Religion

Facebook apologizes for banning evangelist Franklin Graham for 24 hours

Franklin Graham thanks the community

Franklin Graham thanks the community for its support after Rev. Billy Graham’s death
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Franklin Graham thanks the community for its support after Rev. Billy Graham’s death

Facebook is apologizing to evangelist Franklin Graham for banning him from posting on the site for 24 hours last week, a Facebook spokesperson told The Charlotte Observer on Saturday.

It was a mistake to ban Graham over a 2016 post he made on the site, and a mistake to have taken down the post, the spokesperson said.

Facebook has restored the 2016 post and will apologize in a note to the administrator of Graham’s Facebook page, according to the Facebook spokesperson, who agreed to speak only on background, meaning without the spokesperson’s name.

A member of Facebook’s content review team -- the team has 15,000 members -- had mistakenly decided the post violated Facebook’s policy that bans “dehumanizing language” and excluding people based on sexual orientation, race and other factors, according to the spokesperson and Facebook’s written policy.

“Why?” Graham asked in a Facebook post on Friday after he said he was banned from posting anything on the site for 24 hours last week. “Because of a post from back in 2016 about North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (the bathroom bill). Facebook said the post went against their ‘community standards on hate speech.’ Facebook is trying to define truth.”

In his post, Graham said the social media giant is “making the rules and changing the rules. Truth is truth. God made the rules and His Word is truth. Actually, Facebook is censoring free speech. The free exchange of ideas is part of our country’s DNA.”

Graham’s Friday post included his 2016 post that he said Facebook “took down” last week. “Do you see any hate speech here?” Graham asked.

Graham’s 2016 post focused on singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen canceling a North Carolina concert because of House Bill 2.

“He says the NC law #HB2 to prevent men from being able to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms is going ‘backwards instead of forwards,’” Graham said in his 2016 post, referring to Springsteen. “Well, to be honest, we need to go back! Back to God. Back to respecting and honoring His commands.”

In March 2016, the General Assembly passed HB2, also known as the “bathroom bill.” HB2 reversed a Charlotte ordinance that extended some rights to people who are gay or transgender, The Charlotte Observer reported at the time. Then-Gov. Pat McCrory signed the measure into law the same night.

Charlotte’s ordinance protected transgender people using public restrooms based on their gender identity, the Observer reported. The 2016 NC law also eliminated local ordinances statewide that expanded protections for lesbians and gays and bisexual and transgender persons.

A year later, the General Assembly passed a compromise bill repealing House Bill 2 but restricting anti-discrimination ordinances across the state. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the bill into law.

Graham’s post Friday drew a combined 75,000 likes and “angry-face” and “wow” emojis by Saturday afternoon, along with nearly 38,500 shares and 8,400 comments. The response was overwhelmingly in Graham’s favor; the Observer searched nearly a thousand of the comments by Saturday afternoon and found none opposed to his remarks.

“Facebook has no business worrying about religious convictions,” Bonnie Reichert posted in a typical comment on Graham’s page.

“Facebook has no right banning anything,” posted Kenan Lott. “If they keep it up someone will start a new better version for the people.”

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.

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