I wanted to leave it be just a bit before I went raising the flag over the fort again, but Facebook, without fanfare or notification or explanation or any sort of apology, has republished my original page. This is probably largely in part to all of you who heard my partner Jesse Jackman‘s appeals, signed the petition (which is still live and still accepting signatures!), and appealed on Facebook’s “lost page” page. For this, I can’t begin to thank you all enough–
Of course, no sooner is it up than some kind follower sees fit to report a photo I’d posted to the page three years ago. It’s one of the first pictures I’d ever uploaded to the Dirk Caber page; it was one of the first images I’d ever texted to Jesse. The image violated Facebook’s Community Standards, by showing “genitals or fully-exposed breasts or buttocks.” Or maybe because of the explicitly shown sexual activity? Or might this possibly be child porn…? I dunno. What do you think I did wrong?
Here’s the thing, and we know this has been going on for a while, as we’ve all known people who’ve been reported and blocked for the most innocuous and inane content in a Facebook post: there are folk out there who seem to think that any content of any gay nature is ipso facto obscene and hence should be reported. It would seem that Facebook would be able to police these reports and make the determination as to whether in fact the material offends. And we know that this does in fact happen; occasionally a vaguely accusatory notice will appear on our login screen that says that such-and-such a photo has been reported but hasn’t been reviewed yet, and that we have the chance to remove the offending photo before Facebook has to do it and slap us with whatever penalty they deem appropriate. Sometimes nothing happens, suggesting that Facebook found the material inoffensive. Would be nice if they told us that too… However, when one of those photos was a picture of me and my brother at his wedding (to a woman), fully clothed, and holding drinks, and this photo WAS deemed offensive, was removed, and I was hit with a three-day Facebook posting moratorium for that, we can say pretty securely that something in that system isn’t working.
Similarly, photos have been removed just of same sex couples kissing. This has happened repeatedly to me and Jesse, and evidently isn’t uncommon among the lesbian population either.
Conversely, and this has been done on an experimental basis by a number of us, we have observed perhaps hundreds of examples of instances where we’ve reported heterosexual sexual content to Facebook. These include pictures of tits, pictures of beautiful nudes and women photographed nude for the sake of laughing at them. Pictures showing female genitalia, both just displayed and being penetrated. It’s not just sexual, this extends to hate content and material condoning violence. And evidently, if any of this is presented in a way that can make a Facebook reviewer laugh, it’s fine. And a few days later we’ve received the notice in our activity logs that Facebook found no problem with such content.
I really couldn’t cite any sort of comprehensive statistic as to how often the Facebook reporting policy works or doesn’t work, either at actually identifying offensive material, or at maintaining a fairness between gay and straight content. What I do see is a much larger expression of outrage over removal of gay content that shouldn’t raise Facebook red flags than I do about straight content which shouldn’t but does. Much has been made in the media about the apparent capriciousness and opacity of Facebook’s review process, and there are entire websites and blogs out there dedicated to the confusion over what Facebook deems offensive and yet what it glosses over as harmless.
So here’s my challenge, in two parts. Go to Facebook, and find a photo somewhere of nude titties or overt sexual activity. For extra credit, find the picture of the girl with her dog’s foreleg stuffed up her hoochie which I reported six months ago and Facebook declined to be offended by. Report that image. When you get the result of the report, take a screen capture of that notification (CTRL-Shift-3 on a Mac; for a PC, press ALT-PrtScn, then create a new drawing in your favorite paint program and press CTRL-v to paste it in). Do it when you first see it, as it’s likely you’ll never see that notification again. Secondly, if some photo of yours gets reported, again, take screen captures of the notification, preferably showing the photo they removed and hopefully showing why. Then send it to me via direct message on my Facebook page (look for the “Message” button below my banner). I’m going to try to collect as many of these images as I can into a presentation as part of a move to force Facebook to reexamine its self-policing policies. Hopefully we can make this otherwise rather vibrant internet resource just a bit less unfair.