On May 5th, I checked my facebook account before going to bed. There was a friend request from someone using “praying hands” as their profile picture. I looked at their account, saw that we had absolutely nothing in common, and deleted the request. Less than 6 hours later, I received this:
After deleting a ‘praying hands’ friend request
I was locked out of all my pages and groups, and could not receive, send, or reply to messages. Worse yet, there was no indication on facebook that this had been done to me. Beginners often ask me questions through private messages, and this would look like I was ignoring them.
I made the following replies in their support inbox:
Please add anything more you’d like to tell us.
Religious minority, and I have friends who live in countries where they could be harmed/killed for their beliefs. Last night I turned down a friend request from someone using “praying hands” as their avatar, and this morning I get a block notice. It is religious persecution.
This is a religious identity, associated with the blogs kemetic reconnaissance and shrine beautiful and predates your namewars policy. Particularly in light of your recent Cambridge Analytica DATA BREACH, anyone with a minority religious affiliation would be foolish to trust you with personal information, when they could lose their job and health insurance in the US, or their lives in the Mideast. Also it endangers any friends of someone who has been breached.
After several go-arounds in which they did not respond to anything I sent, on 5/10 I was finally able to access my account. I didn’t receive any official notice that it had been reinstated, and on 5/14 I was again locked out of my account:
This time, my screen name shows up in black in any posts I made, without a link, so nobody can see my profile page, “wall” posts, or send me a message. Seven years of friendships and interactions gone.
Talking to friends on one of the Kemetic forums, at least one other friend has gotten a similar request from the same person, but she ignored it instead of deleting it. So far, her account is still functioning. The perpetrator is apparently an evangelical on youtube, and he uses this tactic to attack and silence pagans, polytheists, atheists, agnostics, and anyone else he disagrees with. How many people are victims of these attacks? There’s probably no way to know. Perhaps someone can set up a memorial for the usernames that have been changed or deactivated. If users don’t know these attacks are taking place, they won’t know to take steps to protect their access and friend connections.
As a weapon to target members of minority religions, it’s highly-effective. If people hand over their identities and have their “wallet names” exposed, it has a chilling effect. They will avoid mentioning their religion publicly in order to avoid future attacks or exposing their friends.
Anybody can fall prey to these tactics, not just those with “unusual” names. One complaint and facebook demands that you give them your government-issued ID or images of credit cards. They say they will delete the file you send them after thirty days, but they cleverly do not say that they will delete the information they glean from them in their databases. That is for sale.
If they demanded this information from everyone it would create a mass exodus, especially after the continued scandals and betrayals.
This has nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with data harvesting and sale of your information.
If someone complains to facebook that you’re using a pseudonym, FB instantly swings into action. However, if you send FB complaints about users or groups that advocate murder of people for their religious or political views, you’ll find that facebook has no interest in taking action.
The commenting engine Disqus published an article several years ago suggesting that pseudonyms aren’t particularly associated with trolling and online incivility, despite facebook’s claims.
It’s time to admit that facebook is not a safe space for pagans, polytheists, members of other minority religious, atheists, or agnostics.
We can’t trust our religious lives to any commercial social network, because “selling you out” has become their business model. The challenge to moving elsewhere is that there needs to be a critical mass of users sharing the same interest, or there are no discussions or interactions. But with the continued scandals (including 12 Days of Facebook in 2018) this seems like a great time to leave.
The challenge to moving elsewhere is that there needs to be a critical mass of people sharing some interests, or there’s no discussion or interaction. Perhaps now after all the disturbing news, the time has come to try something else.
Recently I discovered MeWe, a social media site built around user privacy (they have a Privacy Bill of Rights!) And it allows members to use pseudonyms. And it has full-featured groups!
I’ve started a beginner-level group on MeWe called Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian) Religion, and there are several general pagan groups there too. Join us and give it a try!