Deplatform the police? Facebook “depublishes” North Carolina town’s police dept. page

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RALEIGH — The police department in Liberty, North Carolina logged on to its social media account last week to find that Facebook had “depublished” their page.

Liberty is located in northeastern Randolph County with a population of just over 2,650 people.

Unable to get the news out on their own page, the Liberty Police Department utilized the Town of Liberty’s official Facebook page on Oct. 13 to update citizens of the situation.

“If you have been following the rapidly growing Liberty Police Department Facebook page, you may have had trouble finding it lately.  Don’t worry, it isn’t your search prowess that has been lacking….Facebook has removed the PD page!,” the post reads.

The message continued, “Yes…apparently Facebook believes the PD page is a violation of community standards. According to Facebook, that could be inciting violence, exploiting children, hate speech, false medical advice or an inauthentic page or content… Of course Facebook refuses to tell the PD specifically why the page has been removed.”

The post also said an appeal has been filed and that the Liberty Police will try to use the other town Facebook pages to get information out to the public.

Liberty Police Chief David Semrad told the North State Journal that there was no prior warning before their office’s page was “depublished.”

Semrad said that the office in charge of the page noticed that they had lost access around Oct. 8. He said that the notice they received from Facebook on why the page was taken down was “very broad and generic” and that the notification didn’t specify what rule his department’s page had violated.

“This harms our ability to communicate with the citizens and the taxpayers about a variety of things that are of public safety interest and to try and improve and continue to foster police-citizen interactions,” said Semrad. “This is harmful to our ‘doing our job’.”

Violations of Facebook’s “Community Standards” can encompass anything from violence and criminal behavior to safety issues, or intellectual property and so-called “hate speech.”  Increasingly over the last few years, Facebook has drawn criticism for the overly broad criteria in the Community Standards and the enforcement of those standards.

“Our policies are only as good as the strength and accuracy of our enforcement – and our enforcement isn’t perfect,” Facebook’s Global Policy Vice President Monika Bickert wrote in 2018 about the enforcement of the Community Standards.

As of the last day and a half, Semrad indicated that the officer who runs the page had not received any response from Facebook on the matter.

By A.P. Dillon

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