Banned In The FB

This is an email I just sent to Facebook, via their feedback form.

Hi there! Apparently someone complained about one of my posts, claiming that it violated your Community Standards. I reviewed those guidelines at length and determined that the post very clearly and unambiguously violates none of them.

The post was a parody bit about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, on his eponymous holiday. I was making fun of all of the people posting either sanctimonious quotes from Dr. King — whom I hold in the highest regard — or links claiming that Dr. King was far more militant than he actually was, pretending that I was writing a movie about a hard-drinking, hard-fighting version of Dr. King entitled Inglorious Paster. (A play on the Tarantino film Inglorious Basterds, if I actually need to explain that.) It is certainly a vulgar and profane bit of humor, but that’s all it is. A joke.

The entire text of the post follows, between the lines.


“Man, fuck all of you. As soon as I’m done with this bottle of Creepin’ Jesus I’m gonna come down there and kick the fucking soul out of each and every one of you cracker sons of bitches, and then I’m gonna find Robert E Lee’s grave, and I’m gonna piss that Creepin’ Jesus all over it, and then I’m gonna come back and fuck your women. Correctly. And if Detroit Red over there has jack shit to say about it, he can come over here while I’m handling your women the way you honky motherfuckers never had the inches to, and he can help support the weight of my big old balls with his chin. Hey, looks like this Creepin’ Jesus is just about done.”

— Dr. Martin Luther King


Now, I have reviewed your Community Standards, and I can go through them one by one.

Violence And Threats — clearly this is not a threat of violence. It’s a fictional bit of absurd dialogue from a historical figure who is in fact dead.

Self-Harm — Does not apply.

Bullying and Harassment — Again, fiction, joke, not aimed at any actual person or group.

Hate Speech — Okay…here is your exact wording: “Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech.” This post is very, very clearly intended to be humorous. Whether you or any individual personally find it funny or not is not the point. This is very obviously meant to be a joke. It is ludicrous and over the top.

You go on to say: “While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.” This post was explicitly meant to, as you say, challenge ideas and institutions. I am not attacking anyone in it, unless you believe that I am somehow seriously attacking white people, of which I am one. If a reader inferred that, I chalk it up to a fairly serious incapacity to understand the difference between reality and fantasy on their part, but that is hardly my problem.

(It’s excruciating having to explain the joke here, but I want to be very clear.)

Graphic Content — While the language is indeed graphic, you make explicit reference to images, not words. You also say: “When people share any content, we expect that they will share in a responsible manner.” I consider posting a comedy bit to my timeline — shared only, as far as I know, with people who have voluntarily chosen to be my Facebook friends — a responsible manner of sharing it.

Nudity and Pornographic Content — While the post has crude sexual humor in it, I think it’s clear it’s not pornographic by any reasonable definition of that word. Also, as it is prose and not imagery, there is no actual nudity.

None of the remaining standards you display — Identity and Privacy, Intellectual Property, Phishing and Spam and Security — are applicable.

I believe that by allowing some anonymous person to control what I say on my private timeline, when that speech does not violate any of the terms you have explicitly set for usage of your service, you’re establishing a dangerous precedent. What happens if I just don’t like what someone else says? Can I flag their post, thereby automatically removing it and earning them a time-out in the corner, like some disobedient child?

You have every right to manage your community as you see fit, but I respectfully ask that you take a moment to consider how you go about doing that.

I don’t really believe that you will actually reinstate my post, or apologize for temporarily banning me when I’ve done nothing that violates the rules you set for me. If you even bother to respond to me at all, I expect it to be a repetition of the notification you already gave me about this post, with no clarification or explanation of why the post was removed and my account temporarily suspended. You are a corporation, after all, and corporations are not very good at accepting responsibility for their decisions, hiding behind legalese and the most cautious and noncommittal of communications.

But I do believe that free speech, and the boundaries which we place upon it, do matter. Otherwise I wouldn’t waste my time writing you this message.

Thanks for your time. See you whenever my account suspension is suspended.

Cheers, Josh Ellis

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