Facebook yanks page supporting veterans with PTSD

Does Facebook want veterans who suffer from PTSD to die?  That’s the question being asked by administrators of “Freedom Don’t Come Free & Devildoc,” an international page dedicated to supporting veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

On Sunday, administrators of the page reached out to the Conservative Firing Line to inform us that their page — which had over 173,000 followers — had been unpublished.  According to administrators we spoke to, the action came after moderators at the social media site determined the following picture somehow violated their community standards:

Facebook PTSD

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It’s not known why the picture violates Facebook’s nebulous standards.

Julie Leonard, an Australian described by one administrator as the “heart” of the page and “a red-haired force of nature with a dedication that knows no limits,” is not only a mother of a PTSD sufferer — she also suffers from the condition.

“I am a strong advocate for all our military, veterans, their families and all those who are affected by PTSD,” she told us in an email.

Leonard said she started the page on December 21, 2012 and supports veterans from Australia, the United States, New Zealand, UK and Canada along with their families and all who are affected by PTSD.

“I want to give something back to all those who have sacrificed and given us so very much,” she told us.  “I saw the need for an international page which would give all who struggle a stronger voice and a sense of unity, so that their struggle is felt by their brothers and sisters across the world.”

“I believe that our page is the only dedicated international support page on Facebook to date,” she added.

Leonard said she met with Steve Troisi, a Navy veteran who goes by the moniker “Devildoc,” due to his service as a Navy Corpsman, online.  He agreed to help in her effort, adding that “without his work and dedication we would not be where we are today.”

“We now have four pages one of which was merged with another, and three back up pages,” Leonard said.

“I have PTSD but it does not have me,” Troisi said. “That is why the page exists, a keeping of my oath to stand with them till the end and spit in the Reaper’s eye along the way.”

Troisi added: “We serve those with a patriot heart and a connection to PTSD. To admin for us you must have that. PTSD or an intimate connection with someone that does as we get messages from people looking for help. You must understand it and them. That is our connection. The lifeline in the literal sense. We have kept several busy while we sent help to prevent their suicide, which makes this all the more reprehensible.”

Worse yet, administrators say they have been banned for anywhere from three to 30 days.  According to Troisi, Facebook retaliated almost immediately after they appealed the initial tear-down.

A new page has been set up and can be seen here.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened, as we reported back in 2014.

According to an article published at Examiner.com at the time:

All of the page administrators for the “Military with PTSD” Facebook page were banned for at least 12 hours over a post about God and religion that was put up by a veteran user, WFIE reported Saturday.

WFIE said the page, now with over 22,000 supporters, was started by Shawn Gourley, of Evansville, Ind., after her husband was diagnosed with the disorder.

Gourley said the page has given her a chance to help families of veterans and veterans suffering from PTSD, some of whom, WFIE said, were on the brink of suicide.

But someone posted a comment about God and religion, and that apparently didn’t sit too well with Facebook monitors.

“Facebook notified Shawn, telling her the post has been removed because it violates the site’s community standards,” Sean Edmondson reported.

According to Edmondson, all of the administrators were banned for at least 12 hours, affecting a number of veterans and family members who rely on the page for support and information.

“On our page, I am a certified suicide gatekeeper,” Gourley told WFIE. “And we do have suicidal vets on the page that come to us for help. We cannot contact them or message them.”

“If we don’t have their number, we can’t access them at all. Someone posted on my personal page that they felt like the walls were closing in on them and they didn’t know how much longer they can hang on and I can’t respond to her. I can’t tell her to call me…anything,” she said.

“Facebook put a lot of lives in danger,” Marcus Spaulding, a veteran who helps run the page, told WFIE. “We have many veterans who come to that page to talk to counselors, to talk to Shawn, to talk to me. They don’t know where else to turn to.”

“We could be burying another vet,” Spaulding said.

How common is PTSD?  According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the number of veterans with PTSD varies by service era:

  • Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.
  • Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.
  • Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.

In 2016, the Military Times reported that a study by the VA says “roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide…”  Other reports suggested 22 veterans commit suicide every day, but those numbers have been questioned.

Regardless of the actual number, page administrators stress that even one suicide a day is one too many — and that was the point of the image Facebook tore down.  And despite their actions, Leonard says the fight to save veterans’ lives will continue.

“No matter what they do to us we will keep on fighting, we will keep on supporting, we will keep on trying to save lives,” she said.

As Adina Kutnicki, an investigative journalist based in Israel, and I documented in our book, “Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad,” the reason censorship like this takes place is because federal law sanctions it.  In 2014, a federal judge ruled that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 lets sites like Facebook censor even Constitutionally-protected speech with zero legal consequences.

This means the beatings and harassment will continue until Congress takes action to amend that section of the law.

We reached out to Facebook but have not received a response as of this writing.

Update: As of 10:00 am Pacific Time Monday, the page is back up and functioning but we’ve been told some administrators are still banned.

Update 2: A Facebook spokesperson responded to our inquiry, stating: “The page was removed in error and we restored it as soon as we were able to investigate. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.”


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And if you’re as concerned about censorship on the world’s largest social media site as we are, go here and order this book:

Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad
Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad – Source: Author (used with permission)

Joe Newby

A 10-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Joe ran for a city council position in Riverside, Calif., in 1991 and managed successful campaigns for the Idaho state legislature. Co-author of "Banned: How Facebook enables militant Islamic jihad," Joe wrote for Examiner.com from 2010 until it closed in 2016 and his work has been published at Newsbusters, Spokane Faith and Values and other sites. He now runs the Conservative Firing Line.

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