Two years ago, Kevin O’Neil started a Facebook group called Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook (which is now Wipe Out Homophobia). The idea was to create a place where people could report pages that used illegal hate speech. Two years later that group has over 422,000 members, and it has grown beyond Facebook. It also has its own website, under the updated name, www.wipeouthomophobia.com.
I caught up with Kevin to talk about the second birthday of this phenomenon.
What were you expecting from the Facebook group when you started?
I expected to have a few hate pages removed, and so far EVERY hate page posted on the wall has been removed. We only post actual hate pages, ones calling for deaths or violence etc, and not opinions, such as say no to gay marriage, as that is free speech not hate speech.
At what point did you realise that it would snowball into something far bigger?
I realised at the end of the first day when my 30 friends turned into 1000 members.
The group started out as Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook, and it’s now Wipe Out Homophobia.
The name was changed from WHOF to Wipe Out Homophobia for the second birthday as we have clearly evolved beyond Facebook.
What are your plans to mark the two year anniversary?
To mark the two year anniversary the logo has been updated, a new banner of members’ wedding pics has been added, the name has been changed. The website www.wipeouthomophobia.com has had 20 new info pages added, including pages about what happened to homosexuals during the holocaust, and pages featuring other LGBT groups who actively fight homophobia.
What’s a typical day managing the group page like?
In a typical day I have WHOF open while I work (I am a web designer). I post more or less hourly, and check the members’ wall at regular intervals, as that is where most of my posts come from, I also check newsfeeds from several news agencies, and have relevant articles sent to me.
There are quite a few administrators who run the group. How do you coordinate the day-to-day management?
I have an open group message, which has every member of WHOF admin in 4 continents discussing posts, deciding on content and reporting on activity on the page. We all communicate in real time. The admin are L, G, B, T and straight. They are different races and nationalities. The Canadians have as much input as Americans or the Europeans or the Australians. It’s not run by one person with one person’s views. And as the posts mostly come from the members so it is technically run by 422,300 people.
We’ve talked before about the more extreme comments that are inevitable when running a group of this size. What’s your criteria for what is not acceptable commentary?
We do not allow homophobic, transphobic or biphobic comments, or any other form of bullying, including the ridicule of those who use incorrect grammar or spelling, as some members use English as their 2nd or 3rd language, some left school early due to bullying, some have reading disabilities and some just make mistakes. The rule is play nice or leave.
Looking back over the two years, what’s the best and what’s the worst of it?
The best part of the 2 years for me has to be the comments from the parents of teens who have not committed suicide because of something they have seen on WHOF, or have gotten support from members. One who woke his parents to tell them of his overdose after we persuaded him to will always stick in my mind. I think the most important part of WHOF is the support people get and the knowledge that they are NOT the only ones going through this.
The worst part is the moaning on every post. I could post a picture of kittens and someone would ask what we had against puppies!