Facebook's new political crackdown affected a Christian singing group last week when the popular social media platform decided to remove a video posted by Zion's Joy! After facing backlash, it reinstated the video and now the message is reaching more people than ever.
Zion's Joy! released their powerful music video to their song, "What Would Heaven Look Like," last month on Facebook. The first minute of the video features footage from some of the real-life social unrest that has been seen America recently, including protesters crying, others waving the American flag, folks being carried away in stretchers, along with scenes of demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia.
They sing the words, "I know it might feel like this trouble will stay, but this world will soon fade away."
The rest of the song is an encouragement to come together in unity because that's what Heaven will reflect. From then on the video simply shows the group's singers from all different backgrounds singing in a recording studio and on a rooftop.
As the video gained momentum and Zion's Joy! put money toward paying to "boost" their reach on Facebook, the social media algorithm was alerted and it prompted it to flag "What Would Heaven Look Like" as "political content" and completely blocked the video without any warning.
The New York Times reported that FB cited the footage at the very beginning of the video as the reason for pulling it down because it was recognizable. The video had "issues of public importance," and Facebook labeled it "political" and flagged it.
"'What Would Heaven Look Like' was written as a way to offer hope and healing to a nation with growing division, hatred and bigotry. We were shocked and saddened Facebook decided to remove the video of this song due to political content. Unity through praise is the core of the mission of Zion's Joy. We are a multi-cultural group with members from several denominations and backgrounds. We try to live out the theme of the song," Robert Stevenson, the founder and director of Zion's Joy! Told The Christian Post.
In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said its political ad policy is "new, broad and exists to prevent election interference, so we're asking people with content that falls under those rules to simply get authorized and show who paid for the ad in order for it to run."
"Separately, we made an error by deleting the original post. As soon as we identified what happened, we restored the post since it does not violate our Community Standards and have apologized to Zion's Joy."
According to Stevenson, Facebook did not provide details on why they grouped it under political.
"The quote from Facebook said they were mistaken for taking the video down but offered no explanation as to why it was flagged as political," he said.
"We are so pleased Facebook restored the video and apologized to us. Their apology was gladly accepted and are so excited we have been given an even bigger platform to spread our message of love and unity," Stevenson added.
The founder of the singing group testified by citing Psalm 133:1, which says, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!"
Despite claims on their comment section that FB might have the blocked the Christian video for its religious message, the 10-person gospel group from Indianapolis does not believe it was an attack on their religious freedom.
"We did not feel it was discrimination against us because we were a Christian group," Stevenson told CP.
Zion's Joy formed in 2008 and released the album Knocking on Your Heart.
The studio behind the upcoming "The Trump Prophecy" also faced roadblocks recently when ads promoting the film were blocked on Facebook because it was deemed as "political," though ReelWorks Studios said the ads were not political.
Facebook has also blocked paid promotions from news companies such as The New York Times for its reporting on politics. More recently, the social media giant notified a publisher in Texas that it had violated their hate speech standards by posting an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence. Facebook told Gizmodo that it had removed the post "by mistake and restored it as soon as we looked into it."