Did Facebook Show Religious Bias Against Kirk Cameron?
I learned on Thursday that Kirk Cameron is claiming his movie Unstoppable, had its website blocked from Facebook. I thought this was odd, so I did some research.
What I found was:
1. The link to the Unstoppable website was in fact blocked. This issue was rapidly corrected. The rapid correction and the inability of some to see the problem in action lead to accusations that Cameron made the issue up as some sort of marketing ploy. He didn’t make it up. The problem was real.
2. Cameron’s movie’s website is listed as malicious by McAfee, which no doubt is having an impact on the ability to share the link to his site. I know this issue is real, because I discovered it myself (the evidence is below.)
3. As of Friday morning, the trailer for the movie has been taken down from YouTube. (Others reposted it.)
Clearly something is going on. But what is it? Is this religious bias from Facebook, McAfee and YouTube? Well, no. But it is definitely something nefarious.
I began my research with the Facebook page of the movie and saw the claim that the Unstoppable movie link could not be posted. Cameron stated that Facebook was discriminating against him and his movie. I could not see this problem in action, but enough people agreed that they could not post the link to make me feel that Cameron was being honest in his complaint. However, as previously noted, the problem was actually fixed very quickly. So Unstoppable wasn’t banned for very long at all. Updated to add – Facebook has since apologized, so again, clearly Cameron was not being dishonest. His site was blocked. Give the guy the benefit of the doubt you cynical people out there.
In addition, I learned that McAfee’s SiteAdvisor has blacklisted the movie’s website. I was able to find this out by running a scan on the website in question using Sucuri. (Click on the images for full size.) McAfee is a bit easier to fool than some other tools used for blacklisting, there are even plugins that, when incorrectly used, can cause a false blacklist for McAfee.
Today (or perhaps last night) YouTube was added to the mix. If you find a location where the trailer for Cameron’s film was posted, instead of being able to watch the trailer, you see this message:
So, it is clear, Cameron and his film have a real problem. Something is causing grief to his social media efforts and his website.
I offer assistance
On Thursday evening, I posted on both the movie’s Facebook page and Cameron’s Facebook page about the blacklisting issue. Hopefully he will have someone who can help him fix the problem. (I looked back at the Facebook page, and someone thanked me for my explanation and stated they were looking into it and other possible reasons.)
Institutional v. Personal Actions
The problem, aside from what Cameron is experiencing, is that there seems to be real confusion between institutional bias and individualized or personal actions. Cameron claimed, and many articles state that Facebook specifically set out to discriminate against Unstoppable due to some form of religious bias. There is absolutely no evidence that this is what happened. The accusation that the sites have chosen to discriminate against Cameron due to his views is both serious and harmful. When people make such statements it causes a level of anger against these companies and a view that they are setting out to harm a group, in this case Christians.
It is very important that people understand, if anyone has engaged in negative action against Cameron’s efforts to market his movie (and I believe they have) it is individuals, not companies. So is discrimination against Cameron and his movie happening? Well, it is either discrimination or jerky behavior for some other reason, yes. But it is by individuals. Blame these people for inappropriate behavior, but please do not take it to the level of Facebook discriminates against Christians.
How Bans Happen
When Facebook (or YouTube) bans a link or image, it normally does so because the item in question has repeatedly been reported as spam or offensive. I explained how easy it is to report content on Facebook in a prior post. So, most likely, what has happened to Cameron’s movie is that some people keep reporting it for violating the terms of service of Facebook and YouTube. And also have attacked it via McAfee’s SiteAdvisor.
To me, what is happening to Cameron’s movie and his marketing efforts is absolutely unacceptable. I happen to dislike some of the things Cameron has said, but I think he absolutely has the right to say them. To think that people want to shut someone up so badly that they interfere with his ability to speak is terrible. However, I feel it is important that those who are experiencing bias, in this case potentially a form of discrimination, be careful when they make accusations about exactly who or what is causing the problem. Recognize that there are jerks out there who do absolutely inappropriate things, as in this case. But do not claim that the bias rises to such a large degree that companies are after a particular group or seeking to discriminate against them.
I hope Cameron and his web people can get to the bottom of this problem and resolve it quickly. I applaud Facebook for working to fix the problem so rapidly that most people never experienced it. I would like to see YouTube and McAfee fix it just as quickly. I would also like to see all of these organizations have a rapid response in place to deal with likely future attacks by other individuals who have something against someone else and seek to block their content online.
This post has been updated as I became aware of new information.