MOREAU — Facebook still hasn’t responded to the many people who have asked it to intervene in the Landmark Motor Inn situation.
Someone – not a motel employee – set up a Facebook site masquerading as the official motel site and has posted various derogatory comments about the motel and its owner. Comments included saying that owner Shawn Asghar did not care about the motel because he’s from Pakistan. In person, he has been called “anti-American” and accused of not caring about the country.
Asghar, for the record, is a longtime American citizen who moved to this country at 17. He is very proud of his adopted country and said, when he bought the motel a year ago, he was shocked to be met with racism after decades of living here.
He had to fire several employees after they created a penny jar game to mock Pakistanis and began making racist comments about him to motel guests. At the time, he didn’t realize the issue had gone public.
But within two weeks of the first Facebook post in late March, the motel had a flood of cancellations. A guest pointed out the problem to the motel staff, saying he had seen the posts pop up when he was searching online for information about the business.
The motel asked Facebook to take the page down a week ago, saying it had “objectionable content.” Facebook responded that the posts did not violate its community standards.
But rule 18 in Facebook’s community standards requires that all page owners actually represent the business they say they’re representing. Most people only know that the rule requires their personal page to have their real name, but the same rules apply to businesses, according to Facebook.
“Authenticity is the cornerstone of our community. We believe that people are more accountable for their statements and actions when they use their authentic identities,” the rule reads.
Landmark officials are reaching out to the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office to see if there is a legal remedy, such as slander, theft of the Facebook password or criminal impersonation.
In the meantime, the reaction to the situation has left owner Shawn Asghar deeply appreciative of the community.
“He was overwhelmed by the number of people who came in to support him,” said his general manager, Florence Sherman.
The former owner, John Naja, also spoke in support of Asghar.
“You can say the former owner is very supportive of the new owner,” he said, calling criticisms of Asghar’s Pakistani ethnicity “extremely disgraceful.”
Asghar bought the business a year ago. The Facebook page was created about five months before that, while Naja was marketing the motel for sale. But Naja said he didn’t know about the page and didn’t have a password for it. Asghar said he didn’t know it existed, either. No posts were made on it from the day it was created until March of this year, when the derogatory posts began.
Some members of the community are now setting up an event at the Landmark to help Asghar build a stronger connection to his new neighbors.
They are planning a “Meet Shawn” event at the Landmark on May 16.
No details have been announced yet, but some businesses in the community plan to donate food and drink to the event.