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Gay lawmaker Brian Sims banned from Facebook for calling out abuse

Nick Duffy January 17, 2019
Pennsylvania state representative Brian Sims shared an abusive Facebook message he received

Pennsylvania state representative Brian Sims shared an abusive Facebook message he received (Rachel Murray/Getty)

Gay Democratic lawmaker Brian Sims was banned from Facebook for sharing a screenshot of homophobic abuse he received.

Sims has sat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 2012, when he became the first openly gay legislator elected in the state’s history, and has championed LGBT+ rights in the state.

The politician was banned from Facebook on Wednesday (January 16), with the lawmaker discovering his official page had been restricted for violating hate speech rules.

Brian Sims shared homophobic abuse on Facebook

The post that got Sims banned from the platform included a screenshot of an abusive public message that he received on the platform, reading: “You get out faggot.”

Sharing the message from user Jill Freb, Sims quipped: “Good morning, Baaaaltimoooore! Anyone know my new friend Jill?”

The Facebook post that got Rep. Brian Sims banned
The Facebook post that got Rep. Brian Sims banned.

Noting that the homophobic message came from a user who had prominently advertised their religion on their profile, Sims added: “The Venn Diagram of people who call me a faggot, and people who self identify as ‘Christian,’ is just a single circle. Christians, why is that?”

Taking to Twitter after discovering the ban, Sims shared the message again, writing: “Facebook just banned ME for this.”

“They’re either not taking this seriously, or they’re not doing it competently.”

— Brian Sims

The social media giant only acted to unban Sims after he and a number of journalists raised the issue directly with Facebook employees.

Speaking to Metro Weekly, Sims criticised Facebook’s approach to moderation, noting that the platform failed to remove actual hate speech.

He told the newspaper: “[It is] an indication that they’re either not taking this seriously, or they’re not doing it competently.”

He added: “This isn’t just about getting my Facebook page turned back on. This either needs to continue or start a conversation about what Facebook is doing, authentically, substantively, to make sure they’re not culling legitimate speech and not endorsing, supporting, or lifting up illegitimate speech — whether it’s hate speech or fake accounts.”

A spokesperson for Facebook said: “Removing this post was a mistake in misunderstanding that it was discussing a message Representative Sims had himself experienced.

“The post does not violate our Community Standards and has been restored and Representative Sims is no longer in a feature block.”

Brian Sims has faced homophobia from Republicans

It’s not just online that Sims faces homophobia.

In April 2018, a Republican opponent in the Pennsylvania House branded Sims a “lying homosexual.”

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe wrote: “There is a pattern to the attacks that have been made against me by liberal loser Democrat legislators on my committee… lying homosexual Rep Brian Sims has been under an ethics investigation, then there is constant touchy-feely Rep Matt Bradford who has touched me over 40 times.”

Never missing a chance to fundraise, Sims responded by shared a link to his donation page, writing: “I could use your help as I go up against this type of blatant homophobia and bigotry in the Capital.”

More: brian sims, Facebook, LGBT, Politics, US, US

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