Friday, June 15, 2012

The Facebook Censor Strikes

Dr. Michael Brown
I received the news yesterday that the Facebook page for my book A Queer Thing Happened to America was deleted for allegedly violating Facebook’s “Community Standards.” But Facebook pages like “Hitler Fetus is our Jesus,” “Zombie Jesus,” and a host of other grossly offensive pages apparently do not violate these standards.

The Facebook page for my book had been online for about one year, containing reader comments, links to reviews, and relevant news links that some members would post. All in all, the page was quite benign and, being older, fairly inactive. As for the book itself, it is carefully and compassionately written, meticulously documented, and, in reality, an exposé of hate speech rather than an example of hate speech. Yet the page, which featured the cover of the book, allegedly violated Facebook’s Community Standards.

I found out that the page had been removed when the creator of the page posted on his personal Facebook page: “Facebook locked my account and showed me this, saying this page I created last year violated their community standards. Wow...” The note from Facebook contained a copy of the front cover of my book and stated, “We removed the following content you posted or were the admin of because it violates Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.”

What are some of these “Rights and Responsibilities”? Under the “Safety” heading, Facebook lists: “6. You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user. 7. You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” Did my page (or book) violate any of these standards or any others listed? Absolutely, categorically not, and yet it was removed.

At the same time, Facebook allows pages like these (some of which have to be edited here because of profanity):

• “I Hate Israel” (in Arabic, with 112,666 likes)

• “F—k Israel” (54,827 likes); the emblem features a fully clothed man wiping his backside with an Israeli flag

• “Anti Israel” (1,434 likes), which contains a large banner proclaiming, “Israel Murderers” and, for its emblem, features a Star of David in a red circle with the “no” slash, all bathed in blood

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