Last week, the Man of Steel Facebook fan page and accompanying Twitter account with 45,000 fans suddenly disappeared from the internet. Soon, websites were announcing that Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment had taken down the page, but that’s not what happened at all.
The page was created in 2010 by fans so that they and their fellow fans could post stories and discuss all things Superman, including aspects of the upcoming film. The administrators hoped to gain some members, but had no idea that they would eventually have 45,000 of them. Unfortunately a few bad apples can spoil it for the bunch, so they created a set of rules to keep people from bullying each other, swearing or posting inappropriate material. As the owners of the page, they reserve the right to ban any member who breaks those rules, which has angered a few who have refused to follow the guidelines.
With so many members, it can be difficult to constantly police the content, but they have managed. A few websites have even complained that their own material about the movie has been posted on the Facebook page, even though it was put up by other fans and not the admins, and it’s essentially free advertising for their pages. Some have even expressed a personal vendetta against the page, just for that reason.
Last Wednesday, March 5, DC Comics launched a new web page specifically for the film, including a synopsis, cast and crew list and a place for people to comment and post to their webpages. It also listed the Facebook fan page and Twitter account as the official pages for the film, which was a mistake. Other websites were immediately running with the story, but a few hours later, the Facebook page and Twitter account seemed to suddenly disappear from the internet. At the same time, the mistakes on the DC website were gone as well. Several sites immediately concluded and reported that Warner Brothers had forced Facebook and Twitter to delete the fan pages.
The following morning, the Twitter account reappeared. By the afternoon, so had the Facebook page, complete with the 45,000 members. That's when I contacted Leslie, one of the admins. When the pages reappeared, they had no idea what had actually happened. No one at Warner Brothers had contacted them, even with a cease and desist order. Even if they had, those kinds of things can take some time and could not have happened that quickly. The Facebook page has always maintained a status as a fan page, and at no time did they ever claim to be even remotely official, no matter what some websites have been trying to claim.
They had wondered about the studio angle as well. After the new DC website had accidentally listed the fan pages as official, several of the people who have come to hate the pages claimed to have contacted Warner Brothers and even received a response from a vice president. Supposedly the reply stated that the studio intended to put a stop to these fan pages. Leslie had gotten threatening emails from these people before, even though the page had never done anything wrong or illegal. It seemed unlikely because the name given as the addressee from Warner Brothers didn’t appear to exist with a simple Google search. The trollers running their own websites clearly stated that they intended to find a way to have the fan page taken down. This wasn’t the first time.
Leslie explained “I’m having a really hard time thinking that DC or Warner Brothers had anything to do with this. I just can’t imagine. I fully believe, from statements in writing that this was the act of several people who actively dislike this page.”
The following day, Leslie received an email from Facebook that cleared everything up. It turns out that the people who have been actively disliking the page and its popularity all got together and hit the “report” button on the page at the same time. Facebook’s policy in those situations is to temporarily take down the page until a person on staff can review the claims. The reports were discovered to be unfounded so the page was reinstated complete with its full complement of original members. The reason that the Twitter feed was also affected was simply because they were linked to the Facebook fan page.
I spoke to Leslie again and neither she nor the other admins blame Warner Brothers at all. They did nothing wrong and probably haven’t made any public statements because they don’t want to be in the middle of any of this, despite the reports on other sites that claim the studio was behind it.
Concerning the offending websites, Leslie said, “We’re not even in competition with these people. We don’t have the corner on the market with fans.” Unlike those websites, the administrators on the Facebook page make no money for their work, nor do they receive perks or goodies. They do it simply because of their love for the character. Once the page became so insanely popular, they had a greater responsibility, but nothing they have done has been illegal, or even immoral.
Leslie went on to say, “There’s no point in us being mad at Facebook or anything. It’s the people with their agendas.” This behavior does however constitute harassment, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. If it continues or happens again, Leslie may consider legal action, and they would have a compelling case. “Obviously we’d rather not have to bother with that, but we’ll do what we have to in order to protect ourselves."
More than anything, it’s a jealousy issue. Any of these websites would love to have the audience and membership that the Man of Steel Facebook page has amassed. Steve Younis, the editor in chief at The Superman Homepage (The #1 Superman site according to Google) is no stranger to hate mail and trolls either. Popularity is a fickle thing and 45,000 members is pretty popular. This was a direct attack on the administrators and many fellow fans nearly paid the price for it.
Warner Bros. had nothing to do with taking down the site and have wisely chosen not make any public statements on the subject. They’re much smarter than that because it could come down to a first amendment issue and the page is feeding interest in the film, which is free advertising for Warner Bros. If you’re a fan of Superman, I highly recommend joining the page to interact with fellow fans.
If you have a Facebook account, be sure to "Like" this link.