If you follow on Facebook – and have been following for a long time – you probably recognize the name Chuck McKiernan, which is the online alias of a long-time reader and friend. He was suspended from Facebook for 72 hours recently for posting the following comment:

Of course when Facebook says "Someone from our review team confirmed…" what they mean is, we have some kind of algorithm that caught this. Because if a human, at least any human conversant in the English language, looked at that comment they would understand it immediately. Read it. Is anything even remotely unclear about the meaning or context? A child would read that and understand that it is sarcasm. This is the kind of thing that appears (or at least appeared!) in middle school English textbooks to demonstrate the concept of satire. Take a ridiculous claim and pretend to take it seriously to emphasize how silly it is.

On the other hand, Facebook recently announced in the wake of the Christchurch mosque terrorist attack that it will begin cracking down on white supremacist content on its platform. Predictably they announced that for public relations purposes and then it turned out that the policy is toothless window-dressing. For instance, Facebook confirmed that Canadian white supremacist Faith Goldy's videos about "white replacement" and "Eurabia" and various other prominent white nationalist tropes is…A-OK. So Facebook will crack down on white supremacy as long as the content explicitly shouts THIS IS WHITE SUPREMACY or WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO COMMIT ACTS OF VIOLENCE FOR WHICH WE WILL BE YOUR INSPIRATION FOR LEGAL PURPOSES. It's the cheapest kind of head-in-sand denial, like insisting that something isn't racist because it doesn't include explicit racial slurs.

I've gone to Facebook Jail a couple times, always for something utterly ridiculous and innocuous. Social media cannot self-regulate. Its mechanisms and policies for doing so are broken, the worst possible combination of denial of their real problems and comical over-reaction to minor issues. Did your post mention "Self Harm" in even an obviously unserious way? Ban! Did anything you said make someone else feel bad? Bullying! Ban! But if you want to take videos of Notre Dame cathedral on fire and doctor it to include audio of people shouting "Allah Akbar!" and distribute it…well, that's fine. No issues there.

When a major industry demonstrates conclusively that it cannot regulate itself there are only two choices. One is to throw up our hands and let them effectively set public policy by allowing them to regulate themselves. The other is to regulate them.

22 thoughts on “MISSING THE POINT”

  • Points well taken, except… who's going to do the regulation? There's this First Amendment thing. And even if government could regulate speech to the extent you indicate, do you seriously think the Turnip Administration, for example, would do a better job?

  • I agree with seth. I would also ask the question: How? You already mention how the algorothms fail. Who is going to develop a universally acceptable algorithm? A good portion of the American population would be A-OK with the doctored burning cathedral photos because "that is what THEY really want to do and we should be able to "joke" about it!" How many people would FaceBook have to hire to oversee the automated review?

    I am not sure a project like FaceBook CAN practically be regulated. If it is rigidly moderated (a la China), people will just find alternative platforms anyway

  • Duh. Black and brown people are CONSTANTLY being punished – deletions, suspensions, bans – for posting anti-racist things. We have ever evolving codes for saying terrible things like "white people." This has been going on for a looooong time, and has escalated in the last few months.

  • Safety Man! says:

    Reporting in from the hinterlands of the lunatic fringes, perceived Facebook censorship is HUGE right now in the right wing camps. Don’t play into their hands.

    Facebook and all social media are soulless money-grubbers, but I only see regulation making it worse, not better. At least as long as the Republican Party is in power

  • c u n d gulag says:

    There is a third way:
    Boycott them.

    I never liked any "social media."

    Maybe it's because I'm too anti-social to be on "social media."

    Now, if someone comes up with 'anti-social media,' you can count me in.
    Something like:

  • Prairie Bear says:

    Like the others so far, I can't disagree that your specific examples of banning or not-banning seem to lack any logic or consistency, but I don't see what the solutions might be. As for Twitter, for example, the Twitterer-in-Chief has a number of times blatantly violated their supposed terms of service and suffered not the slightest sanction. OTOH, radical feminists, to take one example, have been permanently banned for rules apparently made up on the spot.

