January 20, 2019

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Getting Out of Facebook Jail: Not Free (Judean Rose)

A rather neat coincidence, I thought, that my husband was released from Facebook “jail” an hour before the Passover holiday began. Another name for Passover, is, after all, Zman Cheruteinu, the time we mark our freedom; our liberation from bondage. Four days later, however, while the holiday celebrating our freedom was still in full force, my husband landed back in the (Facebook) slammer once more.

This was getting ridiculous.

Both times, my husband was reported for comments that were several years old. There appears to be no Facebook statute of limitations for reporting comments. Though the notifications, telling of a ban, offer a way to mark a “sentence” as a “mistake,” doing so yields no response. There is, in actuality, no way to appeal a ban, no recourse to justice. Anyone can troll your timeline, report a random comment, and Facebook duly puts you, the “offender” in jail.

Why choose an old comment? In doing so, the troll protects his identity. There is no way to connect the anonymous report to an actual thread, hence no way to connect the report to an actual person.

In the pro-Israel community, getting trolled for an old comment and put into Facebook jail has become a badge of honor. If you’re getting banned, you have the right politics. But it’s an ugly thing when social media is used to still the pro-Israel voice; where dissent is disallowed, at least temporarily, with Facebook a willing assistant/enabler.

Ryan Bellerose is a staunch Israel advocate and blogger. He’s been banned—put in Facebook jail—five times thus far, each time for way old comments. In one of the reported comments, Ryan jokingly called his friend a “vampire” for staying up so late on social media. This is the comment that was reported as “offensive.” No appeal possible, no recourse, no sane person to whom one might explain that the charge is drummed up, false, ridiculous. Facebook is an omniscient Big Brother. Justice is what Facebook says it is.

But you know how in TV shows, the villain always has to brag and give himself away? The guy who reported Ryan bragged about it using a fake profile. And a friend recognized that fake profile.

By the way, Ryan tells me he only uses his own name for the Facebook profiles he creates. Mark Rowan and Krista Kay are real people in their own right. The troll is not just a troll, but a paranoid troll at that.

Here is the troll using another alias, laughing at Ryan, bragging in an obscenity-laced screed of his prowess in silencing Ryan’s important voice for Israel .

Indefatigable pro-Israel blogger Ari Fuld has also been put in Facebook jail numerous times. Like Ryan and like my husband, Ari has discovered the workaround is each time creating a new Facebook profile. But the troll watches out for and targets the new profiles, encouraging others to follow suit:

The troll sees fake profiles everywhere. The Morris Goldberg profile is not Ari, by the way. Just as Ryan is not Mark Rowan or Krista.

Here the troll (varying the spelling of his/her name) brags about reporting Ari’s old comment, posting screenshots:

I put a call out: be in touch with me if you’ve been in FB jail for a way old comment. I was inundated with responses. But perhaps the Guinness Book record for most time in FB jail should go to David Meir, who writes, “Since 2010, I have been so much in FB jail that it makes at least 3 or 4 years.
“I’m not joking.

“I just got out of FB jail and the account went back in [jail] after less than an hour and so did my second David Meir [Facebook profile] after less than a day.

“Thing is that as soon as I go out of FB jail I go right back in so obviously someone is watching my posting pattern and when he (or she) sees I don’t comment anymore, wait for a month and then reports again so I am almost continuously in FB jail.
“Something must be done, it is simply criminal that a nobody can report comments you’ve made years ago and have so much power to virtually block you from ever being on FB.”
Lea Yarden has three alternating Facebook profiles, and all three have often been in “jail” for comments made many years previously. She too is an Israel advocate, and proud Zionist. “One day I got suspended from Facebook for old comments. And it kept happening over and over again. Not just me. All my friends. They were from hate groups where antisemites gang up on Jews and Zionists.

“They called us awful names. ‘Kike.’ ‘Dirty Jew pigs.’ ‘Monkeys.’ Then the icing on the cake were the words ‘Jump back in the ovens dirty Jews’ and ‘Hitler didn’t finish the job.’

“We thought we could change minds with facts. But they didn’t want facts. They wanted to degrade us. We reported every antisemitic comment. But Facebook didn’t think ‘dirty Jew’ or ‘jump back in the ovens’ violated their community standards.

“I removed myself from the groups. Sometime later the bans started. A 1-day ban, 3 days, one week and then the 30-day ban. You would have a few days when the 30 days were over then get hit with another 30-day ban from three and four-year-old comments. Three and four-year-old comments!! What was going on?

“This was happening to all my friends. It was surreal. Why would Facebook ban us over years old comments? We just can’t figure it out.”

Karen Shlomo is in Facebook “jail” for the ninth time in three years. She too, is being reported for old comments. I asked Karen the age of the comments that are being reported. She told me that they are three years old. 
Karen knows the age of the comments because she recognized a word that she stopped using three years ago on Facebook. She found out the hard way that certain language is bound to be reported, and learned to phrase things more carefully to escape censorship. But when someone is obsessively trolling your timeline, they’re going to find those old comments with the politically incorrect wording, and yes, they’re going to use those ancient comments to stifle your voice.

S, like my husband, Ryan, and Ari, knows the identity of the man who is trolling her. It’s actually the same person trolling all four of them, using fake profiles most of the time. But in one case, the troll outed himself, using his real email address, phone number, and signature when complaining about S to S’s husband at his work address (!), accusing S of infidelity (among other iniquities), and threatening litigation.

In similar fashion, the troll attempted to damage Ari’s reputation and even his livelihood: “I have posts that people sent to the TV station I work in [suggesting] that I have an ‘attraction’ to little boys,” relates Ari.
While comments can only be reported anonymously, sometimes the nature of a reported comment outs the reporter as in this comment of Ari’s that landed him once again in jail (for “bullying”):

And in this case too, the troll could not resist bragging:

One unifying thread between the troll and the people he reports is that he sees himself as a defender of Sarah Tuttle-Singer, the new media editor of the Times of Israel. The friendship between the two is quite public.

Which is why S tried writing to the Times of Israel. She thought perhaps they’d stop the harassment. But she received no response. Not from TOI and not from Facebook.
As she did her research on the troll, however, she saw he was using a corrupted swastika to decorate his blog’s homepage, along with a quote that speaks of restoring a “free and Christian Germany.”

Considering the threatening nature of his comments (whether under his real name or an alias) to her and her husband or to a Facebook audience at large. . . 
 . . . S felt quite within her rights reporting him to the FBI.
Will the FBI respond? I don’t know. But I do know that Facebook must be held to account for its practice of allowing old, innocuous comments to be reported, for stifling free speech, for listening to and acceding to the demands of horrid, anti-Israel trolls.

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