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Facebook, Instagram reportedly banning quote by American revolutionary Thomas Paine

Facebook (Dreamstime/TNS)
December 28, 2021

According to Facebook and Instagram users over the past week, the social media platforms have been punishing the accounts of those who share a quote by Thomas Paine, an American political theorist who was one of the leading minds behind the American Revolution.

Quillette managing editor Colin Wright was among the first to report the punitive action, when on Sunday when he shared Paine’s quote, “He who dares not offend cannot be honest” on Instagram. Wright tweeted a picture of the Paine quote and the subsequent notice from Instagram that the post was removed for “‘false information’ according to Instagram.”

Wright subsequently tweeted, “Received [Direct Messages] from several people who tried to repost it saying theirs got immediately taken down too. Give it a try and report back.”

A full day later, on Monday afternoon, Wright added, “People are still getting their posts removed on Instagram, and on Facebook they’re getting 24-hour suspensions for sharing that post.”

“INSANE. Facebook too! Now I’m blocked for 24 hrs!,” another Twitter user said. The screenshotted Facebook notice states, “This post goes against our standards on misinformation about vaccines, so only you can see it.”

Another Twitter user said after posting the image to Facebook it “Took them a minute” before the post was removed.

It is unclear why the Paine quote is being removed. The post appears to contain no claims and isn’t misattributed. The quote in fact comes from Paine’s April 24, 1776 “Response to Cato’s Fourth through Seventh Letters.”

Paine, a British-born American political theorist, wrote “Common Sense,” a 47-page pamphlet near the start of the American Revolution that advocated for America’s independence from Great Britain.

Another user reported that they successfully posted the same quote but overlayed it on a different image with different font. “Strange enough this worked…”

Another Twitter user tweeted, “I posted this and I wasn’t banned. I know for a fact she never said this” alongside the quote “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, bad ass speed,” which was deliberately misattributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Another Twitter user said, “Probably just a dumb algorithm. Apparently that quote is popular with anti-vaxxers, so I suspect that bad AI or lazy programming is to blame. It’ll probably be fixed tomorrow when people are back at work (unless they’re off until the new year).”

Facebook and Instagram are owned by the same parent company, Meta Platforms Inc., which was previously known as Facebook, Inc.