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11/4/2021 4:00:00 PM
BJ Barnes plans to start a website after Facebook ban
BJ Barnes
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BJ Barnes

SUMMERFIELD - Banned by Facebook, outgoing Summerfield Mayor BJ Barnes plans to create a website so that he can resume posting his political views.

Barnes lost access to about 8,800 Facebook followers last May when the social media platform prevented him from posting. Last month, Facebook blocked him from posting on a new account, telling him in an email that the ban was "irreversible" this time.

Barnes said he plans to start posting his views again on a new website he's going to introduce in the next few weeks. He's seeking to regain his online voice as he's ending his one-term tenure as Summerfield's mayor and helping Republican candidates running for sheriff in several North Carolina counties.

Barnes wouldn't say whether next November he plans to seek to unseat Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers, who defeated Barnes in 2018, or assist a Republican candidate in the race.

Barnes served as Guilford County's sheriff for 24 years, during which time he said he went to a different restaurant every morning to gather a range of views from people. He sought feedback with his Facebook page and now plans to gather perspectives on his website, which will allow followers to post comments.

"I want to hear from people," Barnes said in an interview earlier this week. "I'm going to try to get people involved and engaged in their politics. I want to keep an open dialogue to see what the flavor is now."

Barnes said he believes Facebook may have banned him from posting last May due to his occasional references to President Biden as "Obiden." President Trump coined the phrase in his criticism of Biden and predecessor Barack Obama as liberal Democrats.

Facebook bans "hate speech" including verbal attacks such as "expressions of contempt, disgust or dismissal," according to the platform's Transparency Center.

Barnes said he doesn't believe his posts constituted hate speech if, in fact, that was Facebook's rationale for preventing him from posting. His posts and comments from followers through May 3 can still be read online.

In his final post on that day, Barnes lamented the decline of public education in the U.S., saying teacher unions and "Obiden" are pushing liberal causes in the classroom. In an earlier post, he criticized Biden's performance as president.

Barnes said he banned Facebook followers on his page only if they posted crude or profane comments. On his new website, he said he hopes to attract both conservative and liberal followers.

"My goal was always to get people to talk and think," he said.

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