Gee, it’s almost as if there’s a pattern of basic conservative beliefs being labeled abusive or criminal in order to shove them out of the public square. Here’s the status update that Facebook admitted got the account of Fox News radio’s Todd Starnes suspended:
“I’m about as politically incorrect as you can get. I’m wearing an NRA ball cap, eating a Chick-fil-A sandwich, reading a Paula Deen cookbook and sipping a 20-ounce sweet tea while sitting in my Cracker Barrel rocking chair with the Gather Vocal Band singing ‘Jesus Saves’ on the stereo and a Gideon’s Bible in my pocket. Yes sir, I’m politically incorrect and happy as a June bug.”
Here’s the back story via the Washington Post’s media critic, Erik Wemple, whom I appreciate taking up this subject fairly:
According to Fox News Insider, that message got Starnes banned from Facebook. The site sent him this message: “We removed this from Facebook because it violates our Community Standards. So you’re temporarily blocked from using this feature.” A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed the blocking.
Those “Community Standards” are found right here. They outline 10 no-no areas for Facebook users: violence and threats, self-harm, bullying and harassment, hate speech, graphic content, nudity and pornography, identity and privacy, intellectual property, phishing and spam and security.
Unless Facebook covertly added another category — say, “conservative defiance” — The Erik Wemple Blog cannot ascertain which particular rule Starnes’s post defied. After all, the commentator didn’t say that he was sitting “naked in my Cracker Barrel rocking chair,” complete with photograph of the scene. That would have violated the “nudity and pornography” prohibition. Nor did Starnes publish secret Chick-fil-A recipes, which could have put him in contravention of the “intellectual property” provision. And hey, if his post looked like “hate speech,” well then our national dialogue is far less courteous than we thought.
Wemple points out another example of a hair-trigger Facebook banning he’s covered, also of a conservative. “In that case, a clever and politically motivated fellow posted a catchy anti-Obama meme that proved popular on the Internet,” he notes. Facebook reinstated that content, too.
With Starnes, Facebook admitted a mistake:
Facebook sent an apology to Starnes after an outcry from his fans and follow-up, Starnes said, saying it was a mistake.
“As our team processes hundreds of thousands of reports each week, we occasionally make a mistake. In this case, we mistakenly removed content from the Todd Starnes Page, and worked to rectify the mistake as soon as we were notified,” Facebook’s statement read.
It sounds like Starnes may be a victim of a coordinated flagging attack, in which liberals use the “flag objectionable content” capabilities of social media to get their political adversaries banned. Even if it doesn’t last long, it’s certainly a pain and a chilling effect.
High-traffic pages commonly kick up what Facebook calls “reports” from users — essentially, complaints that a possible violation of the “Community Standards” may have occurred. Such “reports” appear to have triggered a look at Starnes’s post, then a block.
In the past, these attacks have been quite effective on Twitter. Both services need to be more careful with this kind of thing.