Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Facebook Acknowledges Its Own Censorship on Julio Severo. What Happens Now?


Facebook Acknowledges Its Own Censorship on Julio Severo. What Happens Now?

By Julio Severo
Even though not using the term “censorship” for its censoring act, Facebook recognized it “accidentally removed” an article I had posted on Facebook on June 19.
Facebook said that the removal “was a mistake,” adding: “we sincerely apologize for this error.”
The removal was followed by an unfair action by Facebook — a 30-day ban on my ability to post, like, comment and communicate on my own Facebook profile. Even though the “mistake” has been officially recognized, the ban imposed by Facebook has not been removed and my Facebook account remains blocked for my personal use, in spite of my several complaints to Facebook letting them know that their ban is a complete mistake.
The original post, which was the reason for Facebook to block me, was just the title and link of my article (Brazilian Neighbors Are Ordered to Pay US$4,500 For Calling a Homosexual “Fag” http://bit.ly/2sMZlZg), which, by the way, made it abundantly clear that I oppose name-calling and foul language.
My subsequent article, “Facebook, Censorship, Profanity, Name-Calling and Foul Language,” also confirmed that I oppose name-calling and foul language.
Even so, the censorship, imposed on June 19, continued unabated. Then, on June 23, the California-based Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund sent an official legal letter to Mr. Colin Stretch, Esq., General Counsel at Facebook. Its letter said,
Mr. Stretch,
On Monday, June 19, 2017, a post made to Facebook by user Julio Severo, a Brazilian national, was removed and his account (facebook.com/julio.severo) suspended for 30 days either through the workings of an automated system or by a human curator. We have been asked by Julio to contact you on his behalf to demand the ending of his account suspension and reinstatement of his post as both actions violated Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, as revised January 30, 2015.
The post linked to an entry from Mr. Severo’s personal blog with a headline reading: “Brazilian Neighbors Are Ordered to Pay US$4,500 For Calling a Homosexual ‘Fag’” Mr. Severo was given no warning and his attempts to communicate with Facebook staff regarding the removal have been met with silence. Mr. Severo assumes it is the presence of the word “fag” that led to the account suspension.
As the title of his post indicates, Mr. Severo was reporting a newsworthy event which occurred in his home country. The word “fag” was properly placed in quotation marks to reflect that it was the criminal defendants, and not Mr. Severo himself, who were responsible for using the epithet. The post was written to criticize his country’s judicial system for what he believes is too severe a punishment, but his post makes clear he does not approve of the language used by defendants. Whether or not Facebook or a subset of its users find the punishment proper, Mr. Severo’s actions did not violate the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, a binding contract. Rather, the removal of the post, and suspension of his account, did violate that contract.
According to the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, part 3 “Safety”, paragraphs 6 and 7, users agree that: “1. You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user. 2. You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” Similarly, Facebook’s Community Standards, states under the heading “Hate Speech”: “Facebook removes hate speech, which includes content that directly attacks people based on their … sexual orientation, sex, gender, or gender identity…”
Mr. Severo’s blog post, including its headline, does not direct an offensive term toward any specific user or use offensive language to describe any person. Reporting the use of the word by others in the context of reporting the outcome of a criminal proceeding does not constitute bullying, intimidation, harassment, or a “direct attack.” Whether Facebook or a subset of its users disagree with Mr. Severo’s political or religious views, or are even subjectively “offended” by them, he did not objectively violate the terms of use of the site nor direct hateful, threatening, or harassing language toward others.
Facebook’s Community Standards also state under “Hate Speech”: “People can use Facebook to challenge ideas, institutions, and practices. Such discussion can promote debate and greater understanding.” Mr. Severo’s post was written with the goal of challenging the legal system and social norms of his home country and thus falls within the scope of allowable content on Facebook.
On Tuesday, June 20, 2017, Mr. Severo submitted an appeal through Facebook’s website explaining how his actions did not violate the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Mr. Severo’s inquiry has so far been ignored, and the restrictions on his account maintained. The continued suspension of Mr. Severo’s account is improper and constitutes breach of contract. Please remove that suspension by June 30, 2017, and reinstate Mr. Severo’s post, in order to avoid legal action.
Sincerely,
FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE DEFENSE FUND
Facebook sent me its official answer on July 3, 2017:
A member of our team accidentally removed something you posted on Facebook. This was a mistake, and we sincerely apologize for this error. We've since restored the content, and you should now be able to see it.
Notwithstanding Facebook’s acknowledgment that my article’s removal, which was followed by an unfair blockage on my account, was an alleged “mistake” made by a member of the Facebook team, as of July 5 my Facebook profile remains blocked.
My Facebook profile remains visible to others, but it is functionally “dead.” I have been blocked from posting, liking, commenting and communicating through my profile since June 19.
Has Facebook been unable to abide by its own rules and its own apology?
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