Popular conservative Christian blogger and homeschool mother Elizabeth Johnston, also known as the "Activist Mommy," is crying foul after Facebook claimed that a Facebook group that threatened to burn her alive didn't violate its community standards.
Johnston, who holds traditional conservative beliefs about things like marriage, sex and abortion, runs "The Activist Mommy" blog and social media pages and is known for posting viral video rants, recently voiced concern to Facebook administrators about a private Facebook group that was titled "I will find Activist Mommy and burn whoever runs it alive."
Johnston told The Christian Post on Tuesday that although she reported the page through Facebook, she received a response to her claim that stated: "We looked over the group you reported, and though it doesn't go against one of our specific community standards, we understand that the group or something shared in may still be offensive to you and others."
Johnston took a screenshot of the response and posted it to Facebook. Since going public with her displeasure about the group's name, Johnston says that the group has since changed its name to "May God make the Activist Mommy Spontaneously Combust."
The description of the private group claims that the page is "satire."
"This is a Tagging group for activist mommy bulls**t and for posting things to look at in horror and make fun of," the page reads.
The page's administrator also reportedly placed a disclaimer that reads, "I don't really want someone to burn her alive. I don't want to, I don't want followers to do so, just don't do it. I don't condone it."
That initial response from Facebook about her concern with the page's original name did not sit well with Johnston. She told CP that she reached out directly by email to contacts she has with Facebook on Sunday and explained that "a page threatening my life is still up after hundreds of people have reported it."
A Facebook official replied to Johnston's email and told her that the matter had been escalated internally. However, the official explained that "given the new name and her disclaimer in the bio it doesn't violate our community standards."
"With a death threat, you never know 100 percent if someone is going to follow through on their threat. But it is the job of Facebook to take all targeted death threats seriously. That is their job," Johnston said. "For them to say that because now that the page has edited itself to claim that it is satire that they are not going to take the death threats seriously, just shows that we are all defenseless on Facebook's platform, especially public figures."
According to Johnston, whose Facebook page has over 482,000 followers, Facebook judges these matters differently for public figures than they do private citizens.
"That is the thing that is even more dangerous about this is that it is a private group that is inciting violence against me. So I can't be there to see what it is," she added. "It is not like a public page where what they say about me I can see it. But I can't see what is going on inside of here. Last week, I got two very targeted death threat emails. I don't get those on a weekly basis. I get very hateful mail but I don't I get threats of, 'I know where you live.' Last week, I got two that were so frightening that I called the police and I filed a report."
One of the threatening emails that Johnston received explained to her that her address had been leaked. The other email stated, "God will punish you for your sins. we all know where you live now. punishment is near sweatheart."
Johnston states that if her email or address were exposed within the group, she would have no way of knowing.
A Facebook spokesperson told CP Tuesday night that the Facebook group in question was determined to be "satirical" and thus did not violate Facebook's community standards. The Facebook official explained that the social media platform allows satire and expects administrators to indicate their groups' purposes.
Facebook's community standards explain that when evaluating direct threats, Facebook "may consider things like a person's public visibility or the likelihood of real world violence in determining whether a threat is credible."
"It was personally escalated and taken to the people who make these decisions, so people were looking at this. This wasn't artificial intelligence, this wasn't a robot or computer," Johnston told CP. "People at Facebook looked at this and still made the determination that they weren't going to change it."
Johnston explained that the reason why she is going public with Facebook's response to her complaint is because she has seen "a heightened problem with the extreme double standard" when it comes to how Facebook handles flagged content.
Last year, national headlines were made when Johnston's Facebook page was suspended because posts citing the Bible's teaching on homosexuality were deemed a violation of Facebook's community standards. Her page was later restored and Facebook admitted that the page was removed in error.
"Facebook should be a safe place for the free exchange of ideas, regardless of one's political or religious affiliation. The public is growing increasingly disgruntled, and rightly so, with the double standard of Silicon Valley companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter who are getting exposed for applying a different standard to users on the right and the left of the social/political spectrum," Johnston told CP. "The big guys at Facebook do not want us little guys to compete evenly in the marketplace of ideas and free speech, because they realize we greatly outnumber them."
"With two billion users, it can be argued that Facebook has become a public utility and thus cannot discriminate against users based upon their political or religious views," she maintained. "Conservative users who don't tow the liberal line on issues like Islam, abortion, and homosexuality are repeatedly banned and silenced in an Orwellian manner for expressing their valid concerns, thus causing conservatives to cry out for an alternative platform that welcomes the free exchange of ideas."
Earlier this month, Facebook removed the Facebook page of the pre-denomination Christian ministry "Warriors for Christ," citing its policies on bullying and hate speech.