UPDATE 7/19/2017 5:41pm easter: Facebook Rep. Apologizes to Brazilian Bishops Conference About Page Bans
Yesterday, dozens of major Catholic Facebook pages in English, Spanish, and Portuguese were removed from Facebook simultaneously without explanation, causing great distress to their owners. Late yesterday evening the pages were restored without explanation.
So what happened?
A Facebook spokesman has given Facebook’s first official explanation to ACI Prensa (translated from Spanish): “The pages were restored. The incident was accidentally caused by a spam detection mechanism on the platform. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
But does this really make sense?
ChurchPOP identified dozens of major Catholic pages across three languages that were simultaneously affected (many more than we initially reported). If it was a random glitch, we would have seen possibly thousands of pages affected, most of which would have been non-Catholic. And yet, so far we’re only aware of Catholic pages that were affected.
This is entirely speculation, but we think two other explanations are more plausible:
One possibility is that some anti-Catholic group coordinated reporting the affected pages as spam, and something about that triggered an automatic action on Facebook. Or, after being reported, an anti-Catholic Facebook employee charged with reviewing spam reports decided to take it as an opportunity ban the pages.
Another possibility is simply that a rogue employee who doesn’t like the Catholic Church used their power to ban the pages, and when Facebook found out about it they reversed it.
Neither involve a new Facebook policy targeting Catholics – that’s obviously highly unlikely. But both seem more plausible than a spam detection glitch targeting dozens of Catholic pages in multiple languages. It would explain why, as far as we know, only Catholic pages were affected, why not all major Catholic pages were affected, and why the action was quickly reversed for all pages.