The Hennepin History Museum’s Facebook page was shut down for several hours over the weekend, apparently the result of a community-standards filter used by the giant online social media site.
The reason? A page meant to publicize an event for author, historian and teacher Elizabeth Dorsey Hatle and her book “The Ku Klux Klan in Minnesota.”
Museum staffers worked with Facebook and got the page back up late Saturday but weren’t happy about the action, which director Cedar Imboden Phillips called censorship of the museum’s mission.
“Life isn’t all bunny rabbits and fairy dust,” Phillips said. “We interpret and share the whole gamut of Hennepin County experiences, from the wonderful and the uplifting to the difficult or unpleasant.”
The book, in addition to detailing Klan activities in Minnesota, also explores the prosecution of Minnesota Klan members by Hennepin County attorney and future Gov. Floyd B. Olson, which Phillips called the first successful case in the country.
Phillips said the book event, set for 2 p.m. March 8 as part of its Fireside Chat, will go on as planned. And she hopes Facebook will reconsider its policies. “Censoring this event protects no one,” she said Saturday.
On Sunday, the museum posted a news story about the incident on its resurfaced page and added this commentary:
“Here’s what happened yesterday. As historians, we feel it important to understand the complexities of the past, and believe that the story of this group in Minnesota — and their successful prosecution by Floyd B. Olson in Hennepin County — is too important to ignore. Yesterday’s actions were clearly the result of a computerized filter at work, but we do find it problematic that mere mention of historic hate groups in any context is enough to shut down a site, and hope that Facebook will address this flaw in their system.”
Facebook representatives didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.
Hatle said she hasn’t had any problems with notices about any of her previous appearances, so she found the episode odd.
“Trust me, this book isn’t about promoting hate,” she said. “It’s about exposing hate and how easily people can become engaged in this type of behavior.”