No, Facebook, I will not pay to promote this post when you’re censoring the wrong people.

I’ve been running “Whiskey and the Morning After Blog” on Facebook for over two years now, during which time I have spent a lot of time dealing with complaints and reports for the most ridiculous things. For example, I once received a temporary suspension for an image mocking the KKK, even as reports that I filed against some blatant Neo-Nazi pages were returned to me by the powers that be as “not removed,” since Facebook did not consider their content offensive.

Recently, I filed a report against a page with Trayvon Martin’s name merged with a racial slur, and the page’s profile image was his body photoshopped onto a cross with an iced tea can in one hand and a bag of Skittles in the other. Within minutes Facebook replied:

“Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the photo you reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it doesn’t violate our community standard on hate speech.”

This is just one example out of many pages that Facebook allows to remain while actively censoring others that support breast cancer survivors or even an anti-Monsanto image. While I fully understand that Facebook is a private entity and has no legal duty to observe the First Amendment, the glaring inconsistencies in the enforcement of their own rules lead me to believe that either Mark Zuckerberg has a secret conservative agenda, or his company allows individual moderators to disregard their own guidelines on what is and is not OK for people to post. In addition to that, Facebook outsources a lot of the censorship work to people outside of the United States who have little knowledge of the nuances or satire within cultures outside their own. Have you ever tried calling your cell phone company and ended up connected with someone who you could barely understand, even though it seemed like it they meant well? Same thing. Just like cell phones, many of us rely on Facebook to “connect with friends and the world.” Yet all it takes is for one rogue or untrained moderator with a grudge or a lack of comprehension and people lose their cause pages or profiles.

The errors in moderation are even more egregious considering that Facebook just recently promised to “step up” censorship on the site. When they’re “stepping up censorship” while at the same time they can’t even get a handle on their own moderators and terms of service, it’s bound to lead to disaster. On top of that, Facebook continues to roll out more money-making “features” on the site, like asking people to pay for the content they post to reach more fans of their page. It’s probably not a coincidence that a text-only post from a page is usually seen by far more people than a post which includes a link to somewhere outside of Facebook. They want you to “promote” these types of posts. You know, because your page fans don’t really want to see your posts unless you’re paying Facebook first, I guess.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Facebook allows “like-whoring” through pages that post a picture of a sick child or injured soldier with a statement like “1 like=1 prayer,” in order to manipulate their EdgeRank standings and then sell the page to someone else. On top of being a disgusting exploitation of people’s emotions, this is obviously a violation of Facebook’s terms and conditions — but it happens on a daily basis with apparently little to nothing being done to address the issue. So what gives? Facebook really is a great tool that can be used to stay connected and spread knowledge — in fact, many of you are probably reading this article right now after finding it posted on Facebook. But the blatant inconsistencies in enforcement of terms of use, sometimes leading to outright censorship of the wrong people, have got to end. Somebody tell Mr. Zuckerberg it’s time to stop worrying about what the next new “timeline” is going to look like, and start worrying about fixing the broken system before it’s too late. And stop asking me to “pay to promote” my content — it’s not happening.


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