Anti-pagan bias is likely at the root of the recent harassment of outspoken Anne Rice fan and vocal, public pagan Granny Goodwitch, but the unintentional ageism of Facebook’s current real name identification processes are the reason her trials and tribulations are dragging on for days and days. If Granny was a young person with a cellphone and a scanner, this could have been quickly resolved. Instead, it has gone on for close to a week and shows no signs of an immediate resolution.
Facebook’s “real name” policy has never been as strict as other social media platforms, such as Google+, in that Facebook does not require users to use their legal names, only the names that they use in real life. That is why it came as an unpleasant shock and surprise to many members of Anne Rice’s 1.1 million strong Facebook fandom, who Anne calls “The People of the Page,” when an active and beloved member of their community, Granny Goodwitch, had her Facebook page unceremoniously banned by Facebook.
Granny is a real-life pagan who uses her unusual moniker in her day to day life – therefore it should be protected under Facebook’s policies as a real name. The name is also associated with her identity as a witch and her Wiccan belief system. Since she receives mail under the name and uses it in her offline life, she should qualify for an exemption, but because she like many seniors does not own a cellphone or a scanner, she is running into roadblocks in the verification process.
Facebook’s verification processes take time. They may also unintentionally penalize seniors such as Granny, who are less technologically savvy and less likely to have broad electronic fingerprints spread all over the internet like younger people who may use their monikers on work-related sites like Monster and Linked-In, or e-commerce related sites like PayPal or Amazon or eBay. They are also less likely or to own devices like scanners that are required to produce copies of things like postal mail. Facebook says it is working on making its policies less biased, but policies such as using cellphones to verify identity still work at odds with seniors like Granny who don’t use cellphones but old fashioned land lines.
To the best of this reporter’s knowledge, it is the lack of access to the technology that is currently slowing the process. In addition to unintentional ageism, a level of classism may be at work since people who have more money are more likely to have modern technology in their homes.
Many members of the community are alarmed, including Anne Rice, who has posted twice publicly on the subject:
“Granny Goodwitch has AGAIN been blocked on Facebook! What is going on? Why is Facebook relentlessly persecuting this lovely and benign member of our FB community! What in the world is prompting this? Oh, I know, there is some regulation about real names, but FB is filled with people posting under fake and fictional names, and filled with people up to mischief with their fake names; whereas this poster is a loving, positive person, who has always offered us wonderful, informative links and comments on this page! If anybody can help us with this problem by all means do! Please contact any FB representative you might know (I do not know of any) and ask why this is happening. Is someone stalking Granny? Is someone relentlessly “reporting” her? If so, why? And for what? And why, again, would FB single out Granny, of all people, when there are so many posting under fictional names on FB?” – Anne Rice
Facebook’s real name policy is largely enforced based upon user reporting, so while there is no proof that someone is harassing Granny Goodwitch, that possibility seems likely. This could be yet another example of the real name policy, which is designed to prevent harassment, backfiring and being used as a tool for bullying.
Native Americans, transgender people and others have been persecuted by bigots under the real names policy. This can happen when a Facebook user who happens to disagree with the person’s politics repeatedly reports a user.
In Granny’s case, anti-pagan prejudice is very likely work, since she is very outspoken about her beliefs, and her name is related to them. She spoke about her beliefs at length in her interview with Nola Cancel. Whoever is reporting her may dislike the nature of articles she offers to Anne Rice for reposting, and may not respect the religious significance of the Goodwitch name. Although the name has an ironic connotation, because it is also the name of a cartoon character, Granny has used it in earnest for some time.
She might also be under fire for her feminist beliefs, or be the target of someone who is simply jealous and resents her popularity and the attention she receives from Anne Rice. Anne Rice has named Granny Goodwitch her “science reporter” and an honorary member of the Order of the Talamasca, a fictional watcher society that keeps track of supernatural goings on in the Anne Rice universe.
Fellow Person of the Page Buffie Peterson started a petition to ask for the reinstatement of Granny Goodwitch, and Justin Simpson started a Q&A in Facebook’s Help Section.