Every so often I’ll be asked if I am on Facebook.  When I reply that I’m not, there is sometimes a moment’s pause followed by “Why not?”.  In this rambling blog entry I’ll try to explain my reasons for leaving the Facebook community, and why I might find myself back there at some point in the future. 

Why aren’t you on Facebook?

Since Facebook dropped a clanger in May 2013 by deciding to allow graphic violence to be distributed through it’s network, and only pulling a swift 180 after a very public outcry, the BBC published the following article Censoring Facebook: Social network’s violent video dilemma.  It’s been interesting to watch the debate not happen.  An initial BBC news article drew a fair amount of comment, but there was not anything more public or enduring.

Debate was focused on how watching the videos had affected the viewer, what would happen if a child watched it and whether Facebook should censor or not the up-loader as they have the “freedom of free speech and expression”.  What the debate did not even get close to, and what media completely failed to report on was justice for the victims and any criminal investigation.

In terms of art, sure, freedom of speech, can be cited.  Damien Hurst for example has produced some amazingly freaky, disturbing and graphic installations which produced much media hype and debate in the mid to late 90’s.  In this case at least, you knew what you rougly were going to be seeing before you set foot in the gallery.  Although his work is disturbing, it is some sort of art after all and in this way he exercises his freedom of expression.  There is no way on this earth that you can use that argument in the same breath when describing what Facebook allowed.

The main thing for me was that because of the graphic nature of videos and way these things seem to spread virally there was a very real concern that it would reach Finland and eventually my home.  Because of the connected nature of Facebook, the service will make suggestions on your wall of things it thinks you might like to see, based on what those you are connected to have seen.  Many people who found these videos promoted on their walls duly reported the videos as containing graphic violence and clearly against Facebook terms of service.  This, reported by the BBC , is what pushed me over the edge.

Ryan L, a university student from Belfast, contacted the BBC after one of the clips spread around his friends’ news feeds.

He said he had flagged the material with Facebook as being inappropriate, but was sent the following reply.

“Thanks for your report. We reviewed the video you reported, but found it doesn’t violate Facebook’s Community Standard on graphic violence, which includes depicting harm to someone or something, threats to the public’s safety, or theft and vandalism.” (BBC)

It took public outcry, media coverage and, I guess at the end of the day, the threat of a drop in share prices, for Facebook to change tack and remove the videos.  But only then.  Facebook should have removed the videos immediately.  The face they cited “freedom of speech” as a guiding principle I found to be sickening.  At this point I made the decision to leave.

Facebook probably wouldn’t even notice that I’d left.  Friends and family would do, but not Facebook.  So why bother?  The bottom line was the I just didn’t want to be involved with an organisation who’s default position on graphically violent material is to allow it, say it is OK and that they’ve no idea why we are upset.  I’m still sceptical about what, if anything, really changed at Facebook.

4 months on ..

My current dilemma, 4 months or so later on is what to do now?  Whilst I started writing this blog  to scratch a creative and technical itch (the blog lives on computer under the stairs), I believe in what I write and have been flattered and encouraged by positive feedback on some of the entries.  It also seems to be a way I can share about my faith.  As a result, I find myself in the position of wanting to raise the blog’s visibility.

At the moment I’m relying on a handful of subscribers, a link in my email signature and on twitter.  By a convoluted route, the posts eventually become visible on Facebook.  What am I to do?  Stick to my principles and have a nagging feeling of hypocrisy if I sneakily check with Mother Duck if she’s mentioned the post on Facebook, or do I rejoin the Facebook community, warts and all, feeling like I’ve broken a promise to myself but possibly reaching a wider readership?

Ideas?  I am honestly at a real crossroads and I’d welcome your insight in this.  If you could pop your thoughts into the comments box, I’d appreciate it.

Cheers,
Alex

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