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I’m Telling Mom! Facebook vs. Free Speech

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Facebook logo*Please note that this article is an opinion-editorial.

On a Facebook Wall: “How do you think he would like it if I sat him between X and Y at our event? Ha!” 3 months later: “Hey guys, I can only private message and not post on my Wall because I’ve been banned from Facebook for the next 12 hours.” It appears that if enough people disagree with your comments or opinion, all they need is enough people they can convince to report you, and the power trip can begin.

Freedom of speech has a cost these days, and that freedom can be taken away with mob mentality and actions. Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote in her biography of Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” (which is often misattributed to Voltaire himself). This principle has the best of intentions, but I believe the intention was to defend opinion and fact, not slanderous comments directed towards others to propagate their own agenda. Look at politics or hate groups looking to bolster their ranks but putting out inflammatory comments just to see if they can recruit 1 out of hundreds that hear the hate they spew. Unfortunately, I’m about to feed their propaganda, but they view this under the idea that “no news is bad news.” The Westboro Baptist Church is a prime example, going to the funerals of dedicated soldiers who have given their lives in service of their country. They do this to spread their hate and word that, “God Hates Fags.” What God may have against a bundle of sticks I have no idea, but the point is those affected have a voice to respond with, a way to get their pain and anguish out. What if Westboro had a chance to take that voice away just by having enough in their ranks complain about it? That’s what can happen on Facebook.

Most people use Facebook for simple reasons. Keeping in touch with friends and family, playing online games, posting pictures of what they had for lunch, finding the latest exploits of a grumpy cat. The usual. Other people use it to create pages that display their artwork or products and businesses. Many others create groups to gather like-minded individuals together, so they can talk about similar subjects, post news about events coming up, and to have a place of refuge to go when people in their immediate circles may have no interest in discussing. Comics, D&D, horror, music, video games, sci-fi, fantasy, a combination of those, and many more not mentioned. Niche groups that crave a place online to have civil discourse, even when opinions differ. Civil has gone the way of the dodo in certain circles. Rather than go back and forth tet a tet, group posts become flame wars and the trolling begins. As much of a juvenile discourse as this becomes, it’s still open to be commented on and responded to. That is until Facebook takes action. Or has a program do that for them.

Facebook users have the ability to report people for spam. This is a way for the program to note that a person has posted something offensive or derogatory, even if it isn’t. A simple disagreement can result in dire consequences, at least in the realm of Facebook. Get enough people to report the comment, and it will be taken down. Get more people to complain, and the user is banned for 12 hours. More reports and it becomes 24 hours, 48 hours. More reports on the person, and their account becomes totally and permanently disabled. Disabled means you have no way of contacting people through Facebook at all, a website so many have incorporated into their daily lives for business purposes and organizations. Simply because a gang of keyboard tough guys have swayed enough people to do their bidding and want others to live in fear of knowing the same could happen to them. Let’s kick it up to Big Brother.

Actually, Big Brother may be better compared to Facebook’s protcol bots. Big Brother at least had that human touch. When someone gets reported to Facebook, the program notes the report and sends an automated warning to the reported. Continued reports result in more severe action up to the point of being disabled. The biggest issue with the system is the lack of defense. There is no appeal process, no way to argue the facts or speak with a human being. I could post that Superman’s cape is red and, if enough people report me for whatever reason, I would get banned. It’s a shame that people can be so petty and childish; what’s more of a shame is that there is no way to defend yourself. You could wish harm upon someone to the point of their death, but if it isn’t reported or caught by the site’s programs, then it goes unpunished. Good luck trying to find someone at Facebook to contact and explain your situation, you’d have better luck convincing me that Sup’s cap is brown. In conclusion, I’ll say this: everyone needs to make like a beanstalk and grow up. If you can’t play nice, you don’t get to play at all. Respect each other and act like adults, because you are folks. Hell, you’re reading this. You probably are an adult. What kid is reading this when they could be hanging out on Facebook?




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