Claim:   Facebook is banning atheists from their social network to reduce cyberbullying.


FALSE


Example: [Collected via Twitter, May 2015]


If this is true –
this is more than a shame.

It’s a setback for humanity, rational thought & free thinking…


Origins:   On 24 May 2015, the fake news web site IFLScience.org (a spoof of the popular IFLScience.com site) published an article titled “Facebook to Ban Atheism from their Social Network over Cyber Bullying.” Echoing earlier fake news claims that Facebook was banning religious content, that article stated:


Beginning at midnight, January 1st 2016 Facebook will take a stance against atheism by limiting their influence on the popular social network website. All atheist related Facebook groups and pages will be disbanded immediately, while Facebook users who post too much atheistic propaganda will receive warnings and repeat posters will have their posting and commenting privileges permanently revoked.

Facebook initially decided upon this action due to the high level of reports of hostility, harassment and even assault from various Facebook users. It’s no secret that Facebook diligently monitors trends and activity on their platform and here are some of their published analytics showing the high number of cyber bullying and harassment by atheist users.


The article also included a purported statement from Facebook announcing the then-looming ban on atheists:


We normally don’t take action against our users for their beliefs, regardless of how controversial they may be. However we will not stand idly by and watch a hate group harass, cyber bully or use forms of intimidation against our other users. Earlier this year a Facebook user, and mother of 3, who ran a peaceful religious group lost her job after hundreds of atheists contacted her employer. They demanded she be removed from her position based on her religious beliefs, threatening that if the employer did not comply they would have their online presence attacked with negative reviews. Back in February, several people were actually physically attacked in public by atheist users who were trying to intimidate them online. One attack was so bad that a woman who moderated a religious Facebook group was hospitalized after four full grown adult men physically beat her while shouting obscene anti-religious insults, leaving her with a fractured jaw, three bruised ribs, and a black eye. While many atheists may not take part in this kind of violent and despicable behavior, it’s a growing trend and unfortunately we need to take a strong stand against it. We are giving our atheist users 7 months to make arrangements to close down their Facebook pages and groups, and will begin enforcing our new policy changes beginning January 1st, 2016 at 12:01 a.m.

Of course, the statement (and claim) were cut from whole cloth, as IFLScience.org is one of many fake news peddlers making hay out of outrage-based shares on social sites such as Facebook. As noted in an earlier snopes.com article, the IFLScience.org site has successfully duped readers into mistaking their “satirical” content for that of its more credible doppleganger by way of initial visual similarities. However, there are a few notable differences:

  • IFLScience.org uses the tagline “100% Mostest Official and More Sciencey.”
  • As of May 2015, IFLScience.org only has a few hundred likes on Facebook, while IFLScience.com has millions.
  • The IFLScience.org Twitter icon links to the satirical Christians Against Dinosaurs Twitter page.
  • The logos used on IFLScience.org and IFLScience.com are only similar to one another on first glance:

For more tips on spotting fake news sites, check out our article on its most common tells.

Last updated:   26 May 2015