Banned by Facebook

Seeking answers from Big Tech — and continuing to be stonewalled

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Facebook answered questions about banned pages with this near-useless flow chart.

steve@sfbg.com

Facebook and other popular gathering places on the Internet are fast becoming the equivalent of a public commons, where many of our essential personal, professional, and governmental interactions take place, and a portal through which we access a large and growing variety of goods and services.

Yet I have no right to access or remain in this corporate-controlled space, from which I can be ejected at any moment for any reason, with no meaningful ability to appeal that decision, plead my case, or even learn about what prompted my corporate masters to cast me into exile.

That's what I learned last week when Facebook mistakenly removed a page that I created two years ago to promote my book, The Tribes of Burning Man — ostensibly for "bullying" — and then temporarily suspended my personal posting privileges. My inquiries to find out what happened were ignored until I threatened to turn up the journalistic heat, and even then I couldn't get any explanation beyond Facebook's admission that "The removal was a mistake."

Not that I expected any real substance or accountability. If there's one thing I've learned from covering the technology industry over the last few years — from challenging the tax breaks designed to keep Twitter in town two years ago to my recent revelations that Airbnb is refusing to pay the Transient Occupancy Tax it owes the city — it's that these companies address issues of public access, rights, and equity on their terms or not at all.

That's even the case in the emerging realm of wiring cities with fiber to offer high-speed Internet access to all citizens, where Google is moving quickly to short-circuit municipal broadband efforts like the plan San Francisco is now considering. GoogleFiber is making Kansas City and other cash-strapped jurisdictions offers they can't refuse, while simultaneously undermining the long-established principle of requiring telecommunications companies that use public rights-of-way to offer universal access.

"Telecommunications remains a utility," says Matt Wood, policy director for Free Press, which works on net neutrality and municipal broadband issues .

I heard Wood speak in a May 24 conference call that The Media Consortium organized for journalists. He was joined by a Kansas City official and Institute for Local Self-Reliance member. Google refused to provide a representative.

Wood emphasized "the need for a public oversight role and commitment to universal access" by Google and other companies that contract with cities to lay fiber, similar to how phone companies were required to serve every household, and he told us that "no rules will apply if certain companies get their way."

But even though the federal government created the Internet and still has clear legal authority to regulate telecommunications access and fairness — and even though Facebook's billion-plus users give it unrivaled market share and power — Wood (a Harvard Law School graduate) doesn't think private citizens have any rights in that realm or expectations of accountability.

In other words, in the virtual world it created — regardless of how extensively and aggressively it partners with other companies to make Facebook membership a prerequisite to accessing goods and services offered by hundreds of companies — Facebook is in charge, period.

SEEKING ANSWERS

I've read stories about Facebook users futility fighting decisions to ban posts that should enjoy free speech protections — from breastfeeding photos and diagrams of female reproductive systems to radical political speech — while allowing content that is racist or misogynist, and their difficulties in getting the company to explain its decisions.

Comments

A small company referes to the 1+ Billion users being supported by a company with less than 5,000 Employees

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 11:01 am

This is yet another problem with neoliberal capitalism, in that, once a public-private partnership is formed, absolute accountability migrates away from the federal government and the public (read citizen), now excised as parties to the contract, and to the private entity.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Jun. 05, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

You managed to say absolutely nothing in quite conclusory terms and, inexplicably, you cite contract terms as if, in the end, they have any nexus whatsoever to your non sequitur babble. It literally- is- babble.

If you have an issue with "accountability", perhaps that went bye bye when the Reagan Administration killed the Fairness Act. Modern GOP "groupthink" would further emasculate the State's ability to regulate Commerce- including policing Tech giants. What, someone signs up for a social media site and the company can just sell any and all information for no consideration? That seems undesirable. I'm sure Rand Paul and his phony ilk can point to some "ideological" premise supporting "why" the People "really don't want" regulation, but the disparity of wealth, coupled by increasing levels of corruption in Congress, tends to show the "problem" isn't "liberals" at all...it is the GOP "sell out" party that has (I can only surmise) relegated halfway intelligent people like you to creating some illusory language to impugn the opposition in any terms OTHER than the merits.

Boo...

-drudown

Posted by Guest on Jun. 12, 2013 @ 2:40 am

I appreciate liberals—not neoliberals, whose ideas resemble corporatism in which, it seems in America, legislative authority is being implicitly delegated to corporations who do as they will. The neoliberal format threatens the existence of my country, I firmly believe, and neither does it yield a better life for citizens. I think we already see its effect on citizens, just in socioeconomic disparity. The tools of economic shock, privatization, deregulation and government realignment all contribute to deinstitutionalization of my country, again, I firmly believe this to be true. You may surmise that I support a strong central government.

Posted by Awayneramsey on Jun. 13, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

Forgive me but I forgot to add that this type of contract, in which one party has full provision, whatever this means, is named an "adhesion contract."

Posted by Awayneramsey on Jun. 13, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

I think it's just another example of how big tech (esp the likes of social media) don't feel very much of an obligation to being accountable to the public sector or having a real two-way dialogue. My own personal theory is that they feel this way b/c they're essentially giving their product away for free, so they feel entitled to make the rules the way they see fit. "Hey, you're not paying for this service so what voice do you really have in how we run it?" is the rationale I'm *assuming* a lot of these companies operate under. If you want to hear a really interesting perspective on this, I highly recommend listening to this NPR interview with George Packer on his recent book where he talks about this very issue. http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201306061000

Posted by Guest on Jun. 10, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

Facebook is a stupid media site. Partisapants are stupid clones.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 11, 2013 @ 10:08 am

Facebook owes you nothing. It is a private portal that they control. You have the right to choose if you want to join under their rules. You have the right to not be part of Facebook. They owe no explanations or right to access their website. Period.
Anyone who goes on the internet (including me) needs to understand there is no privacy. All data is mined, by governments, by authorized and unauthorized private groups. That is part of the deal. No privacy on the internet. Period.
If you want privacy, get off the grid.

Posted by Richmondman on Jun. 11, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

Could he be more self-absorbed if he tried?

Posted by anon on Jun. 11, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

"Waaaaaaa - if I don't get my Facebook page back I'm going down to Menlo Park with a camera man and asking why I can't! Waaaaaa - I want my Facebook page back!!"

Steven's total lack of how self-absorbed he sounds is staggering.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 11, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

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