Blocked on Facebook again!

December 28, 2015 • 8:30 am

UPDATE: After some explanation on my part, the higher-ups at Facebook have restored my access, so thank to them.


I am one of the moderators of the Global Secular Humanist Movement Facebook page, which gives me the right to put up posts (I don’t really moderate). It’s a popular page, with over 300,000 “likes,” but it’s not popular with some Muslims, who have reported us several times for “violating community standards”. In one instance that results in both the GSHM site being blocked but the personal FB page of every moderator. The posts that supposedly do that are criticisms of Islam—never the other faiths that we regularly criticize. I should add that we have many positive posts as well, including pro-science ones and ones that criticize, for example, Republicans.

When I logged onto Facebook this morning, I found the messages below, telling me that we had been reported for violating FB’s community standards, and that the situation wouldn’t be rectified until I checked the entire page, de-published the site, and then re-published it. I have no right to do that, nor would I, for I don’t run the site Here’s what was seen as offensive and what I was supposed to do about it:

Screen shot 2015-12-28 at 7.30.18 AM

I didn’t post that image, and, as far as I can interpret it, it actually defends Muslims against prejudice on the grounds of their religion. In other words, it is pro-Islam, anti-bigotry, and doesn’t make fun of Catholics, either. How could this possibly be construed to violate community standards? Who would have reported it?

And here’s what I’m supposed to do about it.

Screen shot 2015-12-28 at 7.18.56 AM

I’m not sure about this, but I’ve heard rumors that when a post is reported in this way, a group of people outside the US decides what is a violation of community standards, and often reflexively blocks anything reported. Let me add that this is just a rumor I’ve heard, and I can’t vouch for its truth. Nevertheless, to get back on Facebook—I’ve been blocked before—you have to go through a long appeal process. This time I’m asking some higher-ups to review the issue.

But Facebook really should have a look at the double standards that have prevailed: anti-Islam posts (I can only imagine that the above post was mistaken for one of those) are regularly cause for blocking, while entire sites are devoted to not only anti-Israel sites, but sites that are allowed to publish anti-Semitic cartoons worthy of der Stürmer.

Whatever the issue, the item removed from our site seem to be a protest against anti-Muslim bigotry, not cause for violating anyone’s sensibilities.

100 thoughts on “Blocked on Facebook again!

  1. Faisal Saeed Al Mutar is also currently blocked.

    Facebook needs to get it’s act together and stop allowing people to be silenced for discussing religion.

    1. Or … ?
      There’s got to be an “or” for the threat to be credible.
      The obvious “or” is “or I (and all my other users of this page) will take my business elsewhere”.
      So, you need to get that set up BEFORE the next blocking.
      If you don’t have that “or,” then Facebook simply are not going to pay the blindest bit of attention to you. You are not important enough to them. Losing market share to a competitor is, however, important to them.

      1. “Or” doesn’t require that the statement be a threat… “Do this or I’ll do that.”

        Either they get their act together or the greater FB community will degrade in quaility as speech becomes more and more throttled.

        1. Is it possible for the “greater FB community” to degrade in quality? Most of what I see on there is utter tosh already.

  2. My understanding from the press is that Zuckerberg is heavily pro-Muslim. Talks about making “safe-spaces” for them.

    Of course, it’s his website and he can control it how he wishes. Remember, we are not the customer of facebook, we are the product.

    1. Not the customer but the very product. You put into words exactly what I was feeling and couldn’t voice. That is why I barely dipped my toe into FB and then withdrew as fast and as fully as possible. It felt horrible, and you’ve just identified why.

      1. A friend told me that “kicking” Facebook was more difficult than leaving the JWs.
        Personally I have to agree with you, I tried it, did not “like” it and shut it down. This however as I am sure you will agree was not instantaneous and one has to go through a period of disentanglement during which period if you visit the site, even accidentally you have to start the whole shut down process over again.
        I definitely do not wish to be part of the Zuckerberg product!

    2. This is a problem for all facebook “useds” that is to say they are not users but people who are used by facebook.
      I suggest reading this leading internet expert’s take on Facebroke and its useds

      I suspect the people doing the blocking are actually not very well paid and not very intelligent. In fact it is quite likely their level of intelligence is quite low.

