The page which has a history of opposing development in Ocean County and of ridiculing the Orthodox Jewish community has been condemned as anti-Semitic by the Ocean County Board of Freeholders, Governor Phil Murphy Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and U.S. Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan S. Carr.
Murphy and Grewal released the following joint statement:
“We just learned that Facebook has decided to take down the public page on the company’s social network called ‘Rise Up Ocean County.’ Facebook’s action comes ten months after the Director of our Division on Civil Rights, Rachel Wainer Apter, first sent a letter to Facebook expressing concerns about racist and anti-Semitic statements on the page. Since then, we’ve consistently and repeatedly made clear our view that the page appeared to violate Facebook’s terms of service, and we appreciate that Facebook has now decided that this kind of hateful rhetoric has no place on its platform.
“There remains much that should be done to stop the spread of hate on the Internet. The Murphy Administration will continue to call out hate whenever and wherever we see it, we will persist in demanding meaningful reforms to address the proliferation of hate online, and we will continue working to make New Jersey a safe and inclusive place for all of our residents.”
The administrator of the page said the facebook’s decision shut down the page is being appealed, but that he does not expect it will be reversed. He issued the following statement on the group’s webpage:
The Heavy Hand of Censorship Has Fallen
At 10:50am Facebook sent us a notification that our page had been unpublished. There is an appeal process and we have exercised our right to that appeal, a copy of our note to Facebook is below. Meanwhile, at approximately 11:30am the Governor and Attorney General issued a joint statement thanking Facebook for the action that they took, before the appeal was even read.
We will have far more to say later but for now here is the appeal that we sent to Facebook:
As you may know, our Facebook page has come under heavy scrutiny by Facebook due to pressures being applied by both the Governor and Attorney General of New Jersey. As recent as one month ago Facebook did remove two posts, both somewhat dated, that moved our page quality from green to red.
Since that time we have received no further violations of community standards and as such the decision to unpublish the page is arbitrary and capricious. We have in fact exercised great caution in OUR posts and OUR comments to insure that at all times we complied with Facebook community standards. The platform is too valuable to our efforts to risk losing it.
Since you have access to our back office you can see the effort that we put into policing public comments on the page. We hide comments, delete comments and ban users that make inappropriate comments under our posts. That said it is also our understanding that our responsibility to abide by Facebook community standards applies only to OUR commentary so as you can see, we do go the extra mile to insure that we are not what we have been accused of being by the Governor and Attorney General.
Our page focuses primarily on issues involving over-development in Ocean County, NJ. With a projected growth in population in excess of 100,000 people within the next 10 years, the environmental impact alone makes such growth unsustainable, our county will be ruined.
The major concern from the Governor and Attorney General seems to be our focus on the Orthodox Jewish community that is driving that growth. Our dialogue regarding that community is coincidental, there is no animosity represented toward that community by our page and no hint of anti-Semitism. To the contrary in our About section we make it clear that we welcome ALL to our efforts.
To be clear, by coincidental we mean that when 90% of the projected growth comes from a specific segment of society it is impossible not to include that population in our dialogue. As such, discussion about the complex relationship between the orthodox Jewish world and the secular world is needed if we are ever to find a path forward.
Just this morning our post dealt with a denial of a development application, the federal lawsuit that was filed against the township that denied that application and the response to that lawsuit that we intend to pursue based on federal fair housing law. In the United States we do not construct housing developments specific to any group of citizens other than 55+. All races, creeds, colors, sexual orientations or religions cannot present a construction application that would produce discriminatory housing.
Over the last month you will note that our posts have softened, this has been by design as we are transitioning from an informational resource to an action resource. We have deliberately steered away from controversial topics, all in an effort to respect the rules put in place by Facebook.
The explanation provided by Facebook for unpublishing the page cites “using hate speech”.
In Facebook community standards you describe hate speech as violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation. None of those characteristics are present in our content. To the the contrary, we have on rare occasion discussed exclusion or segregation but in the reverse, meaning that the orthodox Jewish faith tends to be insular and as such can at times exclude members of the secular community.
Furthermore Facebook outlines the three tiers of hate speech as follows:
Tier 1. Content targeting a person or group of people (including all subsets except those described as having carried out violent crimes or sexual offenses) on the basis of their aforementioned protected characteristic(s) or immigration status with violent speech or support in written or visual form, dehumanizing speech or imagery in the form of comparisons, generalizations, or unqualified behavioral statements. None of that is present in OUR posts or comments.
Tier 2. Content targeting a person or group of people on the basis of their protected characteristic(s) with generalizations that state inferiority (in written or visual form). None of that is present in OUR posts or comments.
Tier 3. Content targeting a person or group of people on the basis of their protected characteristic(s) with any of the following: Calls for segregation, Explicit Exclusion, Political Exclusion defined as denial of right to political participation, Economic Exclusion defined as denial of access to economic entitlements and limiting participation in the labor market or Social Exclusion defined as including but not limited to denial of opportunity to gain access to spaces (incl. online) and social services. None of that is present in OUR posts or comments.
In closing, speaking at the Silicon Slopes Tech Summit in Salt Lake City, Mark Zuckerberg outlined his decision to stand up for the principles of free speech and how that decision will “piss off a lot of people”.
“This is the new approach, and I think it’s going to piss off a lot of people,” Zuckerberg said. “But frankly the old approach was pissing off a lot of people too, so let’s try something different.”
That approach will favor free speech over censorship, according to Zuckerberg. “we’re going to stand up for free expression.”
The decision to unpublish our page that was made this morning will have far reaching affects. Tomorrow we are scheduled for a lengthy interview with the Star Ledger here in New Jersey to discuss the efforts of Rise Up Ocean County and the transition that we are undergoing. For the record, the Star Ledger and their sister website www.nj.com have the highest news circulations in the state, unrivaled quite frankly. It would be tragic if that interview, that was intended to focus on over-development, the successes and failures of Rise Up Ocean County and our future path, turned into a five hour interview about Facebook, social media censorship and the willingness of an industry giant to buckle to the pressures being applied, under false pretenses we might add, by elected officials seeking to coddle a voting bloc. Truly, we LOVE Facebook and want our presence back, please.
We implore you to reverse this decision and republish our page without delay.
Please direct all correspondence here, or via email to [email protected].
Thank you for your consideration.
Rise Up Ocean County Admin Team.