I took this picture in the alley behind the Armed Forces Recruiters in East Lansing on Monday. I posted it on Facebook today with a comment about how this is your tax dollars at work – a tricked-out SUV used to lure young men into killing and being killed. Lefty bloviating at its best. It spawned a lively discussion, and I was about to chime in again, when a phone call distracted me.
When I returned to Facebook at few minutes later, I was redirected to a page that featured my picture with a note that it had been pulled – along with all comments – because someone had complained that it violated Facebook’s community standards. The notice was silent on what made the image offensive and which standard it ostensibly violated. Apparently, Facebook agreed with the unnamed complainant because they pulled the photo without giving me a chance to ask why – and without giving me a link to complain about their actions.
Huh? Offensive? Indeed, I have tried and failed to find a place on the FB site that explains their procedures on removing supposedly offending material and how you can appeal their actions.
I have since posted a status update about the incident. A friend noted that military folks reportedly troll Facebook and complain about anything they don’t like. Another suggested it might have been about provocative comments he made – but the FB notice exhibited the photo and made no mention of comments.
This isn’t the first time I have run afoul of corporo-cyberspace censorship. Years ago, when the KKK held a rally at the Capitol, one of my students borrowed one of my cameras and took video of the event. I edited it for him and posted it on my YouTube account. It reached more than 100,000 hits quickly, but then someone complained, and YouTube pulled it.
Of course, the KKK speech was offensive. But publishing their insanity was a valid way to apply sunlight as an appropriate disinfectant.
Again, I found it is virtually impossible to find out how to challenge YouTube’s actions, and I wasted hours to no avail.
It is worth noting that that much of our speech is now controlled by corporate media whose sole concern is their bottom line, not our silly belief in our free speech rights. To become a member of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Pinterest, you either sign their TOS (Terms of Service) agreement, or you don’t get in – no negotiation.
You don’t like the fact that some yahoo can make a spurious complaint and your free speech rights go poof? Tough.
Unhappy that there is no easily accessed appeals process when your rights are violated? Puh-leeze. Now naive can you be that we care enough to pay a person to handle your concerns.
I know that activists are busy trying to build an alternative Internet called Byzantium, which could be activated whenever a government decides to censor certain sites or execute a kill switch. Let me know when it’s ready, and I’m there. And let me know if some budding entrepreneur decides in the meanwhile to build a Facebook-clone that doesn’t remove un-offensive comment anytime some jerk decides to make a groundless complaint. I will be among the first to sign up.
Until then, does anyone know how I can find out more about the complaint and whether I can challenge the company’s Zuckerbergian decision in some hidden Facebook-court?