      1. Interesting. Stallman has always been a bit out there though. I think many of his links have good points, but the paranoia may be a bit overdone. Many of those things he lists happen simply by using a web browser, regardless of the site. I think some of the things like the real name policy are generally good; anyone who has spent anytime on the Internet has seen what anonymity combined with loose moderation leads to. I do appreciate exposure of things like this though; we should at least be aware of what we’re getting into.

        1. RMS has always been a bit ‘out there’. He is a purist. Though without him, [what-he-refuses-to-call] Linux probably wouldn’t exist. (Obviously Linus Torvalds and many others share the credit, but without RMS’s lead it might have gone in a different direction).


          1. I don’t think that Stallman’s personal characteristics should be used to detract from his argument. Even if he were insane any accurate facts he produced would still be valid.

            However, he is a very knowledgeable person about computing. I don’t want to boast but so am I and I find concern about Facebook increases with knowledge. I have broken several pseudonyms ( like racists attacking a friend) by using Facebook information.

            If you know what could shortly be done with AI you are even more scared.

            People really don’t know how to effectively search the internet, even when they think they do. This is just an exemplar of poor computer knowledge which is commoner than you think. Most people have a “Dunning Kruger Effect” illusion of ability on both searches and social media risks.

            This can lead to problems with dangerous nutcases like in this example.

            That is why I use a pseudonym because there are nutcases that I have encoutered and religious nuts can be dangerous. I couldn’t do this on FB. And the real names policy isn’t about behaviour. Their business model DEMANDS they know who their users are.

            Zuckerberg describes people as “dumb” for giving him all this information.

          2. I don’t think that Stallman’s personal characteristics should be used to detract from his argument. Even if he were insane any accurate facts he produced would still be valid.

            Nor do I. I should have been more specific. The reason I linked to that portion of his Wikipedia page was specifically to highlight his habits such as avoiding cell phones and key cards as well as using wget to make http requests so as not to have an active connection to the internet. I think knowing that is relevant to how he perceives risk as compared to how the average person sees risk. The fact that someone knows you swiped into or out of a building is not really the sort of thing that warrants concern for most people. I’d imagine Stallman also avoids credit cards for similar reasons.

            Most people have a “Dunning Kruger Effect” illusion of ability on both searches and social media risks.

            Most people have a “Dunning Kruger Effect” illusion of ability when it comes to most things. I think that risk awareness is starting to trend up as people become more familiar with the web and the current generation of kids have parents who are more tech-savvy. But we really need to get to the point that we are at with Wifi routers. Routers are now secured by default as opposed to the old days where one had to enable the security.

            Ideally, Facebook and other social media sites would require every piece of information that is shared to be opt-in; of course, that would defeat their entire business model. As for the young woman who was stalked in the article you posted, I don’t think such anecdotes demonstrate that using Facebook carries a high level of risk. I don’t see how Facebook per se is culprit in this case, as it’s quite likely a determined stalker would have found her via other means even if Facebook didn’t exist. Clearly, her critique contained enough personal information for him to hunt her down, if not by Facebook then by other means. That’s a small risk any of us take in critiquing anyone whether it’s online or in the workplace, but unless there’s some statistics somewhere demonstrating extreme risk from social media use; I’d put the odds of being stalked due to a web post in the same category as the odds of being attacked in the workplace by a disgruntled worker. We should keep our fear of such things in line with the odds of them actually occurring.

          3. I certain didn’t mean to be derogatory towards RMS, I’m a fan of his. I’ve been using Linux since about 1997, and I allocate a large proportion of the credit for Linux to RMS (as I said before). I actually got off my a** to go into Auckland one day to hear him speak – something I don’t do very often.

            I think his role as a prophet and standard-bearer is extremely valuable, even if many of us can’t quite live up to it. (For example, I use a scanner driver application (Linux version) produced by Epson for my printer/scanner (thanks Epson!), I doubt Epson have released the source code under the GPL so I’m fairly sure RMS wouldn’t approve. I’ll trust Epson not to have written a trojan into their driver). So I take notice of what RMS says, even if I do a risk-benefit calculation on how far I go.


  3. If anyone has ideas how to appeal this, please tell me. Meanwhile, I’ll get this picture and post it on my Facebook wall.

