More ridiculous Facebook banning

Yesterday I wrote about how Melissa Chen, a moderate of the Global Secular Humanist Movement (GSHM) Facebook page, was temporarily banned from Facebook—put in “Facebook Jail”, as she called it—for calling Pakistani men “dumb” who tried to silence criticism of the honor killing of Pakistani model/singer/activist Qandeel Baloch. This demonstrates Facebook’s well known double standard when it comes to its risible “community standards”—standards that allow some groups to excoriate, demonize, or even call for the killing of others, while banning those who do the same thing but are deemed politically acceptable.

A good example of this, which I’m not sure I’ve mentioned before, is an experiment conducted by the Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin), in which they posted two Facebook pages with identical posts, except one was violently anti-Israel and the other violently anti-Palestinian. One was called “Stop Palestinians,” the other “Stop Israelis.” Other than the titles and the substitution of one group for another, the posts on the two sites were pretty much the same.  You can guess what happened; As breaking Israel News reports:

Shurat HaDin began posting near-identical posts to each page simultaneously, making sure to use very similar language on both. As it heightened the level of incitement on the pages, the posts became more aggressive.

On the anti-Israel page, the organization wrote, “Revenge against the zionist enemy that threatens Al Aqsa! Death to all the jews!” The anti-Palestine post read, “Revenge against the arab enemy. Death to all the arabs.” Each post was accompanied by provoking images.

Shurat HaDin then simultaneously reported both pages to Facebook. The page inciting against Palestinians was shut down by Facebook later that day. In a message, Facebook wrote that it had reviewed the page and found that it contained a “credible threat of violence” and violated the site’s community standards.

The page inciting against Jews, however, was not closed, even though both pages were nearly identical, with the same amount and type of inciting posts using the same language. Facebook sent a different message in response to the report which stated that the page was not in violation of its rules.

“From two identical inciting pages, only the one inciting against Palestinians was closed by Facebook,” the video concludes.

“The page inciting against Jews is still open today.”

Here’s a video showing some of the posts:

Apparently Facebook is doing little to stop this, even though I myself have mentioned it to one of the executives at the organization. Well, they can do what they want, since it’s their site, but a little evenhandedness would be nice.

The latest episode of Facebook hypocrisy is its banning of Iraqi ex-Muslim activist Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, founder of the GSHM (I’m one of the mods). Faisal was put in Facebook Jail for the following post:.

IMG_7813

This seems to me purely acceptable political discourse. If it violates Facebook community standards, go look at them and tell me which ones it violates. (They never tell you, of course.) Faisal is simply calling out the Muslim Brotherhood for its duplicity, and, since he reads Arabic, he’d know. How else would we know this? And we won’t—not as long as Facebook continues to ban this kind of discussion.

It’s time for them to take a hard look at their policy and stop letting far-flung functionaries make knee-jerk reactions about who should go to Facebook Jail.

h/t: Orli

36 Comments

  1. Posted July 20, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    The fundamental reason we have the First Amendment and similar restrictions on actions permitted to governments is because the governments wield so much power over the people — and because that power is so easily and often abused. That you (typically) can’t up and leave the government and “vote with your feet” leaves the people with these sorts of limits as the only practical way to protect themselves.

    As private companies grow, they accrue more and more power unto themselves, frequently to the point that they are more powerful than many governments of the past. And they become every bit as abusive and impractical to escape.

    Prudence therefore dictates that we are fools to grant private companies the illusion of personal freedom as a means to oppress the people. Put simply, when companies get big enough, we need to hold them to the same standards as we hold our representative governments.

    The onus should not be upon the people to accommodate the whims of the megacorporations; rather, the corporate owners are welcome to divest themselves of their power if they wish to enjoy the privileges of the common people.

    Or: you can be powerful, or you can be free — but not both.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Very good comments. It seems we have several rights stated in the Constitution that quickly become violated almost before the ink is dry. That first amendment is kind of an all time favorite for many reasons, the free speech being one, religion as well and even that bit about petitioning the govt. for redress of grievances.

