Facebook officials refuse to explain why they shut down a page with more than 77 million followers after an unprecedented avalanche of anti-Semitic comments suddenly appeared on it as thousands of Hamas missiles were launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel.
The Jerusalem Prayer Team (JPT) page was founded in 2002 by Pastor Mike Evans, a Dallas-based U.S. evangelical supporter of the State of Israel, to encourage Christians around the world to pray for the tiny Jewish nation.
The site’s global following, mainly of Christians and Jews, also included 18 million Muslims, when, on May 13, the comment section suddenly exploded with anti-Semitic hate.
“On that single day, we received over 800,000 comments, the overwhelming majority of which were very negative, often crude, and anti-Semitic,” JPT spokesman Michael Vaughn told The Epoch Times.
“Clearly, this was not random: Someone somewhere was orchestrating this barrage,” he said.
The barrage of anti-Semitic comments continued for two days while JPT officials appealed to Facebook for help, Vaughn said.
“We were amazed and disappointed that Facebook allowed such comments to be made. We had understood they had a corporate commitment to prevent offensive or false information from being displayed, but in our case, there was no apparent intervention by Facebook,” Vaughn said.
Then with no prior warning, Facebook shut down the JPT page, which at the time was the 22nd most-liked page on the social media platform.
“On Saturday, May 15, with no notice, no attempt to reach us, Facebook told us they had unpublished our JPT Facebook, citing this was due to the page being spam and violating their policies,” Vaughn said.
“We did nothing differently on May 12 or any other day than we had done in the prior 1,000 days.”
JPT appealed to Facebook on May 16 to reverse its decision to shut down the page, but was told the decision was final, Vaughn told The Epoch Times.
“We appealed again and were told that this review process could take several days. That seemed ridiculous, as we only post a few times a day and detailed review of every post for the last week would have taken no more than an hour,” Vaughn said.
“On May 19, we sent an official demand letter to Jennifer Newstead, Facebook’s general counsel, and to Facebook’s board of directors demanding their immediate action to correct this terrible error on their part.”
The JPT Facebook page remains down, and a request from The Epoch Times for comment from Facebook has received no response.
“We are continuing to communicate with Facebook but have not yet resolved the matter. We are considering several options at this time,” Vaughn said.
The JPT website is asking supporters to donate to a legal fund established to fight the Facebook decision.
Asked who might be behind the avalanche of anti-Semitic comments, Vaughn pointed to the English translation of an Al Jazeera story that referred to JPT as a “Zionist entity” and credited a Jordanian hacker with being responsible for Facebook’s decision to unpublish the page.
“It was reported in several news that the well-known hacker, Ahmed Saleh, nicknamed ‘The Saqr Bani Hashem Electronic,’ managed to close a Facebook page with 76 million likes to support the Zionist entity, called the ‘Jerusalem Prayer Team’ page,” Al Jazeera reported.
The shutdown of one of Facebook’s most widely read pages, however, has generated little interest in the mainstream media in the United States despite growing calls in Congress and elsewhere to take action against censorship by social media and digital giants such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter.
Searches of the websites of The Washington Post, USA Today, and The New York Times by The Epoch Times produced no stories on the issue.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity tweeted a Human Events story on the issue without comment. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also tweeted the link to the Human Events story and observed, “This … is … nuts.”
Congressional correspondent Mark Tapscott may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org