  4. Since FB is free I doubt there is any real recourse. Is there any kind of disclosure statement? One would think you could attach a header to the page to announce that religious ideas are argued here and participation is voluntary but that only works when adults are in the room. And this is FB after all.

    1. Actually, there is a looming prospect (which Facebook and similar “social media” are fighting tooth-and-nail) that child protection laws in Europe will force them to block all people under 16 from the site. Which would possibly be an improvement.
      Which reminds me – perhaps I should log into Facebook this week. Or maybe not. I really ought to delete all that stuff on the “timewall” thing.

          1. The worst of the worst of that lot is the one who blocked passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. My brain refuses to bring forth her name, may it and she be forever wiped from history!

  5. Damn it – FB gives me the creeps, tho I admit to being on it. But much more of censuring JC, one of my heroes, I will quit. It needs a boycott – tho that is an extreme measure.
    Don’t use it much exert to post what I consider pertinent items about politics, science etc.

    Good luck, Sir – the giants need to be taken down a bit.

    1. I have found, that, contrary to much else in life, the more I get to know about FB, the more uncomfortable I become.

      I think the important thing is to have as clear a picture as possible concerning the possible trade-offs you might make by using or not using FB.

      In case you might need some starting points, Bruce Schneier Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your Worl (from the perspective of an information technology and security guru).

      Daniel Solove, “Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff between Privacy and Security”, (from the perspective of a Law professor)

      Julia Angwin, Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance, (From the perspective of a Journalist)

      These books does not deal with FB as such, but rather the larger canvas of which FB and Google are a part, but might facilitate a more through understanding of what is at stake, and the ability to put this in perspective.

    2. I am a technically challenged late adopter and so have spared myself the trouble to learn some short-lived gadgets, such as pagers. Seeing how some Facebook users complain and leave, I decided not to try it in the first place. I rarely regret this decision, and my regret is never deep enough to make me change it.

      1. I find it ironic that just like you I “never tried it in the first place,” but for the exact opposite reason — I consider myself a technically savvy early adopter of beneficial new technologies! This one smelled terrible from the very outset, very shortly followed up by several ‘apologies’ for ‘accidentally’ capturing more personal data than ‘promised’, of several different increasingly personal sorts.

  6. The similarities are more interesting than the differences. The nun and the Muslim are both covered because of gender based bigotry in a male dominated society. I’m not sure that the image supports either tradition.

    1. I think one big difference, however, is that nobody is compelled (either explicitly or via more subtle social pressure) to become a nun and dress that way. It’s not like we make every second-born woman become one any more. A hijab worn in a country that mandates it by law is not very comparable to a habit worn in the 21st century west.

      1. I agree. There is a difference in freedom to be veiled. But the posting is clearly trying to say that there is no difference.

          1. Them Jews get everywhere! Just because they value education, just because they’re argumentative the yids get to rule the world. They’re as bad as the Scots!

      2. Absolutely right. Another point is that the nun’s habit in the picture is a Hollywood nun.

        It is very hard to find orders that require their nuns to dress in habits that look anything like that any more. Most have modernised to plain shirt-waister dresses, stockings and sensible shoes. Only some have any sort of hair-covering veil – and it usually doesn’t actually cover much hair anyway.

        Hollywood likes the oldie timey habits because they look dramatic and anachronistic; but they don’t much reflect reality.

        1. Arshia Malik in The Nation sinks the whine to contextualize the toxicity of the textile immuring of Muslim women: ‘The “freedom to wear what I choose” argument is in fact an insidious dynamic of women sustaining the mullah directed patriarchal order of Muslim society, and treating those women who reject it as enemies of the correct and proper order of Muslim society.’

  7. Complaints monitoring on FB is derisory. There is no place even to spell out the reasons; all you get to do is pick a category.

    I once asked FB to remove a post, and to investigate the account holder. It was someone giving his location as Syria who was using violent language, and had, in one of his posts, referred (in Arabic) to “harami Yahud”, linked to imperialism and the banking system. My request was refused, no reason given; I assume the monitor didn’t have the wit to work out what “yahud” meant.

    Why was I looking at this person’s posts? Because he had asked me to be his Facebook friend.

