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Long post ahead. And be warned, you may see some images you don’t want to see:)
There’s been a growing trend with social media giant Facebook in the past years to filter out content that it believes is harmful to both its brand, the community, and its users. We have no problem with this. It makes sound business and ethical sense and with the ongoing government demands for industry leaders like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to step up their game and protect people, country and lives, we applaud any initiative to do just that.
What we have a problem with is the double standards we believe it applies to some of its policies and decisions. Nowhere is this more prevalent or evident to those of us than in the LGBTQ community.
We’re specifically talking about the book publishing world here, where authors, publishers and bloggers use Facebook as a social and promotional tool. We’re talking a world where men love men, men kiss men and men have sex with men. We’re also talking the use of erotic and sexy pictures used to promote or tease readers with relationship stories and love and romance tales of men falling in love. About covers meant to entice the readers with their sexy bare-chested men and their racy look. However, no respectable publisher will publish a cover that’s pornographic. And we all have respectable publishers.
Here are the things we do as authors and readers to meet Facebook requirements, so we don’t offend people who might find our content unpalatable:
- We set most posts to friends. They are the people who ‘theoretically’ want to be here and are interested in the content we post
- We set up private and secret groups where people who ‘theoretically’ want to be part of what we offer can participate.
- We run closed private events where ‘theoretically’ only people who wish to participate join in.
- You’ll notice I’m using the word ‘theoretically’ in italics and I’ll explain this in a bit.
It’s all consensual. The fact that the Facebook strategy, as evidenced in Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that he wants people to be responsible for what they see on their timelines, is a massive step in the right direction.
‘Third, even within a given culture, we have different opinions on what we want to see and what is objectionable. I may be okay with more politically charged speech but not want to see anything sexually suggestive, while you may be okay with nudity but not want to see offensive speech. Similarly, you may want to share a violent video in a protest without worrying that you’re going to bother friends who don’t want to see it. And just as it’s a bad experience to see objectionable content, it’s also a terrible experience to be told we can’t share something we feel is important. This suggests we need to evolve towards a system of personal control over our experience.’
Socialsamosa published this opinion-
This time around, Facebook has weighed their options, and come up with a decision to not be the judge, jury and executioner, rather letting the audience vote and choose as to what constitutes as objectionable content to them.
Let the people choose is a mantra we could all learn to live by.
However, we cannot condone the fact that there are people within the groups, and whom are ‘theoretical friends’ who join or befriend people (catfishing) purely for causing trouble and trolling to make waves. It’s unfortunately a part of the social network lifestyle.
As authors, we have rigid standards we apply to a friend request. What we write about, i.e. LGBTQ stories, is targeted much like the LGBTQ individuals in the real world are. We do not wish to have people whom take exception to what we do and cause trouble simply because they can, because of their beliefs and their doctrines.
To this end, Facebook has both their anti-bullying and hate crime community standards. We believe our genre on Facebook could benefit from both policies being enforced. They aren’t. Instead, we have one person with a grudge or out of spite, reporting what we deem to be an innocent picture, where we believe we have met the Facebook Community guidelines based not only on what we have posted, but what other people in the heterosexual world are posting, yet we suffer and they appear to be allowed to get away with it.
Even posting in secret or private groups isn’t sacred. Either someone reports a picture based on the fact they are simply trolling to make trouble, or Facebook bots find a picture and take it down. We were under the impression private and secret groups were ‘safe spaces’. This is not said with any element of naivety. We understand that pornographic pictures can’t be posted in groups as well, that pictures still need to meet community standards. We completely agree with this. Again, our concern is this appears to be one set of rules for one and another for the LGBTQ community. This group posts naked women with bare butts, nipples, and women together in sensual and erotic poses, yet when we do the same with men, we are targeted and banned.
Until the rules are the same for everyone you’ll forgive us that we cannot take the Facebook Community Standards seriously, and until we are all judged on the same content, ditto.
All someone must do is report a post and the poster is immediately suspended, banned or their account is taken down. There is no presumption of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ no allowance for an argument as we all get the same canned stock response and are frustratingly not given any sensible answer as to why we are suddenly locked out.
As authors, we rely on our personal Facebook pages to interact with our readers. We have our pages to promote and sell our books, and our personal accounts to keep readers interacting with more personal posts and socialise with them. However, for goodness sake, Facebook cannot be that naïve to think every person on this application really has 1000 best friends or family. People use Facebook to network, to grow socially. Whether Facebook likes it or not, people using their application are not just keeping in touch with family and friends. However, they are happy to benefit from this revenue wise with sponsored posts, post boosts and advertisements from these very same people being banned.
