Facebook Censorship Is Worse Than Ever. Here’s Why We Should Care.
The Issues with Facebook Censorship
Facebook Censorship – In honor of its 10th anniversary this year, Facebook added a feature where users could generate a video slideshow of their photos and posts from their timeline (profile), starting from when they joined. The resulting videos are sappy productions that remind us all how (too) much of our lives are documented via Facebook.
So, having a like-hate relationship with Facebook, I decided to create a parody. There were already quite a few of these parodies popping up—bible style, Walter White from Breaking Bad, privacy / game request parody etc. But mine had a different angle. I used it to protest my own endlessly disruptive issue with Facebook—censorship! The video is a slideshow of some images that got me banned on the social network. It was also the perfect thing to represent my new project – “Shit That Got Me Banned (From Facebook)” ( #STGMB ). I created the STGMB blog for the purpose of sharing content and photos that got me and others banned from Facebook, while also providing a platform for us all to rant about their draconian censorship policies.
Just a few hours after I posted my Facebook Look Back video on YouTube, it got taken down for violating their policy on “nudity and sexuality.” I guess they are really as bad as Facebook! If you use YouTube at all, you would see that it makes absolutely no sense for them to censor this video. It’s pretty ironic that they censored my protest of censorship, though I suppose it helped prove my point. After all it wasn’t censored for the graphic violence, was it? The gun and blood photo must’ve been A-OK with them.
YouTube Censorship Parody of My FB Censorship Protest:
Back to Facebook censorship. It is pretty much the worst social network to be on if you’re a naturist. But it’s not just naturists that get banned. The censorship is so wildly inconsistent that you can pretty much get banned for anything, even if Facebook makes official statements that such-and-such content is allowed. Their ambiguous “community standards” are a joke because not even Facebook follows them. The Third World employees who moderate the site for $1/hr all seem to censor based on how they feel at that moment. Whoever these people are, they’re definitely not following the same guidelines.
Take breastfeeding and mastectomy photos, for example. Facebook has stated over and over again that these photos are allowed, but they continue to get removed. Once in a while it happens to someone with enough clout for it to make the news. When that happens, a reporter reaches out to Facebook and FB apologizes, stating that they occasionally make an error. HAHAHA that would be so funny, Facebook, if it didn’t actually happen ALL THE TIME. It’s just that most of us plebeians don’t have the wherewithal to get in the news, or reach an actual person at Facebook.
Which brings us to another problem. There’s basically no appeal process. The appeal option (if you can find it) seems to be there just for show. It’s near impossible to reach any actual employee.
Anyway I have found that while complaining about getting banned for the umpteenth time, someone eventually asks: “If you hate Facebook so much, why keep using it? They are a private company so they can make their own rules and apply them as they wish.”
If only it were that simple. Facebook is a massive empire, proclaiming 1.23 billion active monthly users. Although there was a notable decline in popularity among teenage users, it is still, unfortunately, the place to be in terms of social media. It plays an integral role in people’s everyday social lives. It’s where they find community and connect with so many friends and family. Telling someone to just quit FB is basically like telling them to give up email. A Pew research study found that 71% of online adults use Facebook as of September 2013.
For businesses, organizations, and the like, nowhere else can people interact with and reach such a large following online as they can on FB. There is no alternative (yet) quite like it. To tell a business to just quit and leave might be asking them to simply cut ties with 70,000+ fans, clients and potential customers. Can you think of any major company that’s not on Facebook? I use Facebook frequently for getting my content out there, networking, promoting events and doing grassroots outreach for naturism. For me it’s a main point of contact; tons of people reach out to me through the network every single day!
Facebook’s role in people’s lives, its ubiquity and massive user base bestow upon it a greater social responsibility. Its far-reaching influence means that it does matter what they allow and what they censor. A New York Times article has an astute quote from law professor Jeffrey Rosen: “Facebook has more power in determining who can speak and who can be heard around the globe than any Supreme Court justice, any king or any president.”
With their censorship practices, they promote our culture’s glorification and acceptance of violence, while condemning art, self-expression and healthy representations of the human body. Their censorship of breastfeeding photos is degrading to women and perpetuates the stigma against public breastfeeding. They also perpetuate many double standards, like that of male and female nudity—the male chest is fine while a female nipple is unacceptable. Of course female breasts are still all over the network in the context of soft-core porn (just with that small bit of areolae covered up).
Speaking of porn on Facebook, it’s everywhere. I know because I see it every day (while looking through others’ profiles). This is another sign that Facebook’s censorship system just doesn’t work! I feel it is time for them to stop pretending it does!
Facebook’s current mission statement is “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.” Facebook prides itself on being this open collective communication space, and many of us see it that way. And yet…they are still a corporation that makes decisions every day with regards to what content we can and can’t engage with. Instead of favoring free speech, they decided to play censor. It is very challenging for a website of this magnitude to apply such censorship consistently. Even when you write up a list of ridiculous guidelines.
Facebook should really just give up the crazy censorship and make free speech the default. I envision an open, collective space as one in which we all get to exchange ideas and content without being at the mercy of one offended user or a corporation’s idea of what they may deem obscene.
The good news (sort of) is that we users do matter, and we can hold them accountable. Why? 1. Because without us, the users, there is no Facebook. And 2. Because Facebook is not exactly free. Its advertising revenue relies on us (as users and advertisers) seeing those ads that appear in news feeds and on the sides of pages.
We have also “paid” through illegal access to our private information and probably will again in the future.
So what can we do about it? Make our voices heard, both on and off Facebook. Submit banned content to STGMB or post it on other social media sites, so we can all mock and call out Facebook for removing the most harmless Internet content. I think we should keep submitting complaints to FB too…can’t guarantee that any humans read them, but if enough of us keep at it then maybe our collective voice will, at some point, get heard. But we can’t do this alone!
It might also be worth noting that Facebook doesn’t allow users to encourage others to violate its policies. So you might want to give it some thought before you go trying to enact a “Day of Nude.” Maybe Facebook is not the best place to start campaigns against Facebook…
There have been many petitions and campaigns against hate speech that succeeded in getting FB to revise its policies. So maybe a free speech petition is another option to consider.
There are a few alternative social networks specifically for naturists, though none match the quality and breadth of Facebook. We truly need a better alternative for everyone, but til then, looks like we are stuck dealing with fascistbook.
What do you think, readers? What else can we do about Facebook censorship? Or have some of you already given up and moved to Twitter, Tumblr or some other network?
This article about the issues with Facebook Censorship was published by Felicity’s Blog.