    I’m not making this up

    1. Muslims divide food into three categories: halal, haram, and makruh. Haram signifies forbidden, as in unkosher or unclean. Yahud would, of course, mean Jew. The combination suggests “dirty Jew.” I have not studied Arabic. Anyone with education in this area, please feel free to critique.

      As for halal and makruh, halal is acceptable and makruh is recommended against. Interestingly, alcohol is not haram. It’s makruh.

  8. Commodity and customer are one in the same on Facebook. And religion, like sex and death, polarizes its constituents.

    Facebook is a product of the mean and can never rise above it. Until the external world rises above the stupidity of accommodating the privilege of religion as if it is the least advantaged, charades like this will continue.

    1. Facebook is a product of the mean and can never rise above it.

      Did they ever indicate any aspiration to rise above the mean? I’m reminded about the surrealist fish’s poor bicycling technique.

  9. In addition to Zuckerberg’s attachment to the loony left, FB is running scared. Places like India, Pakistan, Turkey are threatening to block the site, even press criminal charges against officials because of ‘attacks’ on Muslims (I have not heard of any such threats over criticism of Catholics , Protestants or Jews)

    1. BTW this move toward international censorship has taken a bad turn even in the West in a somewhat different setting.

      The EU has implemented it’s (absurd) ‘right to be forgotten’ rules which mandates that search engines remove ALL links to information objected to. Now they are pressing a legal fight with Google to demand that Google ‘disappear’ that information from ALL servers, not just the EU facing ones. If they win at this game, you can be sure that Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and others will quickly take up that action.

  10. This might have something to do with this: Facebook, Twitter, and Google agreed to remove hate speech within 24 hours in Germany.

    It looks like Facebook is simply overzealous in the implementation of this new policy insofar as it labels innocuous posts as “hate speech” and extends its application to countries beyond Germany.

    Earlier this year, Angela Merkel was ‘caught on hot mic griping to Facebook CEO over anti-immigrant posts’

    I feared that it could all lead to censorship, and as it turns out, my fear was well warranted!

    1. Knowing Germany’s privacy laws, they most likely have their own censors in Germany. They don’t allow information about German citizens to be stored in foreign countries.

  11. I looked at the post and thought it was prejudiced in favour of islam.
    The rarely seen and cloistered nun’s habit is self chosen – she doesn’t have to be a nun – whereas the muslim woman’s habit is mostly forced upon her.

  12. Perhaps the Muslim problem is caused by the image of the hijab-wearing woman revealing a too-tight sweater, something conservative Muslims would disapprove.

  13. It sounds like this was a coat trailing exercise Jerry, there’s a dark net where the spoilers of society do their communication let’s try to stay out in the open with our secularist ideas.

  14. The guy who posted it is a Palestinian activist (his description) and Muslim. Looking at his page, he thinks it was white supremacists who complained and got him suspended for 3 days – and he’s reposted it now he’s been allowed back (he talks about posting it on a ‘#therealislam’ page). And he wished everyone ‘Merry Christmas’.

    1. Ok, that is important information.
      Assuming this is correct (I am being objective here), then this very clearly outlines the problem with FB and its knee-jerk banning policy.

      1. I’m not sure – I barely touch Facebook, and have nothing to do with any group pages. Abbas Hamideh was the guy who first posted it, got personally blocked, and blamed white supremacists; looking at the notification above, I think ‘heart.of.ease’, which appears to be another Muslim, must have re-posted it on the GSHM page – so I suppose they are another ‘moderator’ like PCC, or maybe an ‘editor’; page roles are listed here:

    2. I was in Syria a few years ago. I noted, at that time, that Palestinian refugees were viewed much in the same way as the Irish were seen in The U.K. In the 1950’s. I also spent some time in Lebanon where I recorded in my report to ICAO that the shacks and hovels on the perimeter of the airport were also occupied by Palestinian refugees. In 2004 my wife and I climbed Ben Nevis in Scotland, my birthplace, I was somewhat perturbed by seeing a group of Muslims descending the mountain in traditional dress – I don’t know what the skullcaps and robes are called, nor do I care- but, I wondered, ‘Are they seeking high places for the execution of people that transgress the rules of Islam’? This ideology is not new in Scotland where Carloup near to Edinburgh, was the precipice from which witches were thrown. I hope that as a species, we have moved on from such foolishness. T.

