Social media giant Facebook blocked more than two dozen conservative Catholic pages in a 24-hour period, some with millions of followers, saying only they were “suspected of suspicious activities.”
Facebook seemed to target only conservative Catholic pages with a significant following, since almost all had between hundreds of thousands and up to six million followers, according to Catholic News Agency (CNA), which broke the story.
One of the blocked pages called “Fr. Rocky” belonged to a U.S. Catholic priest Fr. Francis J. Hoffman, executive director of Relevant Radio, whose page had 3.5 million likes.
“Catholic and Proud,” an enormously popular page with six million followers, met a similar fate. Page owner Kenneth Alimba of Nigeria told CNA his page was also blocked without explanation. He had another page titled “Holy Mary Mother of God” with some 200,000 Likes that was also removed.
Alimba has sent messages to Facebook in an attempt to have his pages reinstated but said he is “not optimistic” about a response. Some of Alimba’s other Facebook pages with fewer followers are still online.
“It is extremely heartbreaking,” Kenneth Alimba said of the page he has worked on for over five years. “It’s too horrible.”
Although they were furnished with no explanation for the blocks, some of the page administrators of the blocked sites have speculated that perhaps they are being censored, since Facebook has been accused in the past of censoring “conservative” news and websites, an allegation that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has denied.
Alimba said he believes he is being targeted specifically because it was a Catholic page. “They’ve fought and continue to fight anything Catholic and conservative,” he said.
Another Catholic fanpage called “Jesus and Mary,” which had some 1.7 million followers and depicted an image of the sacred hearts of Jesus and Mary as its cover photo, was also blocked by Facebook.
Page administrator Godwin Delali Adadzie told CNA that he was on Facebook on the evening of July 17 when he was requested to upload a photo of himself because his personal account had been “suspected of suspicious activities.”
“The page happens to be the most effective means of driving traffic to my Catholic websites and blogs,” Adadzie said. “I am also a blogger and a writer, and in writing, without readers which requires quality traffic, your writing or blogging will be useless.”
He was eventually allowed back into his personal account, but received a notification informing him that his “Jesus and Mary” page had been disabled. According to Adadzie, everyone authorized as an editor of the “Jesus and Mary” page had to go through the same process, which would suggest something more than a computer glitch is at play.
Adadzie sent two appeals to Facebook but has yet to get a response.
Of the known affected Catholic pages, 21 are based in Brazil, and four are English-language pages, with administrators in the U.S. and Africa.
Observers have suggested that the 25 pages are just the tip of the iceberg and actual numbers of blocked Catholic pages could well be in the dozens.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome