For example, Facebook’s Community Standards on “Attacks on Public Figures” says this:
We permit open and critical discussion of people who are featured in the news or have a large public audience based on their profession or chosen activities. We remove credible threats to public figures, as well as hate speech directed at them – just as we do for private individuals.”
In my experience, Facebook has more than lived up to this promise. We’ve published and shared on Facebook numerous articles critical of any number of public figures, with not a single issue. Even articles we’ve written that are critical of Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, didn’t result in sanctions. I suspect that is because 1) Facebook’s CEO really does believe in Freedom of Speech; 2) Zuckerberg is a bazillionaire and really doesn’t give a damn what a small-but-growing veteran’s blog like HJ has to say about him; and/or 3) those earlier articles didn’t run up against some social justice warrior’s personal political agenda.
Take a look at the offending image, as shown in this message from Facebook. This is the message G4G received, I got a similar one and so did my friends who had that image as a profile pic. What possible portion of Facebook’s Community Standards did we violate, exactly? Go ahead and look the rules over yourself, I’ll wait.
So if that’s really all there is to it, why were we singled out for this completely innocuous, non-offensive, and non-political image?
I suspect it is because we fell victim to somebody’s sense of social justice. I’ll explain:
Facebook’s “standards” enforcers are notoriously liberal, to the point that Facebook’s censorship practices are the subject of Congressional inquiries. As someone who believes strongly that businesses should be able to do establish and enforce whatever rules they want so long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others, I don’t care what rules Facebook has regarding its content; the hypocrisy is what kills me.
Scroll through Facebook and you can find any many of questionable posts and even whole pages full of content that clearly runs afoul of Facebook’s purported Standards. Yet nothing is done about them Things like “Death to Israel” and “Kill Jews” are OK. A graphic and grotesque picture of a law enforcement officer getting his head sawn off is OK. Or, at least it *was* OK, until the Dallas shootings, then the public outrage was too loud for Facebook to ignore.
But my profile picture was *not* OK. A simple wooden sign with a thin blue line on it is enough to cripple my business, inconvenience dozens of Facebook users, and get G4G, a pro-veteran page with half a million followers, shut down.
For some reason, Facebook thinks that “the thin blue line” was offensive enough to land a number of veterans like me in “Facebook jail,” something that has never happened before. It’s not right. In fact, it’s very, very wrong.
I’m neither Jewish nor Israeli, and I think pages that advocate violence against Jews or Israelis is wrong. I’m not a law enforcement officer, but I think a graphic image of a law enforcement officer getting murdered ISIS-style is clearly inappropriate. And I don’t own the page formerly known as “Girls for Gunslingers,” but I think it was wrong to take it down over an image with which no reasonable person would find the slightest problem.
“There has to be more to the story,” you’re probably saying right now. And I’m sure there is; there just isn’t any more from this end. I posted that “thin blue line” image as my profile, and a few days later I got banned from Facebook for it. It really was that simple. The only people who can answer this question work for Facebook, and even though I submitted a query about my ban (the only option open to me), I haven’t heard a peep.
The real irony here is, that after the banning, after getting a message from Facebook saying they “removed an offensive image,” my profile pic stayed the same after my ban was lifted. Facebook hadn’t “removed” anything. Well, they did “remove” me from Facebook for a period of time, and that’s a pretty big deal.
Or at least it should be.
Facebook claims its mission is “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” It’s literally the first sentence in their Community Standards. But it’s hard to see how they are living up to that lofty idea when they allow arbitrary and capricious censorship of people and ideas by a faceless, anonymous, unaccountable cabal who abuses their authority and ability to attack and silence anything of which they personally disapprove. This problem is widespread, and Facebook can’t say they don’t know it’s happening. They fact that they are doing nothing about it leads me to believe they condone it.
I’d like Facebook to do a couple of things. First, I’d like them to reinstate everyone who was banned over the “thin blue line” image, starting with Girls for Gunslingers page. Then I’d like an explanation of what was it, specifically, about that image that Facebook found so offensive. Does Facebook hate members of the law enforcement community? Does Facebook hate military veterans? No? If not, then why the HELL did they ban a bunch of veterans and their supporters whose only offense was to post a simple picture showing Texas, the American flag, and the Thin Blue Line?
Finally, I’d like Facebook to identify the person or group responsible for our banning, and ban them. They clearly lack objectivity and good judgment, and can’t be trusted with this kind of power. The only way to live up to their mission statement is… to actually start living up to it. Publicly firing people who abuse their power and use Facebook to promote their own political agenda at the price of others’ voices, and businesses, would be a good place to start.
…or, Facebook could just admit that their company’s position is that they hate Texas, they hate America, they hate veterans, and they hate law enforcement. That’s the only other reason I can see to ban a bunch of members of the Veteran Community over an image of Texas, the US flag, and the Thin Blue Line.
I’ll be sitting over here, writing this article about Facebook shenanigans instead of one that would actually make money for my business, waiting for my time in Facebook jail to be up, and wondering what it’s going to take for Facebook to get its head out of its ass and start cleaning up its own shop.
In the meantime, if you are a veteran, if you are in law enforcement, or you support anyone in those categories, I suggest you adopt the “thin blue line” as your profile picture. Let everyone out there know that you won’t be silenced, and that our voices have just as much right to be heard as anyone else’s.
Your move, Facebook.
This article first appeared in The Havok Journal 11 July 2018.