Facebook’s growth has made it a superpower in the information economy, yet its censorship policies are the doublespeak nonsense of dictators.
Last week satire-themed website SATIRICO noticed that all of its posts across Facebook had been removed, and it was suddenly banned from making new posts anywhere in the social media giant’s digital property. When the website’s owner tried to get some answers as to what was happening, he was given the same stock message about ‘violating community standards’ over and over again. However, as is usually the case when community standards are invoked by Facebook, no specific standards were ever mentioned, nor how they had specifically been violated. Repeated attempts to get to the bottom of this have been met with more of the same standard responses.
The first issue here is the misleading term ‘Community Standards’. This would appear to imply that the standards were created by the community itself. It would also insinuate an open, transparent system operating these standards. Neither of these implied things are even remotely true. These ‘Community Standards’ come from a top-down hierarchical structure which operates entirely in secrecy and without any of the specifics or reasoning ever provided to the communities in which these standards are enforced at the whim of Facebook gatekeepers and algorithms. The Orwellian phrase ‘Community Standards’ is a lie so big and bald-faced that it defies any ethical justification. This is information fascism cloaked in kid-glove language.
The growth of Facebook has created a monopoly. Since most people rely on Facebook (or Twitter, which is equally problematic) to receive content from around the internet, regardless of intention, through sheer usage and habit it has become a defacto monopoly on information. So when it decides what information can and cannot be shared on its platform, it becomes a dictatorship. A fascist stranglehold on the economy of information.
Of course there are some specific types of content in which prohibition makes good sense, ie: racism, hate, bigotry, calls to violence, etc. Those types of information sharing are explicitly dangerous. Yet the banishment of satirical content cannot hardly be held up by the same reasoning, and yet there is every reason to believe Facebook will lean more heavily into such actions in the near future.
At the very best any such restriction against satire would protect only the very dumb from taking satire literally. But dumb people get mixed up, and there isn’t much you can do to stop that. To drag the entire information economy down to their level is a recipe for rapid intellectual devolution. As I recently wrote in another article, censoring satire is a threat to literature, dissent and humanity.
Facebook have used their monopoly to create a culture of nannyism. They have come to see themselves as the ultimate arbiters of truth, and with this attitude they treat their users like idiots who cannot and should not be allowed to interpret information on their own terms.
Just as problematic is that Facebook doesn’t actually create the content which fuels its success. It relies on users and content creators outside of Facebook to do so. It can make or break a website, with it its fickle finger of thought policing. To be banned from Facebook is to essentially be cut from the internet, and it can be done on a whim with no satisfactory explanation even attempted.
And so Facebook gets to decide what information we consume, which influences how we think, which makes us vulnerable to agendas outside of our own. It is an insipid form of propaganda by curation.
How much of this is intentional, I cannot say. If I had to guess, I would wager to say that much of it is a projection issue. The people running Facebook are so cocooned in their little world of Importance and Heroism that they believe everyone to be as gullible, prone to groupthink and incapable of free thought as themselves. The alternative is they simply believe themselves to be so ultimately superior that they have some exceptionalist duty to create an information dictatorship to keep us in whatever bounds they have determined to be favorable. Either way, it is a dangerous precedence that will have disastrous consequences if the monopoly is allowed to continue to grow and strengthen unchecked.
There are no easy solutions, as it goes when normalized parts of everyday life become monopolized by a few special interests. Perhaps the best thing we can do is to use Facebook to be critical of Facebook as often as possible. Cute puppy memes are a comfort against the tide of existential angst we all face in everyday life, to be sure, but unless we continuously call them out on their home turf we cannot hope to ever reduce the harm Facebook presents to humanity and the information economy. So share this article on Facebook, and any other article you come across calling them out for the digital tyranny they conduct behind a friendly-sounding facade.
There is nothing community nor standard about Facebook’s Community Standards. It is information economy fascism, regardless of how or why it got to be this way. As a finishing note of irony, a term which is itself misleading is used to justify why we must be censored to avoid being misled. Can you even?