Roger Ebert’s Facebook page ‘removed in error’ after Ryan Dunn comments spark online outrage

June 21, 2011

Trouble in a tweet (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

After a controversial tweet about the death of Ryan Dunn, Roger Ebert, movie critic and Twitter celebrity, found his Facebook page removed for violating Facebook’s “terms of use.”

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes later said, “The page was was removed in error. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

Ebert is well known for voicing his opinions on his blog, Twitter stream and Facebook page. But, after Jackass star Ryan Dunn died Monday in a car crash, one of those opinions sparked outrage.

Friends don’t let jackasses drink and drive.less than a minute ago via SocialOomph Favorite Retweet ReplyRoger Ebert
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Dunn had reportedly been drinking prior to the crash, though the police have only cited speed as the cause in the accident. While Dunn’s friends responded angrily over Ebert’s comments, others took to Ebert’s Facebook page to criticize the critic. “I don’t care who you think you are but don’t make fun of someone's sudden/tragic death!” was one of the more publishable comments on his page.

Then, the Facebook page disappeared all together. Facebook initially said the page had been violating the terms of use. “Among other things, Pages that are hateful, threatening or obscene are not allowed,” the take-down notice read.

Ebert wrote on Twitter, “Facebook! My page is harmless and an asset to you. Why did you remove it in response to anonymous jerks? Makes you look bad.”

Facebook reinstated the page a little less than an hour later.

It was not the only battle Ebert engaged in Monday over Facebook issues. He also drew ire after posting a link to a Facebook page that criticized Nathan Kotylak, the 17-year-old Canadian water polo player who admitted to trying to set a police car on fire during the Vancouver riots. Ebert wrote, “Canadians also have lynch mobs. Facebook brings out the worst in those good people.”

Update: Roger Ebert has posted a longer apology and clarification on his blog, saying “To begin with, I offer my sympathy to Ryan Dunn's family and friends, and to those of Zachary Hartwell, who also died in the crash. I mean that sincerely. It is tragic to lose a loved one. I also regret that my tweet about the event was considered cruel. It was not intended as cruel. It was intended as true.” Read the whole post here.

Update II: Roger Ebert posted a link to a second blogpost, this one from 2009. The title may provide a clue into his response to Dunn’s death, which some are calling callous, others brave: “My name is Roger and I’m an alcoholic.” After his surgery left him unable to have a drink in any way, he wrote, “Consider this blog entry what A.A. calls a ‘12th step,’ which means sharing the program with others. There's a chance somebody will read this and take the steps toward sobriety.”

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