      We have the FFRF to work on the religion part that get run over by the religious daily but when other people and companies run over the free speech part there is no one looking out for this. You are forced to take legal action at your own cost. Who is going to step up and take on the likes of Facebook? That last bit about grievances is actually the one that seems to allow for the giant business of lobby and K street. It is their excuse legally to exist. So parts of the first amendment have gone almost as badly as the second.

    • somer
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

      In the very early 20th Century the US supreme court recognised corporations as legal persons – If Zuckerberg gets most of his business or 50% of it outside the west he still pretends to care about rights issues – and this total lack of impartiality is a free speech issue.

      • Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        The Supreme Court didn’t really recognize corporations as people, or else corporations would be subject to the same criminal laws as real people. When was the last time that a corporation was imprisoned, or that Texas lethally injected one? For that matter, when was the last time a corporation cast a ballot for political office?

        And, whatever the Supremes might have ruled, I certainly don’t recognize corporations as people. It’s inconceivable to me how I might have a cup of coffee with a corporation, how I’d go hiking with a corporation, how I’d marry a corporation…how I’d do any of the things I’d reasonably think of doing with a person.

        The fiction that corporations are people is exactly that: a fiction. Nobody even pretends to think that it’s even remotely true; rather, it’s shorthand for the pigs who own them being more equal than the rest.

        Cheers,

        b&

        >

        • Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

          “For that matter, when was the last time a corporation cast a ballot for political office?”

          – Don’t give them any ideas! 🙂

          Of course, the bit about lethal injection is correct in the other direction. I had an online associate years ago who used to say something like “I’m not normally in favour of the death penalty, but I will believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one.”

  2. Kevin
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Is it possible Facebook thinks Jews are stronger and more mature? It is conceivable that Facebook’s business model examines that their Jewish customers will be upset, but they will endure. On the other hand, Facebook might consider the Palestinians a bunch of children who would cry mercilessly (and violently) if censored and they fear retaliation which they believe will not come from the Jews.

    Either way Facebook’s actions with regard to this disparity are juvenile.

    • Posted July 20, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      “Is it possible Facebook thinks Jews are stronger and more mature?”

      No, I suspect the fact is that they are. Jews aren’t complaining as much, and if they aren’t complaining FB has no reason to believe a post is offending people, and is violation of their standards. I’m convinced they don’t even review a post until someone complains. Perhaps they have filters that trigger based on certain words, but that’s about it.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        I’m convinced they don’t even review a post until someone complains.

        Why would they? All posts go through the filters for advertising-relevant words (obviously – they’re not in this business for the good of their users, but for the good of their investors), and all users have read and agreed to the terms of service (or at least signed them, which in the eyes of the law is the same thing). So until someone does make a complaint about a specific post or a specific poster then there is absolutely no reason to ever look at the post again. In fact, there is a reason to not look at any post a second time – to do so costs money.

        • Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

          Also, the sheer numbers make it hard. Even Google on Youtube has to use very sophisticated software to attempt to automate some of their scanning, and lots of stuff gets through that arguably violates the TOS.

  3. Taz
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Facebook is anti-Semitic – Facebook is pro-terrorist. Pass it on. The only thing that will get them to fix their broken processes is bad publicity.

    • Billy Bl.
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      I banned Facebook years ago.

      • jay
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        This is the big difference. If you don’t want to deal with Facebook, you can ignore them.

        Not so easy to get out from under the government’s thumb.

        • Posted July 20, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

          If you don’t want to deal with Facebook, you can ignore them.

          No, you can’t.

          For a great many people, Facebook is the only means of communicating with family and friends. Telling them to “ignore” Facebook is tantamount to telling them to abandon their entire familial and social networks. If you’d find it absurd if I suggested that there’s no problem paying taxes because you can “ignore” them and your “only” consequence is going to jail, you should find your own dismissal equally absurd.

