20 August 2015

Facebook labels news story about a monk who changed his name to comply the identity policy "abusive"

Yesterday, given Facebook's policy prohibiting (at least some) members of the clergy from using their ecclesial titles as their name, I asked a simple question: is Facebook anti-Catholic? Given a story coming out of St. Nazianz, Wisconsin, the answer may be in the affirmative.

A Byzantine Catholic priest, Father Moses Wright, was recently notified by Facebook that he had to remove "Hierodeacon" from his name because it was not part of his authentic name and identity. Not wishing to comply with the declaration, Father Moses found a clever way around the situation:
But the Byzantine monk decided he wouldn’t wait for Facebook to change its policy. Instead, he decided to change his name. On Aug. 13, he posted a new announcement:

“Thanks Facebook! After 21 years of using my monastic name, and never officially changing it, today I will petition the State of Wisconsin to ‘OFFICIALLY’ become Monk Moses,” he wrote in a post, which received 80 “likes.” 

He then drove to the Manitowoc County Courthouse to begin the process. A post that afternoon let friends know:  

“Name change paperwork filed! Take that Facebook bullies!”
It might be a bit drastic, but it certainly is clever and would seem to be in keeping with Facebook's policy.

Hearing of the story, The  Compass, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay, published an article on the monk's decision to change his legal name so as to comply with Facebook's policy regarding authentic name's and identities. Both The Compass and Father Moses shared the story on their Facebook pages, but then something unexpected happened:
Within hours, authorities at Facebook removed the story from The Compass Facebook page and Fr. Wright’s personal page. In addition, it blocked the link from being reposted. Anyone seeking to post the story on Facebook received one of two messages:
  • “Warning: This Message Contains Blocked Content: Your message couldn’t be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.”
  • “You can’t post this because it has a blocked link. The content you’re trying to share includes a link that our security systems detected to be unsafe. Please remove this link to continue.”
That's right: if you disagree with Facebook's policy and write about it, your words might branded as abusive. I wonder if that will happen with these posts.

So much for dialogue, open-mindedness, and free speech.

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