It seems like I’ve been brought back in from the cold by Facebook. Thanks to everyone for your likes and comments over the last 24 hours or so. Here’s what happened:
posted a comment
about men’s role in violence, earning her a 30 day ban. In support, I also posted her message which had been taken down. Mine was also removed.
When I queried FB about their reasoning and made a further post about 10 forms of violence for which men are predominantly responsible, those messages were also removed and I was blocked for 24 hours:
It seems that in my case at least, the block resulted from perhaps as little as a single complaint
that the post breached the community standards policy
on hate speech. That complaint was intended to “test” the system. It worked.
It was irrelevant that these posts were statements of fact verifiable by crime statistics internationally, and the subject of continuing media and government attention especially in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, the Cox murder, and other acts of terror.
The posts about
men’s misogyny and homophobia also elicited
men’s misogyny and homophobia (see for example here
, and here
from an apparently Western, white, male twitter demographic ). The worst have been removed. For good measure racism and terrorism also got a bit of a go (see here
). It should be said, there was also lots of love.
Overnight a change.org petition was successful in releasing Catherine from her month-long ban. FB reinstated her posts, though in an apparent glitch subsequently saw her re-banned for those same posts.
For me, visibility of my Facebook feed reappeared about 18 hours after the initial block. Only then did I discover that because my twitter and FB accounts are linked, all of my tweets over lockout period were still appearing in friends’ feeds and being engaged with by them. Censorship Fail Facebook!
My ability to interact with the site took a little longer. Yesterday I lodged a complaint with onlinecensorship.org
, and this morning several complaints to FB and to their PR representatives
in Sydney. Those complaints direct to Facebook generated these emails:
A member of our team accidentally removed something you posted on Facebook. This was a mistake, and we sincerely apologize for this error. We’ve since restored the content, and you should now be able to see it.
Thank you for your email and explanation of your account lock out. Each week, our people review millions of posts reported by other users for violating our community standards. In some instances we remove a post in error, which may lead to a temporary lock out on the account.
Further review confirms that your post does not violate our community standards and we have reinstated the post and access to your account.
We apologise for the error.
1. Since this event started, I’ve read a bit of background on FB’s history with censorship and treatment of “hate speech”. We’ve known forever that the platform is full of vile sexist, homophobic and racist material promoting hate and violence, but this experience has highlighted how easily a legitimate opinion or statement of fact can be easily sanctioned – with very little complaint resulting in that outcome.
This tells me two things. First, FB’s community guidelines are ill-equipped to properly assess whether statements actually constitute hate speech, and how for example, issues of power mean that not all comments about gender, sexuality and race can be regarded as equal in impact.
Second, it tells me that notwithstanding Facebook’s admission that several posts were “accidentally removed”, their removal nonetheless occurred as a result of just one or a small handful of complaints. This gives some comfort in that material that clearly is hate speech should in theory be very easily and permanently removed.
2. I’ve also learned how easily and quickly raising issues of gender power relations can unleash even greater torrents of hate. No doubt there are many online who have experienced this for a long time and to a greater degree than I have done with my small follower-base.
Indeed it is entirely likely that the only reason I even became a target was because my posts were connected to those of a vocal woman with a huge follower base. There’s no doubt that the posts on my twitter timeline pale in comparison to hers.
Still, I’m quite proud that a photo stolen from my website (as uneasy as that made me feel) has been turned into a new #BetaAsFuck meme. Beta Boys unite!
3. I’ve also been given cause to consider just how pervasive Facebook actually is. When I signed the change.org petition to “free Dev from the doghouse” I was unable to share it to Facebook as I ordinarily might (obviously), but I was also unable to post comments within the change.org website because their comments section operates as a FB plugin.
It’s concerning to me that not only does Facebook’s ham-fisted approach result in people being incorrectly and unfairly banned from their platform, but that it also unilaterally prevents those same people from taking part in other organisation’s civic and political participatory processes.