    Also still finding it ironic that you say stuff like this while you, or some algorithm (no way to find out which), blocked me from even reading your Twitter account! No hard feelings, just sayin'

  • Breaking facebook up by requiring they disgorge instagram and snapchat would be a good first step.
    Mandating a minimum fine for any data loss by Facebook say $100K per person per data point might get them to focus on protecting their users data. Preclude any "plea deals" prosecution is mandatory.
    Regulate that social media companies can NOT sell any users info or data. They can NOT use any data points to target ads unless specifically permitted by user, default is always NO user must make purposeful decision to allow it and can opt out at any time.
    Mandate for facebook to retain their corporate charter and ability to operate legally mandate that they must be in compliance with all laws. An example would be of facebook's continued flaunting of Seattle election laws on record keeping and public information on ad buys ( who paid, when, etc) failure of facebook to change course and obey the would cost them their corporate charter, at which point executives and officers of company would then face greater legal liability. Preclude any "plea deals" prosecution is mandatory.
    Just as print is fading to some degree zuckerberg is auditioning to take murdock's place in the digital realm.

  • Just another tiny episode in the downfall of "Western Civilisation ".
    There is no way a US government, indeed most governments including my own, has the interest or fortitude to deal with this shitbaggery.

    @K Your point about Zuckerberg and Murdock is right on the money.

  • @CU, nice to see you, and yes, obviously. I can't believe ANYONE still engages with the Borg after all the revelations of the last few years. Or ever did, for that matter- I'm actually pretty paranoid about posting HERE : )

  • US in the EU says:

    Re: regulating. Which group -government or otherwise -can we be the arbiter of what is fake or "truth" in any case? That seems like a dangerous road.

  • Raymond Gergen says:

    Hi, Ed!
    Long time reader first, or second, or third time poster!
    I am on a thirty day banning for using the hate-speech words "pig" and "white trash". I am such a bad person for using accurate adjectives. Yes, it is the second or third time they have banned me for this.
    When specific adjectives, regardless of context, become a "Bozo no-no," it is time to re-examine what you consider your moral underpinnings that created those infamous "community standards. But, as you pointed out, racism & hate is A-OK with the "team at Facebook."
    Now, also a good old-fashioned "Fuck you, asshole!" or a nice "You fucking cunt!" or a loving Christian, "I hope you burn in hell for all eternity!" is considered well within the norms of Facebook's "community standards" algorithms, and most definitely, d-d-d-definitely not "hate speech" at all.
    Oh, and don't say anything bad about our Arab or Israeli brothers and sisters.

  • Vague, overbroad standards of “civility” enforced by monkeys and martinets on establishment media and social media platforms? Gosh, leftists are complaining about it too. Now it’s bad!

  • Breakup the online 'bigs'. Make them pay for the data they are 'acquiring' and selling. Folks will not boycott. that is a pipe dream. The big apps are ingrained. I don't think 'censors' will ever be the answer to this problem. Something else is needed.

  • @ Idiotbarrow:

    You sound a bit like that piece of shit, CummStain who used to comment here. You're a cheapfuck version of him, but I'm pretty sure you alread know that.

    Fuck off, troll.

  • Demo:

    I notice and understand your attentiveness, but the better ankle-biters bring a measure of substantive rejoinder with them. Elevate your game and I’ll continue to work with you.

  • From what I have been reading Facebook is no longer the "cool" thing and now commercial businesses are what is its main revenue stream. Selling pages, ads and harvesting data from those who visit are what are sustaining their revenue stream.
    Have people start informing businesses that will not use the business's facebook pages because they do not wish to have their data scrapped by facebook for further nefarious commercial/political purposes.
    Make it that Facebook pages no longer help promote business but rather chases business away.

  • @ Inkboring:

    One ups one's game for people who one argues with.

    I don't argue with fucking trollz, so be happy and go back and tell you handlers that you're won–it will make both of you feel better I'm sure.

    Tell them to fuck off, too,

  • Dem:

    Indeed you don’t argue. You eschew substance in favor of vulgar fulmination. That’s the point. I suspect you have good reason for that aside from partisan myopia, but regardless you are now on your own. Unless and until you reform I’m not even going to glance at your trench coat.

  • @ Inkspew:

    I never argue with time wasting moronz. I never argue with people who are far less clever than they think they are. I never argue with trollz.

    You gotz the Fuckhead Trifecta all wrapped up, douchebag.

    Fuck off, troll.

  • Morley Bolero says:

    Facebook is international in scope. The 1st Amendment doesn't apply outside of the USA, and probably not inside either.

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