WITCH HUNTS and Facebook

Adventures in Censorship
A blog post by Rocky Wood, 29 May 2013

On Tuesday US time Facebook notified Lisa Morton, Greg Chapman and myself that the Facebook page for our graphic novel, ‘Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times’ had been suspended as someone had complained it contained ‘bullying’. We could appeal. Lisa did so. Without any further communication the page was deleted for not matching ‘community standards’ and to top it all off we were all banned as owners of the page from posting on Facebook for 12 hours.

I have fought censorship all my life and now this insult from a faceless corporation which shelters behind US law but has no respect for the First Amendment. There was nothing on our page which is not in our book. We deal with an historic tragedy – the torture and killing of innocents for centuries under the guise of ‘witch hunting’. Our book is a nominee for a major literary Award from a highly reputable writers group. And not one post one our page could be classed as ‘bullying’ anyone, except perhaps the long dead inquisitors and witch hunters who so savagely hunted ‘witches’ (read those cast out of society, those who lands or wealth were coveted, and those who fell under the dead eye of jealous neighbors).

One encounters soft core porn, outrageous personal abuse, bullying, misogyny, misanthropy, racism, hate speech from and against Christians, Muslims and other groups on Facebook without even trying. Facebook infests my News Feed with ads for sex sites and ‘dating sites’ that are clearly a cover for porn, and invites me to Like or get involved with many things that offend me. Yet I accept this is part of free speech on social media. I have been abused and personally vilified on Facebook – my answer is to delete and block the person. I don’t run to momma and cry on her apron strings.

But here is the real nub of the matter. Why was this page deleted? Did one crazy person complain and if so, are all our pages at risk from lone vigilantes supported by this faceless corporation, which clearly uses algorithms rather than people to manage its business? Is Horror itself at risk in Facebook (for much horror is a lot more graphic than our book)? Is History that doesn’t suit the world view of some at risk on Facebook? Or can say one author who doesn’t like another author or their work sabotage their pages in this manner? I wouldn’t expect that was what had happened here but what’s to stop that in the 1984 world of  Facebook?

How far is it from Facebook deleting innocuous pages such as ours to book banning, and book burning? That slope is very slippery. I unreservedly condemn Facebook’s capricious actions, lack of transparency in dealing with complaints, and the outrageous censorship they have indulged in.

Barely two weeks before a book I am very proud of is a nominee at a major Award ceremony the Facebook page is removed. There is more than a little irony in Facebook figuratively burning our page at the stake. For those who care about Censorship I would appreciate your sharing this story. For this who support our book, please be sure we will be back. In the meantime our website remains at http://www.witchhuntsbook.com/ (at least until such time as Facebook or other Internet censors find a way to remove it).

Shame on you Facebook. And the next time you spam me with your offensive ads or try to force me to spend money promoting my own posts you can be sure of my reaction.

Rocky Wood
Melbourne, Australia