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Friday, August 10, 2012

Just when is acceptable actually acceptable?

Before reading further, be warned - some of the following IS offensive.  VERY OFFENSIVE.

Facebook is a quite remarkable thing. It seems to have become an almost indispensable part of modern life. And being such a huge part of modern life, like any responsible organisation Facebook has its very own Community Standards that users are required to abide by. Breach these and die the death of a thousand isp failures! All such serious stuff.

So just how do Facebook apply this? Well let us look at some samples.

Breastfeeding. Oh gosh. Just writing that word has given me the shivers of dread. According to Facebook, an image of breastfeeding is something that MUST be taken seriously. Any such image must be subjected to careful scrutiny. Afterall, Facebook takes everything so very seriously. Supposedly. Their justification is that as the minimum age for Facebook users is 13 years of age, they have an obligation to ensure minors are not subjected to what Facebook deems to be inappropriate material. And in this response to a query, Facebook clarified things even further. For a breastfeeding picture to be permissable, the baby must be in the act of actually feeding. Anything other than that is quite obviously going to poison the minds of impressionable young minds all over the world. And as Facebook have thus decreed, thus it must apparently be.

Here is a breastfeeding picture. The baby is well and truly busy feeding. This is beautiful. This is natural. This is suited for an audience that may include as young as age 13.

Here is a breastfeeding picture. This is EVIL. This shalt corrupt the minds of young all over the world. Facebook must deny any such access or face world domination by adolescents sent crazy by the sight of a nipple that is not being suckled on by that baby.

So just when do Facebook actually remove those items they determine to be 'inappropriate'. Simple. This requires another user to lodge a complaint against a particular Facebook page. The Facebook staff then examine the page in question, comparing it to the Facebook Community Standards and if any breach of these is found to have occurred, then the content or even the account shall be removed.

Aren't we all just so glad that Facebook is there to determine just when breastfeeding is an offensive evil that must be stamped out from any visualisation.  Even better, Facebook are there to tell us what is considered acceptable to the wider community of users. Well silly me - I had not realised that the sight of a nipple was so terrible unacceptable. May the Good Lord bless Facebook for protecting me in this manner. But where were they when I was a youngster and my mother was breastfeeding my younger brothers? Oh no - all that is bad, wrong and evil that has happened to me ever since - why that must have occurred because I may have seen Mother's nipple at some point during that breastfeeding in the privacy of the family home. Bless you Facebook for enlightening me thusly!

Let us examine another example. A recent addition to the world of Facebook was an account called Abo-Memes. And this user was on a mission. They were going to allow us all to see what was really happening within the world of Indigenous Australians.

Here are some examples of this great benefit to the world, supplied to us by Abo-Memes via Facebook.

Note - do a Google search for images with the tag Abo-Memes and the above may be located along with the statement 'Abo Memes shared Abo Memes's photo.'

So the question becomes - is this 'acceptable'?

I didn't think so. I lodged a complaint with Facebook against this activity. And soon enough, Facebook completed their review of this content and its comparison with the Holy Creed that is the Facebook Community Standards. And here, word for word, is Facebook's response to me.

"After reviewing your report, we were not able to confirm that the
specific page you reported violates Facebook's Statement of Rights and

Learn more about what we do and don't allow by reviewing the Facebook

Community Standards:


So I had a closer look at the Holy Creed. And lo, it has two particular verses of interest - thou shalt not engage in activity that is:
- Harassing or Bullying
- Hate Speech

Oh Blessed Be, Holy Facebook. In my poor ignorance, I was foolish enough to think that the activity engaged in by Abo-Memes was both Harassing Indigenous Australians and engendering Hate Speech. Oh thank you, dear Facebook, for educating me that this is in fact entirely adequate and appropriate for the Facebook universe including those 13 year-old minds that were in such danger of being permanently corrupted by that sight of an engorged nipple!

OK, I am getting sick of writing that nonsense. This activity was very clearly in breach of those aspects of the Facebook Community Standards. And for 'Viki' to defend this activity on behalf of Facebook was nothing short of outrageous.

Then as I was looking into things more closely, something struck me. By a simple reading of the times of various media reports and  press statements, by the time Viki on behalf of Facebook had decided to deny anything inappropriate about that Abo-Memes filth, it seems that Facebook:
  • had already been informed by the Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner that the material in question was potentially in breach of Australian Race Discrimination laws;
  • had publicly stated it was 'in dialogue' with the Commissioner over the matter; and
  • had been advised that the material was under legal investigation.
Despite these serious developments and Facebook's admission it was in discussions to clarify matters, Facebook staff were still claiming nothing was wrong and blithely dismissing complaints by claiming there was no breach of their Community Standards.

At the time of writing this post, Facebook have so far declined to respond to my further complaint which expressly cited the specific points within their Community Standards that I believe were breached by that user.

Earlier this evening, that Abo-Memes Facebook account suddenly disappeared. Earlier in the day the user and some of their supporters were using the the account to openly boast of their activity and claiming they were 'untouchable'. With that attitude, I find it hard to believe that said user had willing removed it themselves. I have just paused in writing to check some news websites seeing if there was any 'breaking news' about this matter. Nope.

Perhaps Facebook have indeed seen sense and removed the item. But some far bigger questions still remain.
  1. Why do Facebook deem an image of an engorged nipple to be such a threat to minors but this Abo-Memes garbage was just fine and dandy with complaints against it seemingly subjected to automatic rejection?
  2. Why did Facebook continue to dismiss legitimate complaints about this filth apparently AFTER they had been warned of the potential legal ramifications, apparently AFTER they had allegedly commenced 'dialogue' with the the Race Discrimination Commissioner on the subject and apparently AFTER legal investigations had commenced?
  3. As the Abo-Memes account appeared very swiftly after another similar, possibly worse, account was removed in the wake of public outcry, why did Facebook continue to allow such filth to be perpetuated apparently AFTER receiving formal warnings?
  4. What is to stop yet more copy-cat accounts springing up and Facebook continuing its implicit defense of those activities?
Hey Mark Zuckerburg - is this really what you meant Facebook to be?

I doubt this matter is over just yet.

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