When a Theology Post Is “Unsafe” for Facebook

When a Theology Post Is “Unsafe” for Facebook May 24, 2014

I wrote a post on Monday entitled “Is Rachel Held Evans’s Use of “God Herself” Biblically Faithful?” that got a fair amount of attention this week. It got many “Likes” on Facebook, for example. But far less than it should have. Why?

Because, it appears, the post was deemed “unsafe.”

I’m not entirely sure what happened, to be honest. I’m no code-cracker or rival to Zuckerberg and his billions. Here are the facts, though, of this strange and disquieting experience:

1. I published my post on Monday. No problems.

2. It got a lot of heat from folks who disagreed with me, including many personal attacks, foul language, ad hominem statements, and so on. A number of folks expressed rather cruel sentiments toward me, but I didn’t think much of it. Par for the course. Truth is immortal. Leadership means taking hits. So on and so forth.

3. On Tuesday, a woman contacted me and said that she had tried to post my blog but couldn’t–she got an error message. I encouraged her to try posting again as sometimes things go awry when one posts links. No big deal.

4. Later in the week, I heard from other women who said they also tried to post the link but couldn’t.

5. This got my attention (I was behind as it’s been a busy week with lots going on, including some incredibly exciting stuff with CBMW; Grant Castleberry is our new Executive Director!), and so I tried to post the article, both with the Patheos address and with a Bitly link. It did not post. Not only this: Facebook informed me that the post was “unsafe.”

6. This was noteworthy to me. I started writing about it on FB and Twitter and heard from many other people that they, too, couldn’t post the link.

7. Per the smart suggestion of a FB friend, I reposted the blog and then saw it get a lot more attention on FB and Twitter.

So, where does this leave me?

Well, firstly, I want to note that I in no way believe that Rachel was involved in this. I know for a fact that she didn’t like my post, but she said nothing that I saw about censoring me. In all her engagement with people she disagrees with (even strongly), I’ve never seen her (or anyone else) encourage folks to silence a genuine debate. Rachel, to the contrary, took to Twitter and her blog and blog comments to defend her views, which is what I thought she would do because she is no wilting flower and, to her credit, does not shy away from conversation and back-and-forth. She’s an adult, just like me, and adults can disagree and debate and still preserve one another’s right to free speech. I respect that.

Second, it’s odd that my post was “unsafe,” because friends have reported nude images, graphically violent images, and sexualized ads to Facebook and seen nothing changed. One Twitter friend said that he tried to get a picture of a man being killed to be removed–to no avail. Another said he received a friend request featuring a picture of a totally naked woman; he tried to get it removed–to no avail. But my post on theology was removed post haste (often happens, I’m learning, when 5-10 people flag it).

Maybe that’s just a coincidence. It’s possible that Facebook thought my Patheos link was spam, as some have suggested. But I post links all the time from Patheos, and have never had this message. I also was able to initially post it but then, after the post got a lot of attention, I wasn’t. So in other words: the blog didn’t trigger anything for a little while, then all of a sudden was “unsafe.”

In sum, I really don’t know what happened here. Whatever the case, having content blocked on Facebook is unpleasant, and I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen again. I’ve heard of this happening to folks on all sides of the political spectrum, and now I’m definitely on notice.

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