Facebook Apologizes to Homophobic Preacher After He Was Temporarily Blocked For Anti-Trans Hate Speech

While Twitter is taking historic measures to ban anti-LGBTQ hate speech, Facebook is kowtowing to homophobes.

The social media platform issued an apology to evangelical pastor Franklin Graham after his account was temporarily suspended for comments about North Carolina’s House Bill 2. After Bruce Springsteen canceled a concert in the state over the anti-trans “bathroom bill,” Graham lamented society had strayed too far from Biblical teachings.”

“[W]e need to go back!” he said in 2016. “Back to God. Back to respecting and honoring His commands. Back to common sense. … [A] nation embracing sin and bowing at the feet of godless secularism and political correctness is not progress.”

Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, was locked out of his Facebook account in December as a result of that two-year-old post. He claimed in a Dec. 28 tweet that the website—which counts more than 2 billion active monthly users—was “censoring free speech” by banning him for 24 hours.

“[Facebook is] making and changing the rules,” Graham said. “Truth is truth. God made the rules and His Word is truth. The free exchange of ideas is part of our country’s DNA.”

The pastor further referred to it as a “personal attack” in an appearance on Fox and Friends.

But on Sunday, the 66-year-old reported that Facebook had extended an olive branch. In a message to Graham, its moderators claimed they had made a “mistake” by suspending his account.

“It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Facebook that didn’t go against our Community Standards,” the message read. “We want to apologize and let you know that we’ve restored your content and removed any blocks on your account related to this incorrect action.”

In an email, the company further reiterated their condolences.

“Upon re-reviewing this content, we identified that the post does not violate our hate speech policy and has been restored,” spokesperson Sarah Pollock told the Asheville Citizen-Times.

On Facebook’s website, it delineates hate speech as a “direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics—race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability.”

“We define attack as violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation,” the company claims.

Although one could reasonably argue that referring to the movement for trans equality as an embrace of “sin,” “godless secularism,” and “political correctness” is dehumanizing, it appears Facebook does not share that view.

While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was an outspoken critic of HB 2, the site has long had a contentious relationship with the LGBTQ community. In October, a Washington Post report revealed that its policy on political advertising unintentionally censored “dozens” of pro-LGBTQ messages.

More recently, Facebook banned discussion of  “sexual preference” and “sexual roles” in an effort to curb solicitation. A relatively innocuous statement like “#BottomPride” on the platform could, thus, lead to a suspension.

But while Facebook continues to draw ire from its LGBTQ user base, Twitter has trended in the opposite direction.

In October, the company announced it would no longer allow users to deadname or misgender trans people. Its updated Terms of Service prohibit “targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category.”

Graham, who is very active on both Twitter and Facebook, has a long history of this kind of behavior.

The far-right Christian leader supports Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” laws, says LGBTQ inclusion in the Boy Scouts of America is the result of “corrupt values,” and thinks queer people “recruit” children. He has also said same-sex marriage is a “detestable” affront to God and equated it to “senseless violence.”

When HB 2 was repealed and replaced with a controversial “compromise” bill in March 2017, Graham tweeted that any rollback of the legislation would lead to “pedophiles and sexually perverted men in women’s public restrooms.”

Calling trans people “sexually perverted men” would likely get him banned on Twitter today under its new hate speech guidelines.

Luckily for Graham, Facebook is there waiting with blind eyes.

Image via Getty

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