  15. Most likely, the rumours that there are non US censors has some merit. Often companies tasked with substantial moderation requirements, out source the work to whoever will do such work. Who knows where they are? The CBC outsources their moderation to the US and that company is crazy in what they accept/delete/refuse for posts.

    So, I suspect that a person complains and the accounts are frozen until innocence is proven….not very American with being presumed guilty until proven innocent. Maybe we should get Donald Trump on the case since this type of behaviour is modelled on the Mexican legal system. 😉

      1. Yes which is based on the Roman system, at least their civil system. They underwent a few changes since 1789 though.

      1. That actually isn’t true. In France, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff as is outlined here. Excerpt:

        Pursuant to the principle of the presumption of innocence, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, i.e. the public prosecutor in general, and sometimes on the victim when he or she claims damages. The public prosecutor must produce evidence that the offence was committed and the person being prosecuted was involved. He/she must collect elements of proof both in favour of the prosecution and in favour of the defence. The defendant does not have to provide proof of his or her innocence and is in no way obliged to collaborate in the search for evidence.

        Quebec also bases their legal sustenance on the French one. The main difference is they don’t have juries and rely on judges who use an inquisitive vs. Adversarial method.

        1. Thanks for pointing this out.

          I’m always chagrined at how quickly Americans slither from “Je suis Charlie” to “Freedumb Fries”.

  16. This is why I don’t belong to Facebook except in the form of one of my cats in order to friend a handful of people who live far away. Still I almost never look at it.

    Also, I’ve seen this antique nun outfit versus niqab/headscarf/burqa thing before. It is meant very much to be pro-Islamic covering of women, and it is either purposely completely misleading or was originally done by someone completely ignorant of Christianity. The difference is that the antique nun outfit is both antique, not even worn by mid-20th century except in The Flying Nun, and the outfit was only worn by nuns, not required of all women–much less required on pain of stoning or acid thrown in the face, etc.

    1. You’re right about the analogy being completely spurious and misleading. It eludes me what the post was doing on the the Global Secular Humanist Movement Facebook page in the first place.

  17. What seems obvious to me, to you, and to anyone who’s not religious, would be offensive to anyone who subscribes to either religion in the graphic. Neither of them believe they are like the other. Each is superior while the other is damned. Any true Christian or Muslim — 70% of the US population — is going to be “offended”.

  18. Maybe Facebook dislikes Megan Fox. That’s her as a nun from the film “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.” It’s hard to take a meme-message seriously when the source image is parody.

    1. It’s also utterly absurd to draw any comparisons between a minority of women who for crazy, religious (but I repeat myself) reasons reject their bodies and sexuality and decide to spend the rest of their days living in celibacy in some cloister with the Muslim societies which force ALL women into beekeeper suits.

      1. The only positive aspect of this misbegotten meme is that it should give all the women living in modern, open societies some food for thought. As it may cause them to contemplate, just for a brief moment, how they would feel if they were all forced to dress like the nun in the meme (what’s good for the nun is good for all the women, right?).

  19. UNBELIEVABLE! FB would not delete websites that advocate the murdering of all police officers but it will delete a page questioning religion. WTF!

    1. I’m sorry but why would you want to disseminate this Muslim propaganda that accuses people fighting for women’s rights of being racist, bigots, and islamophobes?

  20. ” and ones that criticize, for example, Republicans.”

    Really should criticize Democrats as well. Democrats seem great for secularism and science which makes far too many atheists and secularists cling to the democratic party – even when their policy positions are utterly ridiculous as well as detrimental to individual freedoms. Affirmative action, welfare, positions that are easily accepted by regressives and bleeding hearts without much objective thought, I used to support them myself and have been called all sorts of hateful things as well as racist since I changed my position. I know a certain group that acts the same way towards criticism of Islam. Both deserve criticism,Dems and Repub) but when it comes to individual liberty and keeping government as small as possible, which it should be (a big central government has never been a good thing), more republicans are working for that than dems. It used to be a very widespread idea that big government creates more bureaucracy which in turn creates tyranny and less individual liberties. This is a core concept in the GOP and one the DNC scoffs at. The GOP have done a terrible job for their image but when it comes to the operation of government, its size, economics, and budgetary matters they are usually right on target. However, there are plenty of other matters in which they don’t come close. Which is exactly why I will be voting for Christopher Hitchens next November.

