A Letter from Facebook Jail
I’m an evangelist whose mission is to preach the gospel and teach others to do the same. For over 15 years, I’ve used Facebook as a tool for ministry. Despite our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, many Americans have had to be more careful about what they say and post online. Sadly, one politically incorrect statement could cause someone to have their voice silenced.
On June 7th, my friend Luca posted this question on her Facebook page, “if you could go back in time and take Hitler out, would you?” I posted this comment in response:
“I would've liked the opportunity to take Hitler out for dinner when he was a young man and share the gospel with him. As a boy, Adolf had considered becoming a priest. Imagine what could have happened if he received a new heart and spirit. Hitler could’ve been another Reinhard Bonnke.”
In case you are unfamiliar with Reinhard Bonnke, he was a German evangelist who held large meetings (mostly in Africa). His ministry changed the lives of millions of people.
A few minutes after posting my comment, I received a notice that it got removed because of being against Community Standards. Luca confirmed to me she didn’t report my comment. It was apparently detected by a computer, which triggered the following restrictions to my account: “You can't advertise for 29 days”, “You can't go live for 29 days”, and “You can't start or join any calls for 29 days.” Immediately, I submitted an appeal, but it was quickly denied. Unless I submit another appeal to be reviewed by a “Oversight Board” of 22 people, my account is restricted until July 6th.
I’m not as concerned about getting my comment restored. It bothers me that my Facebook account is restricted because of something I wrote that was not offensive. Apparently, it wasn’t read by a live person. I didn’t see specific reasons why my comment violated Community Standards. Was it wrong to suggest the possibility of an evil person having a change of heart after someone reached out to him with the love of Jesus? What if I had substituted Hitler’s name with Nero, Jesse James, or Charles Manson? Would that have made it any different?
The gospel has the power to transform lives. Consider David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam” killer who terrorized New York City in the mid-1970s. Ten years after his incarceration, David became a born-again Christian. For almost forty years now, he’s ministered to his fellow inmates plus people who contacted him outside of prison. A few years ago, I met a man in Illinois who was previously on death row for murder but got saved and later released. Today he is a pastor.
Over the years I’ve seen many offensive posts (especially ads) on Facebook. I’ve submitted a few complaints mostly in response to stuff considered pornographic. To my amazement, most of my complaints were rejected because the posts didn’t violate Community Standards.
In my opinion, Facebook’s Community Standards are ambiguous. Earlier this year, I saw an ad posted by a church that was covered by the claim: “Partly false information Checked by independent fact-checkers.” Who’s checking the fact-checkers? All the ad showed was a picture of the pastor and his wife with the caption: “How Can I Pray For You?” Why isn’t profanity censored on Facebook like on radio and TV? I regularly see swear words in posts. Are f-bombs within Community Standards?
For the record, I reposted my comment on another social media platform and then posted the link for my Facebook friends to review it for themselves. Note these two responses:
“Praying you are released. You commented about having the opportunity to influence a man to change by presenting the gospel and become a follower of Jesus Christ. That is what you do everyday of your life and you post about it.”
“I read what happened. That was an awesome response!!”
According to Facebook’s website: “The goal of our Community Standards is to create a place for expression and give people a voice.” Individuals should be free to express themselves without fear of writing something that gets misinterpreted, especially by a machine. Facebook needs to make adjustments in monitoring people’s posts.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” - Romans 1:18