The other day, I signed up for Facebook. After holding out for decades, I begrudgingly succumbed. It was my only way out of Facebook Jail.
Last Friday, shortly after posting my latest, “The Oligarch Agenda,” my cousin — who has been sharing my rants with her Facebook crowd — informed me that she couldn’t share this one because somebody had reported it as “abusive.”
I suspect Republicans.
It seems I’ve been hard on the poor dears. Seems I’ve offended their delicate sensibilities.
Children in cages are, of course, fine. Sabotaging the Post Office, no problem. Voter suppression, botched pandemic, economy in freefall, negligent homicide of 160,000 Americans. What’s the problem?
But my post, of all things, has somebody all verklempt. Yes, I implied that they might be racists, misogynists, xenophobes, homophobes, and religious cranks, but why would that bother them? Isn’t that a badge of honor? Aren’t they proud of that stuff?
Try to share ‘viralranting.com’ on Facebook and you’ll be told that you can’t. The link “goes against our Community Standards.”
A careful reading of those copious and long-winded standards reveals much that Facebook is supposedly protecting us from. My post, however, did not run afoul of any of them, and is in fact quite compliant.
Yet not only is this particular post now blocked, but indeed the entire blog — all 42 posts — cannot be shared on Facebook. I’m tempted to consider it an honor, but both the marketer and the citizen in me is outraged.
If you’ve read the offending post, I invite you to read it again, checking carefully for the telltale signs of abuse.
Did I cyber-stalk a celebrity? Did I post nude pictures of ex-girlfriends? Did I bully, harass, or exploit anyone? Did I write anything that can be construed as offensive to women, people of color, immigrants, Native Americans, or the LGBTQ community? Did I disparage Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, or Zoroastrians?
I did, admittedly, abuse Republicans. Gleefully so. Guilty as charged. But I’m quite certain this is permitted under, like, the First Amendment. Remember freedom of speech? But these days, who knows? Maybe free speech is only open to Republicans. Did I miss an executive order?
So on Saturday, after resisting Facebook for as long as it’s been around, after watching friends and family move significant parts of their lives into its jurisdiction, after being long convinced that there was much about it that made me uncomfortable, I signed up.
Not because I’m feeling more sociable — my wife will confirm I’m as curmudgeonly as ever. Nor is it because I’m looking for a bigger megaphone on a platform that wantonly amplifies some of the worst people life has to offer.
I joined for one reason only: so I could appeal.
Yes, there’s an appeals process, but it’s opaque in an almost Orwellian way. It consists of one email address — firstname.lastname@example.org — that I got through word of mouth. It seems to be an active address, but there’s no acknowledgement that they received my email, let alone my request for reinstatement. There’s also a link to their developer site, that some people have said might work, but the success rate is unknown. I’m told persistence is required.
It turns out there’s an entire sub-culture of people whose accounts have been taken into custody by Facebook’s thought police. There is no apparent due process, and I don’t know how many were ultimately unblocked. Nor do I know how many people have lost their livelihoods because some coward with a grudge decided to put out a digital hit on them.
What’s especially galling is the anonymity of the complaint. I remember thinking I had some constitutional right to confront my accuser. But again, rights are looking less than inalienable lately.
So basically, I’ve been accused by a faceless person, tried and convicted by a faceless algorithm, and punished by a faceless corporation. All so that an empty-headed Republican can be spared the horror of my thoughts.
But maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way. Maybe I’m overlooking the fact that at least one empty-headed Republican has actually read my post. Which might mean there’s at least one opinion this person did not get from Fox News.
These days, we take our victories where we can get them.
P.S. For reasons unrelated to the Facebook problem, I will soon be changing the name of this blog to a new set of words — no more than three — as soon as I decide what they are. As Rachel says, watch this space.