          And even for those of us who’ve never signed up…we can’t ignore them, either. Because we’re mentioned by our own friends and family, and our faces have been tagged in photos, and so on and so forth. Even if you have no Internet presence of your own, you’ve effectively got a Facebook profile nearly as complete as those of people who’re on the thing constantly.

          In short, the trap you’ve fallen for is thinking that the distinction that matters is government v private. That’s irrelevant, and the seeming correlation is only apparent due to historical accident.

          The true distinction is between those with and without power. If you have power, your freedom to exercise that power needs to be regulated. It doesn’t matter if you got that power through a popular vote, business acumen, genetic inheritance, or the barrel of a gun; it’s your power which morally obligates you to abdicate your freedom — and which motivates those under your thumb to restrict your power if you won’t do it yourself.

          In the case of Facebook, the solution isn’t to tell people to boycott it. The solution is for We the People to tell Facebook that they shall behave in a civilized manner or else we’ll forcibly seize (through government-sanctioned means) their assets and do it ourselves. Simple legislation is adequate; a regulation that imposes upon Facebook-like sites the same free speech protection requirements as the government already itself is subject to would do the trick.

          Cheers,

          b&

          >

          • Billy Bl.
            Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

            Good luck with that.

            • Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

              Oh, I’m under no illusions that we’ll any time soon see people treat corporations with the same fundamental suspicion as we treat governments.

              But it’s painfully clear that that’ll never happen unless people start calling for it to happen.

              If you like having powerful corporations trample your rights as few governments modern governments have the nerve to attempt, then, by all means: “throw shade” on the idea and discourage people from objecting to the current corporatist tyrannies. But if you’d rather live in a world where those in power are held to the same standards regardless of the source and extent of their power…then you could start calling for that, yourself.

              Remember, governments — of whatever form — are instituted amongst people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. What consent are you willing to give to corporate executives and shareholders for their governance over you?

              Cheers,

              b&

              >

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted July 20, 2016 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

            For a great many people, Facebook is the only means of communicating with family and friends.

            That is the choice of their family and friends. I don’t use Facebook any more and continue in contact with my family and friends by email, telephone (I was experimenting with a Skype alternative called Jitsi earlier this evening) and letter. If there are members of my family who don’t use anything other than Facebook, that’s their look out, but they know my details, or have other friends and family members who know the other ways of contacting me.
            If you can access Facebook, then you have tools able to access the rest of the Internet too.

            Because we’re mentioned by our own friends and family, and our faces have been tagged in photos,

            Not true. If you have a Facebook account, then you can set a flag on who can tag your account in a picture, and one of the options is “nobody can tag you”. And if you don’t have an account, you can’t control this.

            Simple legislation is adequate; a regulation that imposes upon Facebook-like sites the same free speech protection requirements as the government already itself is subject to would do the trick.

            And the actual barriers to Facebook setting up in a different country are? Probably irrelevant, because Facebook has to comply with local laws in every country it operates in (there was a kerfuffle a year or so ago about something to do with German Nazi-supression laws, IIRC. So anything that is enacted against Facebook.US would stop at it’s borders if it were convenient or profitable for Facebook to operate differently in different markets.
            I don’t know what the current number of Facebook accounts is, but I recall them claiming to have gone past the billion mark a while ago. Therefore at most the US-citizen subset of Facebook users is not greater than 30% of the userbase. (The US is about 300 million people isn’t it?) And as a minority of the userbase, Americans are not going to succeed in imposing their opinions on a global corporation that uses them to generate revenue.

            • Posted July 20, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

              That is the choice of their family and friends.

              True…but you can’t choose your family and friends. And you’re not likely going to have much luck convincing said family and friends to boycott a company that they don’t even realize is distinct from “The Internet” in the first place. Then there’s all the family social dynamics to throw into the mix…..

              And as a minority of the userbase, Americans are not going to succeed in imposing their opinions on a global corporation that uses them to generate revenue.

