Calm. Peace and serenity. Little sub-q shots of joy like I get from cute puppy photos and videos. These are things I hold dear now, though it took some effort (and still does) to maintain my focus on them instead of the myriad other things going on both in my head and around the world that threaten them. I don’t rant much anymore, however I was quite good at it for awhile, but as a someone trying to be a decent global citizen, a good human, there are times when angry rants are almost de rigueur, so you’d be forgiven if you switch back to Twitter now.
TRIGGER WARNING: There is a single graphic description of the abuse of a child later that some may find disturbing, but I felt was necessary to emphasise the severity of the problem I’m trying to point out. I will put another warning just prior to it.
Facebook has a particular set of what it calls community standards that it has developed over the years as a way of harmonising the varied cultural ways and mores of its users, or so they will tell you if asked. It’s a work-in-progress they might say as well, evidenced most recently by their attempts to fight the onslaught of “fake news” and horribly partisan propaganda from both sides that we’ve all been drowning in lately. I cannot even fathom the number of reports, both erroneous and well-intentioned, they get in a day, but I bet it’s more than I can count on my fingers and toes. How they handle these, whether each is looked at by an actual person or if some magical algorithm processes them, flagging some for further review and automatically dismissing others, I have no idea. I’m beginning to think, however, that whatever elves in a tree they do use need a good talking to.
Before I get into some details, let me touch on the concept of free speech, or freedom of expression. This is an idea thrown around mostly by folks who feel their speech or expressions have been unjustly criticised and censored, that their rights have been trampled on because the thoughts and opinions they shared are different than someone else’s. Many countries, Canada included, have legislation in place to protect this, but what many good ol’ boys do not seem to get, or they simply ignore, is that it is never an absolute. It does not take precedence over everything else, and when it comes into conflict with another person’s rights and freedoms, free speech loses. On the hierarchy chart of rights and freedoms, it actually sits pretty low. Privately owned spaces, though they may be open to the public, are places where it does not exist at all. This can be my living room, a corner coffee shop, or Facebook. Keep in mind when you shout free speech where you’re doing it, because chances are whatever right to it you do have is granted at the whim of whoever owns that space, and no law exists to protect it.
Hate speech is pretty much unprotected in most civilised jurisdictions, mostly because more often than not it conflicts with a person’s right to feel safe and protected and free of egregious insult or injury. So, last year I reported a photoshopped image on Facebook of someone taking a shit on Mecca. Facebook told me that was okay, it did not violate the community standards. Another time I stumbled on a comment espousing the eradication by violence of all Muslims from the face of the Earth (have seen many of those, actually), but that was okay too, apparently.
There is wiggle room in the debate over what constitutes hate speech, I’ll admit, so I stifled my moral outrage and moved on. One thing that I believe everyone as normal humans, those without some grievous brain fart, can agree on, however, is that there’s no debating the abhorrence of child pornography.
NOTE: The following paragraph contains that graphic description I warned about.
Yesterday, and I have no idea how it popped up in the list of people Facebook thought I might know, I stumbled on a profile of a person whose avatar was a drawing that depicted a male child with an erect penis vaginally penetrating an adult woman.
I actually shook my head and blinked, honestly, as if to clear my vision, but nope, still there. There were three more of the same in the sidebar when I opened up the profile. Of course I immediately reported each one and did so with complete confidence that something so glaringly wrong would set off alarm bells and flashing red lights at whatever com centre they used to house the nice folks who got these.
But then I got schooled, once again, in the arbitrary and bizarre methodology Facebook uses to enforce what it laughingly refers to as its community standards. I tried reporting them a few more times before finally going to bed, but as of this morning they’re still there and still, so they tell me, not in violation, and no, I will not link to them or the profile so don’t ask.
Today was going to be a day off. I was planning on making a big plate of pancakes with butter and syrup, taking it easy, maybe catching that new Amazon show about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, but here I am being all quixotic. I’ve completely lost my appetite, too.
I’d like to tell you that in a fit of righteous indignation and rage I will quit Facebook and leave it’s garbage behind, but as a mildly agoraphobic man with barely enough money to put gas in the car to get to appointments let alone waste on visiting with friends, it’s one of my primary sources of social interaction. That’s not an appeal for pity, it is just what it is. So I will sit and fume for a bit, tilt at the windmill and maybe feel some relief for that, then go back and check my feed for cute puppy pictures.
Having said that, though, I am still considering reporting them to some form of law enforcement as complicit in sharing this stuff. Maybe that will get their attention.
Fuck you, Facebook, you narcissistic bastard.