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Facebook pulls page about New Jersey county for violating its hate speech rules

Gov. Phil Murphy announced that Facebook removed the "Rise Up Ocean County" page he said was racist and anti-Semitic.
Image: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks at the State of the State address in Trenton on Jan. 14, 2020.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks at the State of the State address in Trenton on Jan. 14, 2020.Seth Wenig / AP file

A Facebook page in a New Jersey town that featured racist and anti-Semitic remarks has been taken down, New Jersey officials said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday in a joint statement with Attorney General Gurbir Grewal that Facebook had decided to take down the page titled "Rise Up Ocean County" that the pair said featured "racist and anti-Semitic" content.

The removal comes 10 months after the state's division on civil rights sent a letter to the social media company expressing concerns about the page.

The page, which had anonymous administrators, originally purported to be focused on real estate and development in the Jersey Shore county. Instead, it often targeted the Jewish community in Lakewood, New Jersey, and surrounding towns in Ocean County, according to the Asbury Park Press.

Murphy said state officials had consistently and repeatedly made clear their view that the page appeared to violate Facebook's terms of service.

"We appreciate that Facebook now agrees that this hateful rhetoric has no place on its platform," Murphy and Grewal said in the statement.

Daniel Roberts, a Facebook spokesman, said in a statement to NBC News, "Upon further review we have determined this page violates our Community Standards for hate speech and have removed it from the platform."

The page was taken down Wednesday.

According to its community standards on "objectionable content," Facebook does not allow speech on the platform that "creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence."

Facebook said it reviewed the "Rise Up Ocean County" page periodically over the past few months and removed specific posts that violated its community standards. Upon further review, Facebook said it determined the page itself violated its standards.

Michael Cohen, a director at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, said there needs to be an understanding of where free speech protections end and hate speech begins.

The rhetoric on the "Rise Up Ocean County" page creates environments that lead to attacks against Jewish communities, Cohen said, as seen in Jersey City, New Jersey, where a man and woman opened fire at a kosher market in December, killing three people, and a knife attack in Monsey, New York, in which five people were wounded after a man burst into a rabbi's home during Hanukkah.

Jersey City Police Det. Joseph Seals was also killed after encountering the shooters in a cemetery prior to the attack at the store.

"We believe that Facebook absolutely did the right thing in removing the' Rise Up Ocean County' page and putting an end to their platform being used in this instance for hate speech and the incitement of anti-Semitism," Cohen said.