Facebook’s indescribably incompetent record of censorship has once again reached new lows with two recent instances of idiocy, where two images were removed from their site; ostensibly for breaching their rules on indecency in content. The first succeeded in going from the silly to the utterly surreal when they ruled that a drawing of a hand by Holbein breached its community standards; banning a work whose offensiveness is very hard indeed to discern.
The second, and in my view, far more serious, was the banning of arguably the most iconic photo from the Vietnam War. The photo was used by Tom Egeland, a writer who had included the Nick Ut picture as one of seven photographs he said had “changed the history of warfare.”. It depicts children, including the naked Kim Phuc, fleeing from a US napalm attack.
A Norwegian newspaper covered the story and criticised Facebook for its indiscriminate intrusiveness. It also quite rightly, reproduced the image which they shared on the newspapers’ Facebook page. Facebook subsequently demanded that they “either remove or pixelize” the image; later removing it in it’s entirety without further consultation.
In response, the paper printed a front page editorial not only protesting at the decision but also stating several relevant and important tensions and contradictions inherent to Facebook as a social media platform, especially concerning Zuckerberg’s claim that Facebook is not a media company, but a tech company who is purely neutral in it’s functionality. This is an utter lie. Facebook, by its very nature, is a media company, with the clue being in the name. It’s social “media”, not a social “tool.”
I despise this form of remote, abject censorship. To erase posts containing such images is to limit freedom of expression, democracy, the right to criticize and question, and the ability to view past events as they actually were, not as sanitized by one giant corporation, and some of its liberalized, PC-obsessed flock of sheep (both staff and followers).
It’s arguable (unfortunately, I think) that news and social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Flipboard have overtaken traditional news outlets as our primary sources of information, of news, of connection to the world around us. They are some of the most frequently visited sites, especially with the young, and they have a great responsibility to ensure that their policies make positive contributions to society; not being engaged in the alteration of history, and the truth.
Ergo, by deleting such iconic pictures that have played a crucial role in transforming world views on the suffering and cruelty of war, Facebook is adversely and intrusively contributing to changing history. I want both present and future generation to live in a society where history is told as it was, and indeed, is, without people creating rules that don’t distinguish between child pornography, great art and famous war photographs; enforcing such rules without good and competent judgement.
Equally disturbing, the posts would have been reported by a user to Facebook’s community standards team. It would be more easily explained if computer error were to blame, yet according to Facebook both of these events were no algorithmic accidents. An actual conscious human brain honestly thought a Renaissance drawing of a hand, and the image of a child, the skin hanging from her napalm-immolated body, was obscene. And, then to report this to another who would then have made the same decision and to remove them is truly appalling.
I’ve published this article on my blog site “Speak!”, www.ihaveviews.wordpress.com using Kim Phuc’s image, in outright protest at Facebook’s arbitrary and suppressive continuing actions of censorship. I have also sent the appropriate link for this article directly to Mark Zuckerberg.
So yeah, Zuckerberg, read this article, grab hold of your policies and community standards and shove them. With my compliments.
Your response? I fucking dare you.