I want you to know that there will be a blog post with the transcript to this video (I pre-wrote it, Facebook live video is embedded at the bottom), that will include the links I’m talking about in the (possibly likely) event that this video gets taken down and I get banned again. Follow me @TheFriskyFairy on Twitter if that happens. I also want to let you know that this post will contain comments with lots of violence. Please be prepared.
So for those of you who didn’t know, I spent a lovely weekend with my partner and Romulus, Prince of Cats. We spent time in the garden, watched some of the Fast and the Furious films, and spent time watching kung fu movies with friends. All in all, it was a relaxing weekend. That said, it was less relaxing because I was in Facebook jail. I received a three day Facebook ban on Friday. Three days for the following comment:
“I would like to go just one freaking day without having to say the sentence ‘fuckin’ white people’ and apologize for being white. In all seriousness though, I have no idea why people are upset about this? White people are shitty…”
This comment was in response to someone’s post saying that their phone autocorrected “people are shitty” to “people are white” and the subsequent screaming match from individuals crying out reverse racism. I got a three day ban for that comment. I got a 24 hour ban a couple weeks prior for telling a “Greg” to “fuck off” for his actions in “reverse sexism”.
In addition to my ban, the following quotes were also removed for not following “Facebook Community Standards”:
“Because reverse racism isn’t a thing. Because every 3 months my friend gets banned from fb for being black. Because white people are shitty. It’s totes okay to make fun of white people because they are privileged af.”
“Literally no one said all white people are shitty. White people are the ones controlling the systems of oppression and disparity, that is shitty. White people are privileged as all fuck and often don’t even realize how much. People are taking issue with what you are saying because it is [sic] sounds like you are suggesting white people are as oppressed as black people. Or that white people can experience racism. Or any of a dozen other common false narratives…”
My comment was posted sometime around 10am. My ban started around 1:30pm. I know this because I was prompted to log in again, and informed of it…and also because I sent a furious, all caps text to my friends saying
“I GOT PUT IN FUCKING FACEBOOK JAIL AGAIN
JESUS FUCKING CHRIST I AM SO PISSED OFF RIGHT NOW I WANT TO SCREAM”
So why is it that it took about 3.5 hours to review and ban me, but I reported the page No Fat Chicks post reading “My view on abortions: let it be a woman’s choice but since women shouldn’t have rights, kill the mother too if she wants one. Problem solved” at about 8am EST, and yet at 7pm EST I still haven’t received a response to that, and the post is still up?
Can we also discuss how those comments about racism are unacceptable but, as FACEBOOK ITSELF SAYS in the guidelines that were released a day or so ago, comments like “To snap a bitch’s neck, make sure to apply all your pressure to the middle of her throat”, “Let’s Beat up fat kids”, “I hope someone kills you”, or “Unless you stop bitching I’ll have to cut your tongue out” are just peachy? How my benign comments are somehow so full of hate speech and credible threats of violence that they warrant a ban, but none of those do? Amusingly enough, “Oh Greg, Fuck off” was enough for a one day ban, but “Fuck off and die, Kevin!” as listed in the link is completely acceptable.
In their community guidelines, Facebook states that “People can use Facebook to challenge ideas, institutions, and practices. Such discussion can promote debate and greater understanding. ” Evidently not when the only debates are being given are from a side full of racists.
Look, I’m saying nothing new here. There are regular accounts of individuals who have said or posted racist things, or hate speech against transfolks having their pages and posts stay up while others have their pages banned. The marvelous Didi Delgado wrote about this best in her recent post “Mark Zuckerberg Hates Black People” Where she posted two images to be reported, one that says black folks (no, those are not the words used) “deserve to die”, which was reported 168 times before it was removed. My post was reported maybe twice… in a private, vetted group. (As an aside, I highly recommend her post, as she also goes in depth as to how the ban details are reminiscent of early slave codes, and has a monster amount of links as proof to all this business, including links to a number of black activists who have had their messages silenced.)
The implications of a Facebook ban are a bit more far reaching than you would imagine. First off, there’s the fact that during a Facebook ban you can see everything, but you can’t interact with it. You cannot like, share, reply, or in any way interact with Facebook. You can, however, accept friend requests, add friends to group chats, and annoy people who have messaged you by letting your little avatar hover where it says “seen” as you desperately try to find an alternate method of contacting them. There is not notice telling people you’re Facebook jail. There’s no message in messenger letting people know to find an alternate way of contact.
