By Leonard Pigg
“The trick of the Internet is everything is allowed, until someone is offended.” -Joe Klemann
I was recently placed on a three-day ban from Facebook over a post I shared to a secret group. There are tons of closed, private, and secret groups on the site for people that are into various things that wouldn’t normally be on a standard newsfeed. Some of the items are simply a specific fandom, genre of music and, for some, the shock value of NSFW imagery. This wouldn’t have been an issue for me if the post I shared wasn’t actually on the Facebook page of a tattoo parlor in China. The video in question showed a tattoo artist coloring in a target piece on a woman’s posterior. I shared this finding it more humorous than erotic and fodder for the secret group that is filled with trolls. I’ve seen many of the members post far worse videos with no consequence: many of them identify themselves as Discordians. Within a couple of minutes, I’m told by one of the members that it violates the standards of Facebook. A couple more minutes later, the video is flagged and I’m suddenly in what people refer to as “Facebook Jail.”
The problem I have is how I’m getting in trouble for the postings of someone else. Meanwhile, there is a woman In Atlanta that was sexually assaulted while on Facebook Live and that video has been shared thousands of times. The video in question that resulted in my ban is still being posted and shared in other groups. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t see something pop up in my newsfeed that is more than likely to offend someone. I’ve seen animals mauling humans, humans abusing each other, and numerous epic fails that might make one laugh or cringe. Despite agreeing to whatever standards they’ve posted upon signing, Facebook seems to forget how often they change policies and expect everything to remain the same. The great problem most social media sites seem to have is that their standards and practices might not be the same as those of their users. There are so many variations in age, sex, culture, and class in this world. To hold everyone to a uniform standard is wildly optimistic about a world that has made celebrities out of people who abuse themselves and those who put a reality television star in the White House.
Recently, I’ve noticed a startling trend among those on my Friend list. A fellow comedian was banned from Facebook for commentary he made which some found offensive. I’ve seen friends comment on how when they post politically charged, ethnocentric or even religious posts, somehow these posts mysteriously get flagged. If this is something that is done by a program or algorithm, then these are in sore need of reform.
There’s also the chance that someone might just flag a post out of spite. Maybe they’re offended by someone’s profile picture which has a Confederate flag in the background, given the negative history of the flag. Some people still feel compelled to fly it, regardless, in the U.S. Whereas in Germany, the Nazi flag is considered illegal due to its negative connotation and it is considered a criminal act to let it fly.
It’s time for the pot to stop calling the kettle Teflon. The ivory tower that elitist hipsters sit in has been tarnished continually over the years. The Cambridge Analytica scandal alone has compromised nearly 87 million Facebook users’ data. Facebook stockholders will always be favored over those that use Facebook’s service. To Mark Zuckerberg and the board of Facebook: stop influencing elections, sharing users’ personal information without consent, dodging questions from other governments; cease and desist in trying to force your so-called morality onto the masses. Continue to enjoy wearing your tee-shirts while smoking meats on the weekend. Let the kids play in the backyard; just warn them that there are needles in the sandbox. You’ve never really been part of the solution so why try and start now?