    1. ” . . .bleeding hearts . . . ” seems to accurately describe Republican regard for private corporate “tyranny.”

  21. Well, as of right now, I see that 134 of us have reposted Jerry’s plight on Facebook. Perhaps Facebook doesn’t check WordPress reposts as thoroughly as it does pictures, but if so, I wonder if they will block all 134 of us.

  22. Posted the picture on my Facebook page and dared any troll who is one of my 16 followers (rather than actually being a FB ‘friend’) to have me blocked. I’m just not that wedded to FB so I don’t give a shit.
    A few years ago I was involved in a community protest to try to stop a completely inappropriate motorsport event in a are of very high environmental value and sensitivity. I was threatened – in FB comments – with physical harm and death. So were other locals. (I was actually assaulted by a motorsport fan, just before the event, on my own quiet country road with no-one else around. I’m female and in my mid-60s).
    I reported these threats to Facebook and nothing was done to remove these violent posts.
    FB responds to NUMBERS of complaints, not to the seriousness of the issue!

  23. The difference in this day and age is that some women choose to be “modest” as called for in the Abrahamic Religions. In the West this is always a choice. In Muslim ruled countries this isn’t the case. There is no choice. Jew? Cover up. Muslim? Cover up. Modern Muslim? Cover up. Christian? Cover up.
    See the difference? No one rational complains about WOMEN who choose hijab. We complain about governments who insist on it.
    And, if I were a Muslim man, I admit it would piss me off to have the government believe that I am incapable of seeing a woman without raping her, but that’s me.

  24. “rumors that when a post is reported in this way, a group of people outside the US decides what is a violation of community standards,”

    First, that rumour sounds like Trump-esque paranoia to me.

    And second, it implies that there’s something wrong with that scenario. Why should the judgement of non-USanians be automatically inferior to USanians?

    I’m not defending FB’s processes, maybe us furriners are a bit paranoid ourselves about the common presumption that the Internet is an American fiefdom.


    1. My guess is that these big “internet companies” (e.g. also Google) are trying to stay on the good sides of all markets, and try to in a way enforce all laws and keep all happy. A “lowest common denominator” applies, then.

      1. I’d go along with that.

        Youtube has been known to take down atheist videos on spurious ‘copyright’ complaints from Xtians, for example.

        They’re just covering their asses, and one can’t really blame them. They don’t want to end up being sued by the MPAA/RIAA or censored by their stooges in Washington.


  25. Both deserve criticism,Dems and Repub) but when it comes to individual liberty and keeping government as small as possible, which it should be (a big central government has never been a good thing)

    Of course they both deserve criticism, constructive criticism is the key to progress. But your assertion that a big central government has never been a good thing is simply hyperbole for which there are many counterexamples.

    DARPA, a centralized Government agency, developed the Internet, which is the key part of the technological revolution that has changed the world for the better in countless ways. For many decades the USPS was the only game in town if you lived in a rural location and wanted a dependable package and letter delivery service. Since the Government established the Environmental Protection Agency, we’ve cleaned up our air and water. Don’t forget the Federal Interstate Highway System, a Government-backed project that still provides a key part of our interstate shipping infrastructure, not to mention allowing citizens to cut travel times by 30-40% for long trips. And who can forget the elephant in the room when it comes to centralized Government–our entitlement programs? They are the biggest expenses in our Federal budget and nearly no one in either party wants to eliminate them (large majorities don’t even support reducing them). It is simply the height of conservative propaganda to claim that Social Security has not been extraordinarily beneficial and has prevented many elderly people from having destitute ends to their lives. These things are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things centralized Government has done well. I haven’t even touched on the effectiveness of Government funded research programs and agencies like NASA and the FAA…

    Yes, there are things centralized Government is not good at, but it is preposterous to claim that it is never effective or that “big Government” is always bad and that we should pledge ourselves to an ideology that dictates Government should always be reduced. I think Christopher Hitchens would have taken it even further, we shouldn’t pledge ourselves to ideologies at all.

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