- The Washington Times - Monday, May 24, 2021

A Christian Zionist organization claims its “Jerusalem Prayer Team” Facebook page, which had close to 77 million online followers, was canceled by the social media giant following an alleged cyberbullying attack by Islamists.

Friends of Zion’s page had been pulled “suddenly” last week for violating Facebook’s “rules against spam and inauthentic behavior,” according to a statement released by the group to All Israel News, a website headed by U.S.-Israeli author Joel C. Rosenberg.

Mike Evans, the leader of the site and an evangelical Christian with close ties to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former President Donald Trump, told Mr. Rosenberg that the Facebook page was non-political. 

“The only thing the Jerusalem Prayer Team does is ask people to pray,” he said.

Mr. Evans told CBN News blamed Islamists for the ban, saying they had fooled Facebook into imposing the ban. 

“There was an organized attempt by radical Islamic organizations to achieve this objective. They posted over a million comments on our site and then had the people contact Facebook saying that they never posted to the site. That was a complete scam and fraud. It was a very clever, deceptive plan by Islamic radicals.”

Apparently, the “organized attempt” succeeded because the page went down, with Facebook stating it had been permanently removed. 

Facebook has never approached us, even though we’re under cyber-attack and even though we tried desperately to contact them. In fact, Facebook protects radical Islam and works against pro-Israel evangelicals. They also removed my private page; I cannot post anything. It is as if communism and fascism have come together, only because Israel is defending itself,” Mr. Evans told Israel’s Arutz Sheva News.

Contacted by The Washington Times, the company responded with a canned statement: “We removed Jerusalem Prayer Team’s Facebook Page for violating our rules against spam and inauthentic behavior,” crediting the remarks to “a Facebook company spokesperson.” 

The company later added, “we are not seeing any evidence that this page was a victim of a cyber-attack,” something Mr. Evans had disputed.

The contretemps with Mr. Evans’ group comes at an awkward time for Facebook, which told the Reuters news agency last week that it had set up a 24-hour “special operations center” to specifically respond to content related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Reuters quoted Facebook’s Monika Bickert, vice president of content policy, as saying the move would enable Facebook “to closely monitor the situation so we can remove content that violates our community standards faster, while also addressing possible errors in enforcement.”

There is no evidence Facebook investigated any “possible errors in enforcement” against the Jerusalem Prayer Team page. 

On Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed legislation imposing financial burdens on firms such as Facebook and Twitter that ban statewide office candidates in the Sunshine State. 

While critics expect the measure to face successful legal challenges in the courts, the move is a sign of growing public concern over the power allowed Facebook and other social media firms.

Kara Frederick, a former Facebook executive who is now a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Technology Policy said, “This is not the first instance of bad actors working together to wage war against a third party, using a tech companies’ own policies. 

“But it is a situation where consistent and clear avenues for recourse by the third party could mitigate a complex situation. These companies should recognize that making up the rules as they go will no longer cut it,” she said.

Ms. Frederick added, ““Facebook should review the ‘violation,’ allow an appeal, and reinstate the Jerusalem Prayer Team page. It should also aggressively counter the bad actors that flooded the page’s comments with antisemitic content as closely and actively as they scrutinize mainstream conservative speech.”

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide