Facebook appears to be back to its intrusive censorship tactics. Hollywood actor and evangelical ministry leader Kirk Cameron accused the social media giant of blocking him from using his Facebook page to promote his new movie, Unstoppable, saying that Facebook censors called the trailer and promotion of the movie “abusive,” “unsafe,” and “spammy.”
Fox News reported that on July 19, Facebook not only blocked links to the movie trailer, but also prevented other Facebook users from mentioning the movie website. “We have been officially shut down by Facebook and unable to get any response from them,” Cameron wrote on his personal Facebook fan page. Cameron wrote that he couldn't even type the link to the movie's website in a post on his site, because the Facebook police “would block this post too!”
Cameron explained that he produced the film, which was made in partnership with Liberty University, to help answer questions people have about suffering. “This is my most personal film about faith, hope, and love and about why God allows bad things to happen to good people,” Cameron wrote. “What is ‘abusive’ or ‘unsafe’ about that?” he wondered, referring to Facebook's stated reasons for blocking content about the movie.
“I would understand if there was something truly unsafe about my stuff,” Cameron told Fox. “But I would encourage people to watch the trailer. Do you find anything offensive about faith, hope, and love in the time of a tragedy?”
Fox News noted that over the past several months Facebook “has come under fire from conservatives and Christians who said their pages have been either blocked or banned because of 'abusive' content. Earlier this year, the 'Chicks on the Right' Facebook page was shut down after they posted a message criticizing the White House. Facebook later apologized for that incident.”
After realizing that content about the movie, which contains no profanity or anything that could be construed as abusive, had been blocked by Facebook, Cameron asked fans to complain about the censorship, which they did, with thousands of people logging on to express their disapproval of what appeared to be an arbitrary decision by Facebook officials. CBN reported that over 250,000 Cameron Facebook fans shared his posts across the social media universe.
The complaining apparently worked, as the block was lifted one day later. “Victory!! Friends, you did it!” Cameron wrote in a follow-up post on his fan page. “People tried to stop 'Unstoppable' on Facebook and because millions of us joined together as one voice, Facebook has apologized and welcomed us back!”
He noted that YouTube officials, who had also blocked posting of the movie trailer on their site, had relented. “Because of your firm, loving and clear voice, not only did Facebook welcome us back, YouTube also removed its block on our 'Unstoppable' movie trailer,” he wrote. “We are back online with full access.”
For its part, Facebook claimed that the ban was all a big mistake. Michael Kirkland, a spokesman for Facebook, told the Christian Post that the social site had briefly blocked access to the movie website because of a mistake in Facebook's anti-spam system. “From what we can tell, the address purchased for the movie was previously being used as a spam site and it hadn't been refreshed in our system yet,” Kirkland explained.
Kirkland insisted that Facebook officials were in “direct contact with Kirk's team on this and reversed the block as soon as we confirmed that the address was no longer being used for spam.” In an official statement Facebook explained that it uses “automated systems” to protect its hundreds of millions of Facebook accounts from malicious attacks. “These systems are so effective that most people who use Facebook will never encounter spam,” the statement read. “They're not perfect, though, and in rare instances they make mistakes.” The statement emphasized that Cameron's movie link “was blocked for a very short period of time after being misidentified as a potential spam or malware site. We learn from rare cases such as these to make our systems even better.”
In the meantime, Cameron is gearing up for the September 24 one-night showing of Unstoppable in theaters and venues across the nation. The actor said that the movie will be simulcast live from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, to hundreds of locations, and encouraged fans to purchase tickets for a showing in their area. “Theaters full of people who love God, even in the midst of tragedy, is a powerful witness to everyone that life is stronger than death, good is stronger than evil, and faith is stronger than doubt,” he said.