WILLIAMS BAY — A popular Facebook group where Williams Bay residents could post community happenings, discuss neighborhood topics and ask questions about the area is being shut down by its lead moderator due to the removal or flagging of content throughout Facebook.
Moderator of the Williams Bay Neighbors group, Heather Cudworth said she decided to discontinue the page, which has more than 800 members, after the social media site began flagging content, censoring posts and sending alerts about potentially inflammatory members.
Announcement of the discontinuation came with a flurry of comments expressing sadness and thanking Cudworth for moderating the group.
She said while the page had a rule against political postings and that the group page focused on local happenings in and around Williams Bay, she did not want to support Facebook by continuing to moderate the page.
“It’s due to the fact that I cannot morally support the suppression of speech,” she said.
Cudworth said there were no posts on the Williams Bay Neighbors group page censored or flagged by Facebook but that she is aware of content elsewhere on the social media site that has been.
She said she received a message from Facebook that a member of the Williams Bay Neighbors group page was known for making inflammatory posts and was given the option to remove him from the page. Content posted by multiple friends of hers have also been removed by the site, she added.
According to Facebook’s community standards, there are a variety of different reasons a post may be flagged or removed from the site such as hate speech, graphic content, manipulated media or false news.
Facebook has received criticism from the public, and members of the GOP, for its increasingly aggressive actions against posts which violate its community standards policy.
Some Republicans have alleged conservative-leaning posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter have been flagged or removed disproportionately to liberal-leaning posts while some Democrats say social media sites need to do more to prevent the spread of potentially harmful misinformation.
Cudworth said she cannot support the censorship of any viewpoint, regardless of which political side it originates from.
“I don’t want people I disagree with censored and I don’t want people I agree with censored,” she said.
Cudworth will be creating a new Williams Bay discussion page on a website called MeWe, which she said is known for an openness to all viewpoints and does not flag or remove posts in the same way Facebook does.
Social media sites like MeWe, Parler and Gab have gained momentum following the election, particularly among conservative groups, as sites like Facebook and Twitter undergo changes in the content they allow users to post.
To replace the Williams Bay Neighbors Facebook page, Williams Bay resident Rena Ramos Monroe has created a new page called the Williams Bay Neighbors and info group, which gained 235 members by Nov. 16, less than a week after it was created.
Monroe said the original Williams Bay Neighbors group was a valuable community resource she did not want to see disappear from Facebook.
“There really is wealth of information on that page which is the reason I thought we can’t lose this,” she said.
Monroe said the new group page will have similar rules to the original including a ban on political discussion and a requirement that members be limited to Williams Bay residents or affiliates of the community.
Having had some of her own Facebook posts removed by the site, Monroe said she understands and respects the reasoning behind the discontinuation of the original group page but still wanted to ensure community members have a place to share information, ask questions and ask for help.
“I think people still want to feel a part of this and a part of the community,” she said.
She added that she does believe there will be a large migration from Facebook onto websites like MeWe, but after looking into the site, said she will not be joining.
Get local news delivered to your inbox!
Subscribe to our Daily Headlines newsletter.