Facebook shuts ‘racist’ page but Rise Up Ocean County vows to return
TRENTON — Facebook has removed the anonymous page "Rise Up Ocean County" for violating the social media company's hate speech policies after a request was made almost a year ago by the state's Division on Civil Rights, which called the page racist.
But one of the page's administrators believes the page will return.
Rise Up made its presence known in December 2018 with a Facebook page and trailers promoting the film "OC230," which criticized over-development in Lakewood, a municipality where the population has boomed thanks to a growing Orthodox Jewish enclave. The Facebook group fears that the township's population will double by 2030 to 230,000 and urges people to "rise up" and "stop it now."
The group's organizers, who have never publicly identified themselves, have said that their intentions are not anti-Semitic even though followers' comments often made references to anti-Semitic tropes and some of the page's own postings discussed Jewish religious practices that had nothing to do with real estate development. The page has been condemned by local officials.
The state Division on Civil Rights sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in April pointing to posts that claimed that that the quality of life in Ocean County is "under assault" and that a group of Orthodox Jewish rabbis "who control the fate of Lakewood" is leading an intended "colonization" of the township.
The letter contends that the page violates the state's discrimination laws.
In a statement on Wednesday, Murphy and Grewal applauded Facebook's decision.
"We’ve consistently and repeatedly made clear our view that the page appeared to violate Facebook’s terms of service, and we appreciate that Facebook has now decided that this kind of hateful rhetoric has no place on its platform," the statement said.
“There remains much that should be done to stop the spread of hate on the Internet. The Murphy Administration will continue to call out hate whenever and wherever we see it, we will persist in demanding meaningful reforms to address the proliferation of hate online, and we will continue working to make New Jersey a safe and inclusive place for all of our residents.”
The page briefly went dark last month after the administrators said they took it offline in the face of a "coordinated attack."
Facebook spokesman Daniel Roberts said, "upon further review we have determined this Page violates our community standards for hate speech and have removed it from the platform." The page was reviewed periodically and had removed specific posts that were deemed a violation of their community standards.
An administrator for the group told New Jersey 101.5 that "if the governor and the attorney general think somehow this brings us to an end they're out of their minds. That's not going to happen."
Then they were notified Wednesday morning that the page was unpublished but could appeal the decision.
"You told us you unpublished our page because we violate community standards on hate speech. Here are your community standards on hate speech and we don't violate any of them," the administrator said the group wrote in its appeal. "I don't know what else to say. The truth is that we don't target any particular people."
"It's not as if we said 'ha ha we hate Jewish people' and the suggestion that somehow the page represents that is preposterous. Anyone who follows that and is objective can't possibly reach that conclusion," the administrator said.
The group posted its appeal on their separate website.
"The major concern from the Governor and Attorney General seems to be our focus on the Orthodox Jewish community that is driving that growth. Our dialogue regarding that community is coincidental, there is no animosity represented toward that community by our page and no hint of anti-Semitism. To the contrary in our About section we make it clear that we welcome ALL to our efforts," the appeal says.
The administrator said the appeal also appears to go against Zuckerberg's own statements that he would favor free speech.