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Archive for June 6th, 2018|Daily archive page

FACEBOOK, WE’RE GLAD TO LEAVE YE: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 6, 2018 at 12:29 am

Facebook is in big trouble. And much of it stems from its own greed and arrogance toward its customers.

An email recently sent to Winnie Liu, director of Facebook & Instagram Research, offers several telling truths.

The recipient—a friend of mine named Dan—had just been put in “Facebook Jail” for somehow offending its “Community Standards” (i.e., censorship) department.

The actual offense, of course, was not outlined.  It never is.

When he tried to post something on Facebook, Dan got an automatic message: “You may have used Facebook in a way that our systems consider unusual, even if you didn’t mean to. You can post again in 24 hours.”

Notice the phrase: “You may have used Facebook in a way that our systems consider unusual.”

Well, did he or didn’t he commit an offense?  If he didn’t, he shouldn’t have been banned from posting on Facebook. If he did, then he should have the right to know, specifically, what it was he posted that “may have” been considered “unusual”.

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And what it is that “our systems consider unusual”? Did he defame someone? Post an obscene photo? Tell a joke that someone found offensive?

America’s criminal and civil justice systems are founded on specificity. If the police accuse you of robbing a bank, they need to have specific proof that you robbed it. Their merely saying “I think he’s a bank robber” isn’t evidence—and shouldn’t be counted as such.

Finally, if he “didn’t mean to” post something that Facebook’s “systems consider unusual,” then that should be a mitigating factor in itself.

Even in criminal law, room is made to distinguish intentional acts from unintentional ones, even when harm is caused.

So when Dan got an email from Facebook, inviting him to take part in an upcoming research survey, he decided to share his disgust with its blatant disregard for fairness:

  • “Although Facebook users like me have made its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, worth $52 billion, he’s unwilling to make it possible for those users to directly contact Facebook’s censorship department when they find themselves booted off Facebook. Or when they can’t log onto it. Or when they’re being billed for ads they never posted.
  • “Ideally, this should be done by phone. Certainly, with all the billions of advertising dollars Facebook rakes in, a comparatively small portion could be set aside to hire banks of phone operators to deal with situations like this.

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By aflcio2008 (NM: Jewell Hall, AFT and Martin Heinrich) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

  • “But if you’re not willing to do that, you could at least make it possible for frustrated users to contact Facebook via Instant Messaging.
  • “As it is, Facebook’s censorship department operates as prosecutor, jury and judge. Its decisions come out of the blue, and whoever is accused of violating your ‘Community Standards’ is automatically found guilty, with no right to appeal or even explain the situation as s/he saw it.
  • “These are the methods of a Star Chamber in a dictatorship. They are reprehensible to citizens of any free society. And Facebook should consider them equally reprehensible as affronts to free speech.
  • “There have been numerous reports that Facebook’s censorship department has been manipulated by Right-wing Trump supporters to remove posts they don’t like, even of those posts don’t actually violate Facebook’s “community standards.” I feel reasonably certain this is what happened in my case.
  • “Since Zuckerberg recently spent two days in Washington testifying before outraged Democrats, it isn’t in his—or Facebook’s—best interest that he be forced to account for such disgraceful manipulation.
  • “I have seen numerous complaints by Facebook members about being put in ‘Facebook Jail’ for even the most trivial ‘offenses.’ One of these is ‘liking’ too many posts.
  • “Others like myself have simply re-posted images or stories already posted on Facebook—and found themselves kicked off as a result.

“Last December I wrote Mark Zuckerman about these problems—and the dangers they represent for Facebook. Naturally, I didn’t receive even the courtesy of a reply. And it’s clear to me that he has no intention of making such reforms.

“So there’s really no point in your offering test respondents $75 apiece in Amazon gift cards. Since Facebook clearly refuses to address the issue that’s most outraging so many of its users—at least the ones I know—it can expect to see its audience continue to shrink.

“When I first got a computer in 1999, AOL was the ‘big dog on the block.’ No more. When a comedian now references AOL, it’s as a joke, to mock its now antiquated status.

“It’s unfortunate that some people—like those in charge of Facebook—stubbornly refuse to learn from history.”

Dan’s experience, however, is by no means rare. Nor is his high level of disgust with Facebook.

For some unknown reason, Facebook has chosen to publish many of its users’ opinions on their “Facebook experience.”

All that’s needed to access these opinions—which are almost entirely complaints—is to type “Contact Facebook” in the white subject bar in the upper left-hand corner of the page.

Parts Three and Four of this series will focus on those expressed views—and outrage.

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