The Lady Liberty League (LLL) has been contacted by many members of our community, concerned by several Facebook pages that promote violence against people the members identify as 'witches or wizards.'
Several pages have been identified as being highly problematic. Most appear to have been created by people identifying themselves as Christians in Africa.
In response, on Tuesday, August 20th the Lady Liberty League released the following open letter to Facebook.
Open Letter to Facebook
The Lady Liberty League (LLL) is an organization supporting religious freedom for Wiccans, Pagans, and other Nature religion practitioners and human rights worldwide. Over the past few days we have received numerous reports from members of our community concerned about several Facebook pages and groups advocating violence and murder against "witches or wizards." These pages include:
The stated aim of these pages is to advocate for the torture and murder of people their members believe to be 'witches' or 'wizards.' These threats are of particular concern to our community, many of whom also use the word 'witch' to describe their own nature-based religious practices. Members of our community have been all too frequently targeted by violent people who do not understand the distinction between our religion and their idea of malevolent 'witches' or 'wizards'.
We have also observed with growing alarm, the increase of 'witch hunts' in Africa, where the authors of these pages seem to live, as well as in other parts of the world. There, religiously motivated 'witch hunters' are singling out the most powerless members of their communities, including children, widows and the sick, and subjecting them to torture and murder. This is not ancient history or the Wizard of Oz; these deaths are happening now. In that context, and in that location, we cannot interpret the Facebook pages in question as anything but justifications of and calls for violence against real people.
Our community members and LLL staff have attempted to use Facebook's integrated reporting function to alert your company to these pages, which are a clear violation of Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SSR), which states under Item 3. Safety - 7. "You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence," (emphasis ours). We have received responses from Facebook indicating that you have not found a that these pages violate Facebook's community standards.
Facebook has become a meeting place of many ideas, and a force for freedom of expression around the world. Our community deeply values the work that your company has done to support the free exchange of opinions. We appreciate the enormity of the task that Facebook has, in answering the millions of abuse reports it receives, however we strongly feel that in this case your reviewers have erred.
We are confident that Facebook will review your own community standards and recognize, in light of the real, daily violence that these pages are part of, you will revise your decision and disable these and all future pages calling for violent witch hunts anywhere.
the Lady Liberty League
LLL is also in the process of coordinating with the Covenant of the Goddess, other organizations and individuals within the Pagan Community to constructively address this issue, and to contact decision makers within Facebook.
In the meantime we ask that the Pagan community exercises restraint and clear communication in addressing this issue. If we are not specific and accurate in our objection, it is likely that we will be ignored.
Our investigation into the pages that have been brought to our attention suggests that the hateful speech there is part of a larger pattern of individuals using 'witch hunting' as a justification for violence against scapegoats within their own communities. These victims, which include children, the elderly and the disabled, may, for the most part identify themselves as also being Christians. While religious difference has been the root of many persecutions for 'witchcraft' or 'sorcery,' that does not appear to be the case in the regions where these pages are coming from now. Therefore, we feel it is critical that we express our opposition to these pages as being rooted in a respect for human rights and an abhorrence for violence, rather than seeing this as an example of religious discrimination.
We encourage the Pagan community to engage in respectful and calm dialog with Facebook, focusing our message on preventing violence.
We strongly urge our community not to engage with the members of these pages directly. Such attempts are not likely to promote understanding, and may even make the situation on the ground worse. Members on these pages are already interpreting attempts by well-meaning Pagans to ask them to change their language to be 'evidence' that there are evil, malicious 'witches' and 'wizards' who wish to silence them. The last thing we want to do is to give the authors of these pages ammunition to spread their twisted world view to others.
If you have contact information for decision makers within Facebook, we encourage you to send that information to email@example.com. LLL is a program of Circle Sanctuary.
This is an opportunity for our community to come together and take a stand against violence anywhere and everywhere. Our religion shows us that all things are connected, and therefore we feel it is critical to speak out for human rights for all.
August 20, 2013