House of Drag winner Hugo Grrrl says his Wellington events company has had over 100 events disappear from Facebook.
Wellington events organiser and drag king George Fowler has been left “devastated” after a targetted attack on Facebook caused the entirety of his companies’ events to be removed. Winning TVNZ’s House of Drag as drag king Hugo Grrrl – a world first – Fowler’s company Hugo Grrrl’s Gigs hosts events including drag shows, stand-up comedy, naked readings and poetry nights. On Saturday afternoon, he says, more than 100 of their Facebook events were removed after a deluge of mystery reports were made.
Fowler was in rehearsal for a double header weekend show when the notifications began. “Posts were being reported by someone all over the place – on my personal page, the Hugo Grrrl page, my Instagram and even my website had been reported as spam.” With over 20 notifications arriving at a time, “really innocuous” posts began to disappear from across his social media. “I realised couldn’t do much about it and kept rehearsing, but then my business manager got in touch to tell me that all of our Facebook events had disappeared.”
Losing the event pages for so many events, Fowler is now left without his “main marketing machine.”
“We run two or three shows a week and Facebook is our primary our way of marketing directly to our young audiences and our communities that we serve, so it’s a big loss.” The shows remain on Eventfinda and with promotional material on Instagram, but Facebook is the place where “people actually connect and commit,” says Fowler. Some of the event pages lost had over 2000 confirmed attendees. “We were given no notice from Facebook that our events were being taken down – no emails, no messages, no nothing.” It is still unclear who made the initial reports.
Fowler is used to encountering a lot of hostility in his line of work – just last week he banned ‘stag do’ parties due to obnoxious behaviour. “I run queer events and weird, risqué shows, so we encounter conflict all the time. It’s gotten to the point where we basically consider it a part of our jobs.”
For all the hateful comments, nothing has impacted his business like this weekend’s online attack. “Why would someone do this? Why would they target us so incessantly like this? Hate speech against feminism and queer culture is allowed to thrive on Facebook and yet our events aren’t?”
As of writing, Fowler has been contacted by a representative from Facebook and is pursuing the matter with the police.
The removal of these event pages – many of them drag shows – comes as the drag scene in New Zealand continues to grow, partially in thanks to shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and TVNZ’s own reality competition House of Drag. “It is definitely a big time for drag,” says Fowler, who used the $10,000 prize money from House of Drag to launch his events company. “I just love going out and getting to feel like I’m not the biggest freak in the room, you know? Hanging out with other weirdos is so so valuable and so so necessary.”
“Drag is great for bringing people together, it’s so personal and visceral and moving. I think it’s what people need right now.”
UPDATE: A Facebook spokesperson says that “due to an automated error, we mistakenly removed events that do not violate our policies. The events should now be able to be posted. We apologise for any inconvenience this error may have caused.”
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