When Messenger is one of the most commonly used messaging platforms in the world, and you’re banning people from using it, creates an inability for individuals to contact their friends, and in some cases, an inability to contact others in the event of an emergency. When you are encouraging your users to use your platform as their primary (and/or ONLY) messaging platform, and then ban them from contacting any of those individuals, you are not only creating a digital time out of sorts, you’re also harming folks through the well-documented psychological impact of social media and technology. In addition to the psychological impact, that banning has real world ramifications that, in the event that a person did not do something worth banning (*coughmecough*), can cause them great harm in multiple arenas. The fact that Facebook is not only protecting problematic behaviors but unfairly penalizing those who are speaking out against this discriminatory behavior by isolating them from all social contact, is atrocious.
Speaking of those real world ramifications. My rather harmless posts that put me in Facebook jail ended up affecting my real world job. I use Hootsuite to post to my work account. When you cannot post to Facebook, that includes not being able to post to a page as well. So THREE DAYS of curated Facebook posts went un-posted because of this. Three days of me not being able to do my job because of this. Facebook literally made the decision that I be penalized at my day job, a job that I work very hard to not talk about in this medium (I like to keep it separate from my sex ed and activism stuff), because they felt that my saying “white people are shitty”was so problematic that I should be banned.
This isn’t a group of activists working to get racists fired (or having nazi’s lose their gym memberships). This is business stepping in and making the decision to penalize the employee of another business who they have no control over.
Really though, no one who is black, or trans, or a sex worker, or an activist should be surprised by this news from Facebook. We’ve heard it all before. This is just digital tone policing gone overboard. This is Facebook saying:
“Look, we understand that you have feelings, but we can’t have a productive discussion until you calm down, and anyway, you’d have more support if you were less angry. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar after all.” (Which, by the way, if you’ve ever had to deal with any sort of fly in your house, you’d know this was a fucking lie.)
We shouldn’t be surprised by this. We shouldn’t be surprised that a company that has (as of 2016) 52% white employees, and (as of 2015) 68% male employees would be telling us to calm down. We shouldn’t be surprised that a trans hate page took WEEKS and hundreds of reports to get pulled down. We shouldn’t be surprised that there are racist comments in every single post, video, and news story about black men who have been shot by police that don’t even get flagged as problematic, and if they do, they get marked with a “Oh, sorry you disliked this, but we don’t see an issue here” reply.
There is no way to appeal a Facebook ban, which is frankly, a huge part of the problem. It’s also why a moderator of a group that I am a part of is regularly banned from Facebook for a month or more at a time. When people are harassing you by reporting posts that are not against the community standards, but will get your post deleted, account banned, or worse, you have no way of fighting back. There is no way to fight this.
I’ll get this in before someone says “go start your own social network” or whatever nonsense you’re about to spout by quoting Didi Delgado again:
“Cue the cries for Black folks to “make their own platform!” if we don’t like being discriminated against. I call this the “go back to Africa” argument. It ignores the fact that white corporations have a virtual monopoly on the resources and infrastructure necessary for such an undertaking, and would only serve to further insulate white society from anti-racism ideology. I’m sure Facebook, like much of the world, would love for Black people to just quietly disappear. But like a socially conscious beer commercial, it’s not gonna happen.”
She said it best, but it’s important to note that even moving to alternate platforms doesn’t have the same reach, effect, or ability to communicate as Facebook does. It’s so deeply ingrained in our lives that we use it to log in to third party apps, that we use it for marketing campaigns, for jobs, for lives. It has, since 2006, become the world’s largest social networking site.
Facebook has created a system that forces you to simply sit down, and hope that we can eventually move through it, but until Facebook gets its act together, allows for better and more thorough moderation (I am rather fond of OkCupid’s moderation), informs you as to why or how your post did not follow community guidelines, as well as an appeal process for bans, you don’t have many choices other than becoming the model moderate citizen who doesn’t actively speak out or lash out angrily about their circumstances in order to not have it negatively impact your work, school, or relationships or joining the resistance, and creating multiple accounts so that you never have to shut the fuck up about the absolute bullshit that’s going on in the world today.
Otherwise, we’re just going to keep waking up and hoping that we’re not in that Black Mirror episode where the approval rating of your interactions decides what you are and are not allowed to do and where you are and are not allowed to visit.
TLDR Facebook is using active discriminatory policing practices to adversely affect the digital, psychological, financial, and potentially physical well-being through the retaliatory silencing of their users speaking against hate speech, while simultaneously allowing actual hate speech to go unchecked.