Facebook is apologizing for initially taking no action against an account that repeatedly in its posts referred to a Woodstock, Ont., man as a child predator.
The anonymous account was deleted by Facebook Thursday after the company took a second look.
“I’m overjoyed that Facebook finally acted and took down this account eight days after it was first reported,” said Jordan Kent, who started a Facebook page called End The Chaos – Stopping the Anti-Mask movement on Dec. 31.
“Facebook needs to sit down and re-evaluate their community standards so that when accounts like this crop up in the future, they don’t have to deal with what I had to deal with.”
The Facebook account that targeted Kent, Canadians Against Canadians Against Freedom, went online on or about Feb. 10. Its posts included comments and links to material that challenge vaccination safety and question rules about masking and physical distancing designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Posts on Canadians Against Canadians Against Freedom repeatedly referred to Kent as a child predator. He believes it’s a response to him filming a group of people at a Jan. 21 gathering of anti-mask protesters in downtown Woodstock. The event resulted in five people being charged with failing to follow rules designed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Among the crowd was a 13-year-old girl who has attended a number of anti-mask rallies. Kent says he filmed her from across the street as she stood among a larger group of protesters. Kent said he was never closer to her than 15 metres, and that he’s never spoken to her or confronted her online.
Shortly after the event in Woodstock, Kent began to receive messages on Facebook claiming that he harassed and stalked young children. Multiple comments on posts on Kent’s personal Facebook account and the End the Chaos page referred to him as a “child predator.”
Kent, who is gay, believes it’s a charge rooted in homophobia.
“This is an anti-gay trope that is at least 50 years old: That all gay men are predators,” he said. “These kinds of stereotypes are very harmful to people’s mental health.”
The child predator comments were then repeated on Canadians Against Canadians Against Freedom when the Facebook account appeared on Facebook? in the middle of last week.
The account also identified Kent’s employer, the Toyota Boshoku plant in Woodstock. A Feb. 12 post on the Canadians Against Canadians Against Freedom page included a Google map that shows the plant’s location and threatened some kind of event there unless Kent stopped “stalking and doxing young children.” Doxing is publishing personal information about someone.
“The flyers are already beautifully designed,” the post reads. “The choice is theirs. Will they choose peace and quiet or will they choose to continue to harass and stalk young children?”
Kent says Toyota Boshoku managers have received phone calls from people calling Kent a child predator who should be fired.
The page also targeted Kent’s partner Austin Nold, who isn’t involved in the End The Chaos page. A Feb. 11 post included a screen shot of the “about” information on Nold’s personal Facebook page asking, “Anyone know this person?”
Nold himself responded in the comments of that post: “I know him he’s a bit of a smart ass.”
The reply in the comments from the page administrator said this: “We know that he’s in a relationship with a child predator. So if if he’s in a relationship with a child predator he must be one as well. Child predators love other child predators.”
A Feb. 10 post includes a photo of the exterior of Kent’s house. Although the post doesn’t list the address or Kent’s name, Kent says it’s easily recognizable from the photo in a small town such as Woodstock.
More chilling to Kent than the photo of his house is the comment with the photo post, which says, “Thank you for sharing this beautiful home in Woodstock, ON with our group … who wants the address to go visit this beautiful home.”
CBC News reached out to the Canadians Against Canadians Against Freedom Facebook account for comment on Wednesday before it was taken down but did not receive a response. The page does not list any contact information other than a phone number that is not associated with anyone involved with the page.
Kent first flagged the Canadians Against Canadians Against Freedom page to Facebook on Feb. 10, the same day it was activated. But in the company’s correspondence to Kent, which he shared with CBC News, Facebook said the posts didn’t violate its community standards.
By Thursday, however, Facebook had changed course after calls for comment from CBC News. The company said the page was taken down after a second look and admits it should have been taken down after the first complaint.
“We have removed the page for violating our policies,” said Facebook spokesperson Alex Kucharski in an email to CBC News. “The page should have been removed when it was originally flagged to us. We apologize for any unintentional harm caused by this mistake.”
Kent also filed complaints to Woodstock police last week about the post. Kent shared with CBC News an email he received from Const. Greg MacArthur, who said it would be difficult to identify the people who posted about him.
“They clearly enjoy the banter and the reaction you are giving to these people,” wrote MacArthur in an email to Kent. “If I was in your position, I would either delete Facebook or create a new account for the time being and ignore these people.”
Kent says this isn’t good enough.
“I’m very disappointed,” he said of how police handled his complaint. “I would have hoped they’d taken this more seriously from the start. They’ve done a lot of victim blaming.”
Woodstock police did not respond to CBC’s request for comment on Thursday.