Over 900,000 petitioners are calling on Facebook to remove a page that prays for the death of President Barack Obama.
Concerned Facebook users have sent a letter to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg today on behalf of 913,000 signatories to the petition. The page’s title is “DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR,PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER,MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN”
Facebook initially ruled the page’s title, spelling errors not withstanding, did not violate its “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” and that it was a “distasteful” joke rather than a hate speech page. The organizers of the petition argue that regardless of the title, the page itself has become an unmoderated forum for content that violates Facebook’s rules. “Additionally, members of the “death prayer” page have harassed, threatened, and intimidated those who have raised their voices in objection,” the petition organizers said in a statement. “Content that is racist, intimidating, harassing, and/or advocates violence is regularly posted and often remains for months.”
The main “death prayer” page on Facebook has over a million members but it seems that there are a few other pages and groups with the same title. When I looked, the content on the page seemed a rather curious mix. The wall has mainly social posts, while the serious debates are reserved for the discussion tab.
Under the discussion topic “Why are people calling whites racist just because we dnt like obama??” there are questionable comments such as “Come on!!! we are not racist just b/c we dnt like him!! he is only in office b/c blacks just wants blacks president!! and i’m not racist because my babby sister is half black”. Another one says: “many blacks call WHITE ppl racist which i dont get.b/c their is ALL BLACK SCHOOLS,BLACK HISTORY MONTH,BLACK THIS BLACK THAT.WHERE IS ALL WHITE,SCHOOLS,WHITE HISTORY MONTH WHITE THIS WHITE THAT!!!”
Meanwhile, there are also a number of people trying to set the record straight on some factual points, for example posting a link to Snopes on the myth that Obama “canceled” the National Day of Prayer. One wall commenter referred to them as “pro-Obama trolls”.
The petition organizers have also founded a group called the Council for Accountability in Social Media to help it effectively press Facebook and other social media entities to ban content that marginalizes groups or individuals or advocates violence or intimidation. There are examples on the CASMedia website of content that violates Facebook’s “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities”. The petitioners complain that offending comments are regularly posted and allowed to remain until a critical mass of users employ Facebook’s automated system to report violations.
Apparently the page was started by high school student Hunter Hott from Marysville, Ohio as a “joke” adapted from one first made in a memo circulated by members of the New Jersey Teacher’s Union about New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie. The page’s creator and administrators have since been blocked, banned, or have vacated their positions, leaving the page unmoderated.