Facebook recently targeted Toronto’s Christian Music Festival page as “political speech.” The Christian Music Festival is a Toronto based organization that hosts a music festival in Toronto each year among other events, it also posts encouraging Bible verses and Christian based news articles on Facebook, the page is apolitical. Despite this, Facebook prevented the group from putting money into promoting their events, including an upcoming vigil for victims of the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting.
What was Facebook’s reasoning for this designation? According to emails sent to Molly and Jay Banerjei, the couple who run the page, the page was a political account. Facebook chat support indicated that the Banerjeis would need to sign non-discrimination forms in order to continue advertising on Facebook, this did not lead to a change in the status of their account, they still cannot boost their posts relating to their events.
The claim that this page is political is highly dubious. The only “political” posts by the page were an endorsement of the festival from Andrew Scheer, the Opposition Leader in Canada. On the organization’s website, there is an endorsement of the festival from John Tory, Toronto’s mayor. Neither of these statements is political in nature, though Scheer highlights the Conservative Party’s commitment to religious freedom, and the Christian Music Festival is not endorsing the politics of either of the officials. The only other political content that can be found on the page is a post supportive of President Trump’s Embassy move in April, an apolitical Get Out the Vote post. Interestingly enough, the page also posted an article about Facebook blocking an ad from the University of Steubenville that depicted Christ on the Cross for “shocking, sensational, or excessively violent content.” And now the Christian Music Festival has also fallen victim to censorship.
Is Facebook deliberately targeting Christian pages for censorship? It certainly seems to be the case in this situation, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. We have seen this with conservative pages in the past, particularly with false “fact-checking.” Big tech has been under fire lately due to targeting and silencing of views they don’t agree with, last month hundreds of libertarian and pro-police accountability pages were purged from Facebook. There is no reason that this ongoing political discrimination couldn’t extend to anti-Christian bias, Facebook has gotten away with selective targeting before, and this incident is just the latest example of how a monopoly like Facebook can negatively affect free speech.