Porter to abandon Facebook seems predicated on the notion that its Silicon Valley staff is actively policing conservative content—something that Weaver and Clark quickly dismissed.
“I don’t think that there’s any kind of Facebook staff conspiracy at all,” Weaver said. “I think they all have a job to do and they’re doing it. And they’re dealing with literally over a billion people. I don’t think it’s a Facebook issue, I think it’s a Facebook audience issue.”
This is the very audience that led to their page getting shut down. The problem, as Weaver and Clark explained, is that this group drools at the opportunity to troll something like ReaganBook. And they seem to be prevailing as ReaganBook first entered “offline mode” by 3 p.m. Wednesday.
“I hate to sound pessimistic because I don’t know anything about the people that started this,” Weaver said prior to the site shutting down. “I don’t want to be ‘Captain Bringdown’ about it, but I would not join this page.”
The site administrators effectively pulled the plug on ReaganBook less than 24 hours after its launch.
“Thank you to all those who participated in the pre-release of ReaganBook.com,” a message credited to “Management” said on the site late Wednesday afternoon. “Your participation is helping us build a more secure site. Thank you! Please be patient while we make the necessary changes to keep the site free from obscenity, pornography, and those intent on the destruction of life, liberty, and the family. We will be opening the doors again soon with additional protections in place. As Reagan taught us, trust, but verify.”
Crow explained that his site put preventative measures in place to preclude trolls from reigning. He remained steadfast in his belief in the promise of the conservative social network.
“If someone is able to pull it off, it’ll be able to change politics in America,” he said.