It’s been more than two months since Facebook shut down a cosplay volunteer nonprofit and its administrators’ personal accounts without any explanation.
Founded by Vinessa Olp and one of her sons, Nerov, a U.S. Army Combat Medic veteran who passed away in 2016, Oathkeepers Causeplay is a nonprofit group based in Colorado that volunteers with other charities at events by dressing up as movie characters such as Marvel and DC superheroes, Pikachu, and Disney’s Frozen princesses to “bring smiles to those who need them, serve our community, and make a positive difference in our world.”
“We costume for a cause,” Olp told The Federalist. “We’ve seen what those character visits can do for children. We’ve seen what they can do for the parents of those kids.”
Their work, however, was “affected dramatically” after Facebook locked the organization and the group administrators’ personal accounts on August 19 without giving any indication or notification about why.
“There was no email saying ‘Hey, you violated anything and we’re putting you in Facebook jail,'” Olp said. “None of us got an email. None of us got anything.”
The Oathkeepers Causeplay’s accounts were locked the same day in August the big tech company announced it would be purging groups, pages, and accounts from its site and Facebook-owned Instagram of what they believe to be “anarchist groups that support violent acts amidst protests” such as QAnon. Their policy on QAnon extended in late October to redirect users searching for terms and content related to the movement to information provided by the Global Network on Extremism and Technology labeling it as “decentralised violent ideology.”
The charity’s Facebook page and membership group, which had close to 100 members, were the organization’s primary means of contact not only for their volunteers to learn about events and connect, but also for other charities that they routinely work with such as Children’s Hospital Colorado, Walk With Autism, Relay For Life, and more.
“A lot of these organizations, they just pop us a message on Facebook and now we don’t exist,” Olp said. “When they do get ahold of us, now we have to explain what happened and now they want us to defend ourselves.”
Not only was the nonprofit’s page taken down during Facebook’s sweep, but the group administrators’ personal accounts were also shut down. Olp, a mother of eight and a photographer by trade, completely lost access to all of her posts and messages when Facebook locked her account.
“Eleven-plus years of not only my children but my son’s memorial page,” Olp said. “His last message to me was on messenger and it is gone without any reason. No warning, no anything.”
Despite the Oathkeepers Causeplay’s intentional attempts to differentiate themselves in name from the Oath Keepers, a group devoted to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic” which is often labeled as “right-wing” and “extremist” and was purged during Facebook’s QAnon banning spree, one look at the Oathkeepers Causeplay website or any of their other social media pages shows that their mission is simply to volunteer their time and resources to people in need of a smile.
“We’re not associated with anyone. We don’t take a political stance. We are such a diverse group of nerds that just want to make smiles for kids,” Olp said. “Now, we’re being questioned and judged because we were part of an algorithm that nobody thought to look at.”
“Anyone who has worked with us knows that we are not a hate group. We are far from it,” their website states.
While the nonprofit group’s administrators and members attempted to appeal the ban through emailing, tweeting, calling, and direct-messaging Facebook to clarify the mistake, the group has yet to receive a reply other than a pop up saying someone would review their case and be in touch.
“We appealed every day and never got a response,” Olp said.
Not only are the organization’s leaders and members unable to reach Facebook to appeal their cause, but they are also prohibited from creating new pages or accounts associated with any of the contact information that was previously used to create the locked accounts. The nonprofit tried to petition their way onto Facebook’s radar to get help, but Olp said some people were nervous their own Facebook accounts would be banned if they shared or signed it.
“No one wants to speak out and help us because they fear that their personal pages will be shut down in retaliation,” Olp said.
“These personal pages are how they keep in touch with their families, and I don’t blame them,” Olp added.
Facebook did not respond to The Federalist for comment before press time.
Just last week, Facebook falsely flagged a Christian Worship group led by Sean Feucht as content potentially “associated with the dangerous conspiracy movement called QAnon.” Facebook told The Federalist that the label was a “mistake” and a glitch, but Feucht said Facebook never gave him answers.
“They do have an agenda,” he said, explaining that he believes the censorship is targeting him for hosting worship rallies in cities around the United States despite pandemic lockdowns. “They’re targeting the church.”