There is a dearth of issues regarding the Facebook Community Standards, and you can see the posts below where their bots and their individual reviewers have failed to do their job.
Banning a Robin Redbreast card? http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/facebook-bans-robin-redbreast-christmas-card-for-sexual-content_uk_5a099debe4b0e37d2f38ea29
A pair of swans mating? That’s verging on simply inane even by Facebook standards. And then there’s all the other fuss about the grey areas by other people. See links below.
http://culturedigitally.org/2015/03/facebooks-improved-community-standards-still-cant-resolve-the-central-paradox/ by email@example.com
Facebook Community Standards
This is the full extent of the newly created (2015) Community Standards regarding NUDITY. It’s pretty brief –
People sometimes share content containing nudity for reasons such as awareness campaigns or artistic projects. We restrict the display of nudity because some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content – particularly because of their cultural background or age. In order to treat people fairly and respond to reports quickly, it is essential that we have policies in place that our global teams can apply uniformly and easily when reviewing content. As a result, our policies can sometimes be more blunt than we would like and restrict content shared for legitimate purposes. We are always working to get better at evaluating this content and enforcing our standards.
We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures. Restrictions on the display of both nudity and sexual activity also apply to digitally created content unless the content is posted for educational, humorous or satirical purposes. Explicit images of sexual intercourse are prohibited. Descriptions of sexual acts that go into vivid detail may also be removed.’
I asked Facebook to remove this PUBLIC set photo and was told it did not violate their community standards. I understand this is apparently two people with their ears together but to anyone else looking, it is at first glance depicting a woman’s genitals, no matter what the actual content is. A thirteen year old would not look deeper than what this is supposed to represent.
This cover was banned and caused a lot of trouble for the author. Our question is WHY. Since when did men’s bare chests become persona non-gratia? We’ve all seen a lot worse. Once can only imagine it was some sort of personal vendetta against the author herself or cover model who is a well-known adult entertainment actor. An explanation would have been welcome.
And this one in a private group left me with a three day ban for contravening the standards on sexual acts. No doubt because of the boner – or was it? Perhaps it was simply the idea of two men together.
An author was banned for these ones
Whereas this one can remain
This one in a secret group earned me a week ban
And this one remains.
This one of the man earned a ban while the female one is still up
The below picture is still there, while slightly covered it leaves nothing really to the imagination and all a female picture needs is a little bit of covering.
Whereas these ones of men earned a 7 day banning in a private group
It’s not difficult to see there’s a trend against home erotic or male part nudity yet the lady pictures are allowed to remain. For every male picture we’ve had banned, I can find a similar, often worse one of a female. I’m not sure whether it’s the reviewer’s personal sensibilities that are being offended (which should not be the case, they need to be open minded and unbiased in this role) or the policies of Facebook not being sensible. Perhaps it’s a mixture of both.
We see plenty of nipples too in groups, see through like this one. Let’s be honest – just because they are covered in see through material doesn’t mean we don’t see the nipples, something Facebook has banned clearly in it’s policies.
Double standards abound. We reserve the right to defend the picture we post against our accusers, who may be simple haters of the genre we write in. It is BULLYING pure and simple and Facebook have a community standard for that too. Although as authors, I am not sure we are deemed to be private individuals in our right as opposed to being public? Does this make it right that people can target us as individuals but not assist us because we write books as a profession? This is a grey line indeed. We’d welcome discussion on this topic.
Bullying and Harassment: How we respond to bullying and harassment.
We don’t tolerate bullying or harassment. We allow you to speak freely on matters and people of public interest, but remove content that appears to purposefully target private individuals with the intention of degrading or shaming them. This content includes, but is not limited to:
- Pages that identify and shame private individuals,
- images altered to degrade private individuals,
- photos or videos of physical bullying posted to shame the victim,
- sharing personal information to blackmail or harass people and
- repeatedly targeting other people with unwanted friend requests or messages.
We define private individuals as people who have neither gained news attention nor the interest of the public, by way of their actions or public profession.
What we would like Facebook to do is acknowledge our voice as a genre, one that is part of a $1.08 billion (2013) industry, and find a compromise between common sense and fulfilling these community guidelines. We’d like to have people making decisions about our posts that are rational, sympathetic and LGBTQ friendly.
We’re happy to accept decisions made rationally and honestly, it’s all we asking for.