Charlottesville Suspect's Meme Gets Reporter Blocked From Facebook

Hawes Spencer posted it alongside eerily similar image of car actually plowing into protesters
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2018 10:55 AM CST
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In this Aug. 12, 2017, file photo, people fly into the air as a vehicle is driven into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.   (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP, File)

(Newser) – Facebook temporarily blocked a reporter for posting the same meme James Alex Fields Jr. posted three months before allegedly driving into counterprotesters at the August 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. The meme, which shows a car driving into a group of people and is overlaid with the words "You have the right to protest, but [I'm] late for work," was ruled admissible as prosecution evidence before journalist Hawes Spencer posted it while covering Fields' trial; prosecutors have said the meme was a "blueprint" for Fields' attack, WTOP reports. Spencer, who has written a book about the months surrounding the Unite the Right rally, posted it on Facebook alongside Ryan Kelly's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the moment the car struck the protesters.

"I posted the two images side by side," Spencer says. "The Instagram meme, and the photo of people being killed [and] injured." Facebook removed the images, twice, saying they violated community standards, and after the second removal, the social network also blocked Spencer from posting anything for 24 hours. But by Sunday night, Facebook had reversed its decision, telling WTOP that while "the meme does violate our Community Standards for comments that target victims of serious physical or emotional harm," the site sometimes makes exceptions for certain content "if it's shared to raise awareness. We've restored the two posts after determining that in this context, they do not violate our standards." (See the two images side by side at WTOP.)

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