Evangelical leader Franklin Graham accepted Facebook's apology and suggested the social network come up with a standard based on "God's word" after the tech company mistakenly banned him for 24 hours last week over a 2016 post about HB2, North Carolina's controversial "bathroom bill."
"I was defending our governor and the state on HB2. It was a good law. If you disagree with [Facebook's] position on sexual orientation, you can be classified as hate speech," said Graham in an exclusive interview on "Fox & Friends" Sunday.
In a post to his Facebook page, Graham said the social network is "trying to define truth. They’re making the rules and changing the rules. Truth is truth. God made the rules and His Word is truth. Actually, Facebook is censoring free speech. The free exchange of ideas is part of our country’s DNA."
A Facebook spokesperson told Fox News the 2016 post was removed by mistake after one of its 15,000 content moderators decided that it violated the tech giant's ban on "dehumanizing language." The post and Graham's page have since been restored.
"I accept Facebook's apology and I appreciate them stepping up and doing that," Graham said, but he questioned why the tech giant would censure such an old post. "I think it was just really a personal attack towards me."
Facebook came under fire late last week after one of its employees leaked more than 1,000 pages of documents detailing its content moderation policies and how it polices speech on a global scale. Critics have said the company wields too much power and has made mistakes in determining whether something is hate speech or part of a country's mainstream dialogue.
"Facebook's a private company and they can certainly do what they want," Graham explained. "But [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook is a platform for all ideas. I encourage Facebook to have a standard that doesn't move. They ought to just come up with a standard based on God's word that applies to all people everywhere."
Facebook, which has to moderate billions of posts per day, defines hate speech as a "direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability. We also provide some protections for immigration status. We define attack as violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation."
"Let [Facebook] be a platform for all ideas," Graham told "Fox and Friends" Sunday. "I'm against hate speech, I'm' against people using Facebook to incite violence against someone, that's terrible."
In his original April 9, 2016, post, which included a link to a Washington Post story, Graham wrote:
Bruce Springsteen, a long-time gay rights activist, has cancelled his North Carolina concert. He says the NC law #HB2 to prevent men from being able to use women's restrooms and locker rooms is going "backwards instead of forwards." Well, to be honest, we need to go back! Back to God. Back to respecting and honoring His commands. Back to common sense. Mr. Springsteen, a nation embracing sin and bowing at the feet of godless secularism and political correctness is not progress. I’m thankful North Carolina has a governor, Pat McCrory, and a lieutenant governor, Dan Forest, and legislators who put the safety of our women and children first! HB2 protects the safety and privacy of women and children and preserves the human rights of millions of faith-based citizens of this state.”
Graham told "Fox and Friends" Sunday that his followers should not shy away from expressing themselves on Facebook: "As Christians, we don't back down and step down from what we do. I would encourage Facebook to stand on God's word."
In March 2016, North Carolina's General Assembly passed HB2, which reversed a Charlotte ordinance that extended some rights to people who are gay or transgender.
Charlotte’s ordinance allowed transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity, but the HB2 eliminated local ordinances statewide that expanded protections for LGBT people. After a significant amount of protest from LGBT advocates and backlash from corporations threatening to pull their business out of North Carolina, a compromise bill was passed a year later and signed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to repeal HB2 but still restrict anti-discrimination ordinances statewide.
A Facebook spokesperson gave Fox News the following statement on Sunday:
“A Page admin for Franklin Graham’s Facebook Page did receive a 24-hour feature block after we removed a post for violating our hate speech policies. Upon re-reviewing this content, we identified that the post does not violate our hate speech policy and has been restored.”