On Tuesday, Facebook stood by its decision to demonetize the Christian satire site The Babylon Bee over a satire article regurgitating a witch joke from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Facebook claimed that the article “Senator Hirono Demands ACB Be Weighed Against A Duck To See If She Is A Witch” actually “incites violence.” The social media platform demanded that the Babylon Bee edit the article and not speak publicly about the review, but Babylon Bee CEO Seth Dillon went public.
“So after a manual review, Facebook says they stand by their decision to pull down this article and demonetize our page. I’m not kidding. They say this article ‘incites violence,'” Dillon tweeted. “It’s literally a regurgitated joke from a Monty Python movie!”
“In what universe does a fictional quote as part of an obvious joke constitute a genuine incitement to violence?” the CEO asked. “How does context not come into play here? They’re asking us to edit the article and not speak publicly about internal content reviews. Oops, did I just tweet this?”
In what universe does a fictional quote as part of an obvious joke constitute a genuine incitement to violence? How does context not come into play here? They're asking us to edit the article and not speak publicly about internal content reviews. Oops, did I just tweet this?
— Seth Dillon (@SethDillon) October 20, 2020
Dillon told PJ Media that the Babylon Bee expected Facebook to reverse its actions once a person reviewed the article.
“We fully expected that once a real person reviewed the article, they’d see that it’s just a rehashed Monty Python joke put out there by a satire site. It literally couldn’t be more silly or harmless,” he said. “But they stuck with their original ruling and want us to edit the article before they’ll reinstate monetization on our page. Needless to say, we won’t be doing that.”
“This situation raises a serious question about double standards,” Dillon told PJ Media. “How fairly does Facebook enforce these standards? A Black Lives Matter leader recently said they’ll ‘burn down this system’ if change doesn’t happen. That’s allowed on Facebook. You can quote it. You can link to it. But you can’t rehash a Monty Python joke about burning a witch at the stake?”
“Facebook says in their community standards that they take context into account when evaluating threats and incitements to violence. The evidence here suggests otherwise,” he argued.
Facebook demonetized the Babylon Bee, preventing the organization from using features that would allow it to make money off of its content on the platform.
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Facebook did not respond to PJ Media’s request for comment.
Left-leaning fact-checkers have repeatedly taken aim at The Babylon Bee, with Snopes even suggesting that the Bee did not rise to the level of satire. The Bee lawyered up after Snopes tried to deplatform it by calling it “fake news.” The Babylon Bee’s lawyer sent a demand letter, and Snopes altered the offending article. Yet the attacks keep coming.
When The Babylon Bee ran a hilarious satire article claiming “Ninth Circuit Court Overturns Death Of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” USA Today fact-checked it. What, exactly, felt plausible enough about that article to require a fact-check?
Facebook has also refused to go after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who repeatedly accused Republicans of “trying to get away with murder, the murder of George Floyd” because the Senate Republican police reform bill wasn’t quite as radical as hers. Pelosi said this at a time when Black Lives Matter and antifa rioters were burning down buildings, setting off fireworks at police officers at close range, and tearing down whatever statues tickled their fancy.
While most of the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death were peaceful, many protests devolved into violent riots that disproportionately damaged black communities in Kenosha, Wisc., Minneapolis, and Chicago. The riots destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. At least 26 Americans have died in the riots, most of them black.
Pelosi accused Republicans of trying to get away with murder in this context, and Facebook did not censor her. But Facebook did go after the Babylon Bee for an obviously satirical article about Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) supposedly trying to weigh Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to see if she weighs as much as a duck, to see if she’s made of wood and therefore is a witch.
Welcome to the bizarro world of 2020, and it seems only to be getting worse.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.