The Two Faces of the Redding, California Facebook Page
Major update 9/23/11, 10 a.m.: As of this morning, administration of the Redding, California Facebook page has been returned to Shawn Thompson, the original creator of the page. In an ironic twist of events, Ruben James Porras lost his admin rights when Scott Leak, James-Porras' recent co-admin partner, removed James-Porras from that position. Check out the Redding, California FB page and see for yourself. (James-Porras had blocked scores of people - myself included - from commenting, and Thompson is trying to unblock people as quickly as he can.)
When 37-year-old Ruben James-Porras talks about the Redding, California Facebook page -- including when under oath during a Sept. 14 restraining-order trial at Shasta County Superior Court -- James-Porras refers to the page as “his” and claims he created it.
Shawn Thompson begs to differ. He's the 37-year-old former Tracy resident who says he was the actual creator of Redding's first Facebook page in July of 2009, five years after Facebook came into existence.
“I didn’t give it to Ruben,” Thompson said of the Redding, California Facebook page. “Ruben stole it. ”
At first, during this reporter's interview with James-Porras in May, he disagreed with Thompson’s characterization, and said Thompson "gave" the site to James Porras. Then he said Thompson granted James-Porras co-administrator status back in December of 2009 when the site had 1,700 fans, and that James-Porras was the reason the site quickly grew to 7,400 fans.
James-Porras said he took control of the site for two primary reasons. First, he said he believed fans' and friends' comments could be better moderated for maximum revenue potential. As someone who then touted himself as a local media reporter and social marketing professional, he’d already received “a couple of bucks” and food for positive posts on his various sites, including the Redding CA Facebook page, he said.
“The bottom line was simple,” James-Porras said of many of the comments he deleted, “I wouldn’t let them advertise or put their rantings on the page ... they didn’t want to pay for the advertising. They wanted something for free on my site.”
The second reason James-Porras cited for taking sole control of the Redding, California Facebook page was he was suspicious of Thompson’s Bethel Church connections. He said he believed the site would be taken over by Bethel.
“At that time I had every right in the world to remove him,” James-Porras said. “He made me an admin, so yes, it was mine, according the (Facebook) admin rules.”
Thompson said while it’s true that initially many of his “friends” on the Redding, California Facebook page were from Bethel Church, that’s because as a newcomer who’d traveled to Redding specifically to attend Bethel classes, they were Thompson’s first acquaintances. But he said that over the following weeks and months the Redding site grew to the point where Bethel fans were in the minority.
The birth of the Redding, California (Public Places, Redding, California) Facebook page
Thompson said that soon after arriving in Redding in the summer of 2009 to attend school at Bethel Church, he went online to learn more about his new home. That's when he made a different kind of discovery.
"I noticed all these Facebook fan pages from other cities, but realized that Redding didn't have one," he said. "So I created one."
As the page's administrator, Thompson said he envisioned the Redding, California Facebook site as a community-oriented online place where people could post positive information about all kinds of things.
"My main idea was to promote local businesses and events for free," Thompson said.
Heading into fall, and then the winter of 2009, Thompson’s Redding, California page had rapidly gained many new friends, "likes" and commentors, all of which far exceeded Thompson's early expectations.
"I was new, and I had no idea what I was doing, but I was having fun having a great place for local businesses to post things," Thompson said.
Around that time, Thompson said he noticed a particularly frequent and prolific online commenter, Ruben James-Porras, posting as “Modesto Famous” - which led Thompson to believe that the man lived in Modesto.
"I didn't know Ruben was living in Redding, or that he was from Redding, or for that matter, that that he was a marketeer, until later," he said.
Thompson said that at first he was extremely impressed with James-Porras' writing ability and marketing savvy. But what completely won Thompson over about James-Porras was what he read about the man's personal life, which included a video created by James-Porras in which the former Modesto resident earnestly described how he'd beaten cancer and cheated death after his liver transplant. Thompson said he was so moved that he wept tears of empathy for James-Porras.
“He got me with his YouTube videos,” Thompson said. “And I saw he was obviously a good PR guy, and I said, 'This guy is awesome!' I started corresponding with him to get a feel for his heart.”
In December of 2009, five months after Thompson created the Redding, California Facebook page, he added Ruben James Porras as a co-administrator.
"I asked Ruben if he'd help me watch over the site and make sure people weren't posting bad language or racist comments or anything," Thompson said.
Gradually, Thompson regretted that decision, as he said James-Porras began to take the site in a different direction.
“I thought we’d agreed to only do so many posts a day, because you don’t want to flood people’s pages,” Thompson said. “Ruben was posting way more posts than what we’d agreed. Also, he was starting to make comments on the site about Bethel, and showing his negative attitude about Bethel, and the thing is, when he was doing that, he was indirectly talking about me, because I go to Bethel. Then he was talking about things like fat people, and in general, the page wasn't lining up with what I thought it should be.”
Even so, by the time January and February rolled around, Thompson and James-Porras still hadn’t met in person. Finally, on Feb. 6, 2010, Thompson decided to meet his co-administrator at a Super Bowl event that James-Porras had been heavily promoting on the Redding, California Facebook page.
Thompson said he sensed immediate tension between himself and James-Porras. “I was getting this feeling that something was going to happen,” Thompson said.
As Thompson drove home from the meeting, he made a decision.
“That night I had a feeling that I should take him off the site as admin the next morning,” Thompson said. “I’d seen his true colors. I felt uncomfortable with what I saw; a bitter man who was only interested in money.”
But Thompson was too late, because by the following day, James-Porras had already deleted Thompson from the site as administrator.
“He removed me from admin, he unfriended me on his accounts and even blocked me from the Redding Facebook fan page,” Thompson said.
“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Are you joking?' I created another page called weloveReddingCalifornia fan page, but it didn’t do very well. And I tried to get on other pages to tell people what happened, but then Ruben threatened me, my wife and my friends with legal action when we tried to post the truth. He’s very smart about marketing, and he's an intelligent man. Every time someone would try to tell the truth about what happened, he’d remove and block them. He’d threaten slander and libel stuff, and that scared people.”
Thompson said he tried to talk with James-Porras, but to no avail.
“He said he did all this research of Facebook rules and stuff on how he had the right to do this. He said he was going to take me to court,” he said. “I felt really hurt. I’d liked the guy, trusted him, thought we’d be a good team, and at first I felt a connection with him. Then he stabbed me in the back.”
Thompson said that the thousands of "fans" (currently nearly 12,000 strong) on the Redding, California Facebook page continue to be “duped and deceived” because they’re only exposed to Ruben’s version - of everything.
“Anytime anyone posts anything negative about him, he deletes it, and then he portrays himself as a victim, sending messages to his friends and fans and building an army of people who are fooled by him, based only upon what they read upon that page. Nobody's looking at the people he’s hurt. People were afraid of his threats.”
These days, Thompson says, he’s moved on, beyond Ruben James-Porras and the Redding, California Facebook page.
“I’m a family man trying to educate myself,” he said. “In my opinion, Ruben was on a power trip that pushed him over the edge. What he did may have been legal under Facebook rules, but under moral rules, he's stolen something that didn't belong to him.”
MIndependent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.
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