              If multinationals are going to ignore political boundaries, then it’s time for the people to ignore them, too. But local politicians are quick to pick up on that sort of thing and keen to protect their own turf — and constituents. (The problem in the States is that the constituents all live on K Street.)

              So Facebook might have more Chinese users than American ones…but, if they want to keep their American users, they’d be wise to prevent the Chinese government from controlling the posts of Americans. And they would, of course, be equally wise to prevent the American government from dictating the discourse permitted amongst Chinese citizens.

              Put in such terms and with those actors, the current situation of privileging Muslim propaganda over Jewish propaganda becomes much more stark — and clearly unsustainable.

              It might seem that the end result is a balkanization of the Internet…but even that won’t be sustainable, either. Rather, decentralization is the only long-term sustainable model.

              Or, as I like to phrase it…those who forget USENET are doomed to reinvent it…poorly.

              Cheers,

              b& >

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted July 20, 2016 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

                So Facebook might have more Chinese users than American ones…but, if they want to keep their American users, they’d be wise to prevent the Chinese government from controlling the posts of Americans.

                How does that work in reverse? “So Facebook might have more American users than Chinese ones…but, if they want to keep their Chinese users, they’d be wise to prevent the American government from controlling the posts of Chinese.” Yep, I’m sure that’s going to fit.

              • Posted July 20, 2016 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

                Oh, I agree that Facebook is charting a course between Scylla and Charybdis. And I’m not so sure that there’s a clear path for them — let alone that a clear path is something that we the people should desire.

                The Internet was originally designed as fully decentralized, and such decentralization provides the perfect answer to these sorts of dilemmas. Provide a standardized interface to everything, and let the endpoints and gateways decide what they do and don’t want to generate, accept, and transmit. Add a layer of encryption on top and filtering (such as Facebook’s censorship) can only be done at the peer level, not at the message level. And add some onion routing and even that sort of censorship becomes impossible; instead, only individuals can decide what they want to send and receive.

                How does Facebook and their ilk make money off of these services? Not by advertising, not by spying on users; indeed, such “value-added” services might not be commercially profitable at all. Not my problem, any more than the demise of the buggy whip industry is my problem.

                A bigger political hurdle may well be the NSA — but, again, to me, that’s a feature.

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

  4. Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    They should hire atheists to decide which ones violate any standards, we equally dismiss all religions and don’t favor one over the other.

    I honestly think it comes down to personal bias on the part of the keyboard jockeys who get to decide who is in violation and who isn’t.

    • jay
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      In theory yes.

      Though some atheists I know might be too quick to shut down people critical of abortion, people objecting to sell ‘gay’ wedding cakes, and other things that get (often incorrectly) passed off as ‘hate’

      People across the spectrum seem to have forgotten that ‘tolerance’ comes from tolerate… and that needs to work all ways.

  5. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    A few months ago various groups from media such as Fox complained to Facebook because their posts and priorities appeared to be treated differently in Facebook logarithms than more liberal outlets. There was a big meeting at Facebook headquarters at which Facebook committed to looking into the issue. They assured the group there was no deliberate bias and if it was happening it was the work of a rogue employee, or a small group of the same.

    Statistically, support for Israel is particularly strong on the right and I wonder if the clear bias shown here is partly an extension of another problem within Facebook.

    Either way, it’s disgusting.

    Of course, whatever negative treatment you dish out to right-wing media and their supporters in the US, or to Israelis, they’re unlikely to retaliate by bombing your premises or targeting your employees. Unfortunately, the world has learned the hard way that such threats from Islamist extremists are not idle.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      I would rather suspect it is the regressive left group think. Don’t know the specifics of the Facebook execs but I’m sure they are trendy.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        I would imagine you’re right. There are now too many fellow liberals with the belief that the end justifies the means. Another problem caused by too much religion i.e. in group good/out group bad mentality.

  6. Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Here an alternative reading of the same story:
    https://www.rt.com/news/350961-israel-facebook-arab-jewish-terrorism/

    • mikeyc
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      That doesn’t appear to be the same story.

    • Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      This sounds odd, and my observation is that reports from this source should be taken with a grain of salt.

      • GodlessMarkets
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        Yes. I went to rt.com to read this alternative “take” as well. Here is a quote copied and pasted from Wikipedia on RT news:

        “RT has been called a propaganda outlet for the Russian government[10][11][12] and its foreign policy[10][12][13][14] by news reporters,[15] including former RT reporters.[16][17][18] RT has also been accused of spreading disinformation.[19][20][21][22] The United Kingdom media regulator, Ofcom, has repeatedly found RT to have breached rules on impartiality, and of broadcasting “materially misleading” content.[23][24][25] RT states that it offers a Russian perspective on global events.[3]”

  7. Zado
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    The Muslim Brotherhood have the word “Muslim” in their name and are therefore an Oppressed Group, deserving of all the protection well-to-do Silicon Valley bourgeoisie can muster for them.

  8. Posted July 20, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    “A good example of this, which I’m not sure I’ve mentioned before, is an experiment conducted by the Israel Law Center (Shurat HaDin), in which they posted two Facebook pages with identical posts, except one was violently anti-Israel and the other violently anti-Palestinian. One was called “Stop Palestinians,” the other “Stop Israelis.” Other than the titles and the substitution of one group for another, the posts on the two sites were pretty much the same. You can guess what happened”

    Yes you have mentioned it before, and while I don’t use FB, and have no interest in defending them my question is did they make sure all posts received equal numbers of complaints? As we know Muslims, and their allies have turned FB/Tw*tter warring into a cottage industry. Much of their “activism” amounts to searching out posts they find offensive, and filing complaints about them. Is the Jewish community as active in it’s battle against antisemitism? I suspect that is where the inequity lies. I say that as a professional web developer with some knowledge about how these policies are enforced. In fact if sites like FB actively seek out violations they run the risk of being held legally accountable for failure to remove illegal content (child porn for example). By not doing so they are only accountable when they fail to act on content that is brought to their attention.

    • Posted July 20, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      I wanted to add this is the same procedure that is used to police DMCA violations. Websites only act when potential violations are brought to their attention.
      Just take a look at how many full length movies you can find on YouTube that have been available for years, while others are removed in hours at the most. It’s not a double standard, it’s simply that no one has complained about the one that’s been there for years.

  9. Posted July 20, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    The most obvious explanation is that Facebook hires an enormous number of H1-B engineers from India and Pakistan, and likely outsources some or all of their customer service to India and Pakistan.

    So despite the founder of the company being Jewish, there’s going to be a strong pro-Muslim bias in their policies.

  10. kelskye
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I remember once seeing a video of two kitties going down a slide. One signalled and the mother did something about it. The other did not and it let it slide.

    Facebook moderation really seems like this – when someone makes a sound about being offended, it turns into a big deal. (admin of a philosophy group – we nearly lost our group because someone reported a post on it) Guess we find out who is thin skinned this way.

  11. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Facebook’s well known double standard when it comes to its risible “community standards”

    A question that comes to mind is, who are Facebook’s “community”?
    Upthread I point out to Ben that the proportion of Americans in Facebook’s cannot be much more than 30% (if their claims of a userbase of a billion were real). OK, I did a bit more checking. From the horse’s mouth,

    Approximately 84.2% of our daily active users are outside the US and Canada

    So, one thing is clear, the reason that the standards of Facebook’s “community” appear to differ from the standards of American Faebook users is … that they’re a fairly small minority.
    Who actually does make up the remaining 82.4% Facebook “community” I leave as an exercise for someone who actually use the platform.

  12. Cindy
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I know that the Saudis own Twitter stock….but Facebook? What possible reason could FB have to appease Muslims?

  13. somer
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Trust Zuckerberg feels particularly hip and groovy about this. I imagine it chimes with a certain section of his clientele in the west and muslims but there will be “blowback”. Computer users will start to distrust Facebook as a blatantly politically biased “social media” site.


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