Every two seconds, somewhere in America, another Conservative is slapped with a social media ban. Although we don’t know if that statistic is actually true, it seems likely. The tales people share about what, this time, caused the tech overlords to come charging in with a wagging finger range from shocking, to hilarious, to complete nonsense. This reporter’s most recent 30-day stint in the Facebook gulag came because I dared to comment “Silly liberals” on a post. But we have, perhaps, found the king of all censorship stories, and it began with a concerned mother in upstate New York.
Earlier this year, Stephanie Hess got wind of some alarming news. A transgender pedophile had moved into her small, Hudson Valley community. Residents of Wappingers Falls, N.Y. were alerted by the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Department through a post on its official Facebook page that a 33-year-old who goes by Stephen A. Ricciardi, a.k.a. Steph Ricciardi, had moved to town. The Sheriff’s Department described the person as a “transgendered female” and laid out the details of his 2006 conviction of sexual assault against two children, one a 13-year-old boy and the other a 14-year-old girl.
Ricciardi is classified as a Level-3 sex offender, which are considered to have the highest risk of a repeat offense and deemed the greatest threat to the public. His new home was within one mile of two parks and within three miles of six schools, ranging from elementary, middle, and high school.
“I shared it to warn those with children, as I have 2 kids myself and hate that this ‘person’ is in our vicinity,” Hess told DANGEROUS. She used the word “pedotranny” to describe the predator and soon, her neighbors and family members were sharing the post and discussing how to protect their children.
That’s when Facebook stepped in. It removed her post and fired a warning shot. So she reposted it anyway, then got a suspension from the platform. “I think this is ridiculous, as I was not attacking, I was stating facts. This guy is a pedophile and a tranny. That Facebook would shut me down in defense of a known and registered child molester is infuriating!” Hess said.
But the genie was out of the bottle, and a new word had entered the lexicon, pedotranny, and it was spreading like wildfire through sleepy Wappingers Falls. Residents told DANGEROUS they had no intention of maligning transgenders, rather the word seemed to be a natural and succinct way to describe the person they were to watch out for. “I’d never seen that word before, but I knew exactly what it meant,” one father said.
A Google search reveals neither have most people. For all intents and purposes, Hess may have invented the term. This posed a crisis for the watchful eye of Facebook which now had some policing to do of its own. Hess’s followers began getting suspensions and soon dozens of residents of Wappingers Falls were slapped with time-outs, she says.
Hess’s sister-in-law, Nicole Daletto, was among them. “This has now spread to friends and family. We have now had myself, my sister-in-law, her brother, my friend, and anyone who has posted about this being blocked, warned, or suspended for using the term ‘pedotranny,’ specifically in response to this sex offender,” she told DANGEROUS.
“The sheriff’s department thought it was important for us to know therefore so did I, as this person may appear as a male or female while looking to sexually assault our children.”
Local authorities are obligated to warn the public when convicted sex offenders move into a neighborhood under statutes like Megan’s Law. Facebook’s mysterious “Community Standards” appear to have had a problem with the suffix, “-tranny,” which some transgenders find offensive, or perhaps the visual association of pedophiles and transgenders lumped into the same word.
“The larger issue is Facebook can never seem to ‘see the forest for the trees,’” one resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “They would rather disable accounts for the use of a word instead of understanding the hurt feelings of a pedophile may need to a take a backseat to the outrage of a concerned community of parents.”
Residents we spoke to said since the censorship dragnet they’ve been watchful, but so far haven’t spotted Ricciardi. “Not sure what more can happen at this point. It’s not like I have a daily reason to write ‘pedotranny’ on my wall, so this will likely be the end of it,” Hess said.
Pawl Bazile is former Patriotism Correspondent for now defunct DANGEROUS and Production Director for Proud Boy Magazine.