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Latest censorship actions make Facebook expendable


The United States Senate’s Judiciary Committee will be investigating Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for blocking political posts. The mere fact that these social media outlets have done so renders them expendable.

In early 2009 some high school friends dragged me onto Facebook. I joined LinkedIn shortly afterward. I have not found a reason to join Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I have never posted anything on YouTube.

A few months after I joined Facebook there was a rumor, which could have been a hoax and could have been a trial balloon, that Facebook would start charging $2.99 or $3.99 a month. My response was that I could obtain business benefits on LinkedIn and wasn’t going to pay $36 or $48 annually to see other people’s political views, horoscopes, or Farmville or Mafia Wars status.

Due to my connections with my high school friends I ended up co-chairing my high school reunion in 2012, and I sought to contact other 1982 Crawford High School graduates through Facebook. I was dealing with people who last saw me 30 years earlier and might not have remembered or even known my last name. 

At the time rejecting a friend request and stating that the recipient didn’t know the requester was grounds for Facebook to suspend friend requests. In the event that Facebook would hit me with harder sanctions, I built up my LinkedIn connections in case it was time to part ways with Facebook. Facebook decided that providing friend suggestions would be a preferable option to disciplining users who seek friends who don’t remember them, so at least I obtained a concession from Facebook on that matter.

I don’t mind opposing viewpoints and I don’t consider myself professionally threatened by Facebook users acting as an unpaid news service, but I joined Facebook to keep in touch with friends rather than to engage in a political debate or to have a news service. I don’t unfriend or unfollow Facebook friends simply for disagreeing with me. When my Facebook feed gave me the consistent posting of shared political or other material at the expense of posts I joined Facebook to see I started unfollowing some people.

In January I became a victim of Facebook censorship for non-political posts. Many people posted about the death of former basketball star Kobe Bryant, and my standard response was “I remember his father playing for the San Diego Clippers.” 

Eventually Facebook decided that I had posted that too many times and prevented me from posting that again. If they didn’t want my repeated response, why did they continue to show me repeated posts on the same subject?

In July I was censored by Facebook without even being inflammatory. I responded to somebody else’s post by saying that maybe as a diversity measure Facebook will trade me to redheaddateclub.com or hotforginger.com — which may say something about my sexual preference but is nowhere close to inciting violence or hate and can’t be construed as a gross factual error. 

Facebook denied my post and informed me that the mention of hotforginger.com was a violation of their community standards. I tried to complain with a post on my own Facebook page and was once again denied due to my hotforginger.com mention. I posted my complaint both on LinkedIn and on MeWe, both of which let me use hotforginger.com in my post.

Given the content of the previous paragraph I should be familiar with a famous redhead saying (actually opening words to a Reba McEntire song):  In 1876 an old boy named Bell invented a contraption that we know so well. I respond to friends’ Facebook posts about problems with a personal phone call, not an electronic comment. Social media hasn’t stopped me from using the telephone or U.S. Postal Service mail, and I still have a physical address book for contact information. I can transmit political material by U.S. Mail like I did in the 1980s and 1990s, and hard copies also allow me to use news articles and other information which isn’t on the Internet.

 I have considered retiring from Facebook and keeping in touch by other options. Facebook might not like what my friends and I post, but the use of other communications methods means that any Facebook censorship could send Facebook the way of bulletin board systems, America On Line discussions, and Myspace.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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