Instagram joined Facebook in purging a Colorado-based charity organization’s social media accounts last week, and has not responded to numerous messages from the apolitical volunteer group.
More than two months ago, Facebook removed the Oathkeepers Causeplay, a nonprofit group that volunteers with other charities at events by dressing up as characters. Facebook locked the personal pages of all of the administrators associated with the account, many of which contained valuable photos and messages from loved ones.
While the accounts were locked on the same day in August that the big tech company announced it would be purging groups, pages, and accounts from its site that they believe to be “anarchist groups that support violent acts amidst protests,” including a different group named the “Oath Keepers,” Facebook never responded to the organization’s appeals or requests to restore their accounts. Facebook also did not respond to The Federalist’s request for comment.
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 and that it is not associated with any political groups. That made no difference. Thanks to Facebook’s ideological censorship, Oathkeepers Causeplay immediately became a nonentity to volunteers, donors, and the hospitalized children they make happy.
“One of the problems was being linked to this kind of nationalist militia,” Javiera Reyes, one of the administrators, told The Federalist. “For the record, I happen to be a Chilean immigrant, I’m a naturalized citizen, I’m a woman of color, and I also happen to be bisexual, so I don’t fit that stereotype.”
Shortly after The Federalist’s first article about the initial purge was published, Facebook suddenly reinstated the Oathkeepers and administrators’ personal accounts, restoring all of the contacts, information, and photos they thought were permanently lost.
Vinessa Olp, the charity’s co-founder, and the other organization leaders’ joys were short-lived, though, as the accounts were once again removed without warning or ample time to download the account data or create a new page name to prevent further removals by a biased algorithm.
Mere weeks after this second purge, Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, also removed the Oathkeepers account from its platform. It also shut down the four personal accounts linked to the page through a joint account feature connected to Facebook.
Once again, none of the administrators were warned about this lock and are now prevented from logging into the organization’s account and their personal pages. This second round of account locks, Olp said, has scared many of the Oathkeepers Causeplay members.
“Everybody started un-tagging us,” Olp said, explaining that many did not want to be digitally associated with the organization for fear of retribution from the big tech companies on their own accounts. “They are terrified.”
Some of the administrators are even considering stepping down from their leadership positions in the charity following the repeated removal of their accounts, Olp said.
“They don’t want to be associated with the admin portion because they’re scared to death it’s going to affect them or that [Facebook and Instagram] are going to start coming after their family members,” Olp said.
Reyes, who is also a public school teacher, said the removal of her accounts has not only hurt the Oathkeepers Causplay’s attempts to organize new events, it also impeded her social connections during the pandemic and interfered with her job.
“I’ve been a public figure with my school before on Facebook because it is one of the primary communication methods that the district uses right now to reach out to families,” Reyes explained, noting that she used her accounts to promote raising money on GoFundMe for families at her school in need due to COVID-19 lockdowns. “That definitely makes it very difficult within that professional setting to stay connected.”
While Reyes said she loves and believes in the Oathkeepers’ mission, she says she has become more cautious.
“I don’t plan on ending my connection with the Oathkeepers Causeplay,” she said. “The service that I have the privilege of doing with them, to me, is more valuable than any social media. And I do realize that it’s the sacrifice that I’m making in order to continue doing my volunteer work with the Oathkeepers, I put myself in this position where I’m seeing consequences that shouldn’t be there.”
“I’m very very careful as to like what I post, even my personal Facebook account, like, that is private,” Reyes continued. “It definitely is saddening because I feel like I’m having to choose. And honestly, not even, because the choice has been taken away from me.”
Despite reaching out to Instagram, none of the administrators have received a response. Instagram also did not respond to The Federalist for comment.
“There’s a very real impact to kind of this indiscriminate suppression of community servants,” Reyes said.