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A short note on FB’s content control April 18, 2011

Posted by cbackman in övervakning, social media.

When I tried to share my last post on Facebook as I normally do when I have written one, I was redirected to a page that explained that the blog had been ‘flagged’ as containing ‘inappropriate content’ and I could not post a link to it. I was given the possibility to object to this by filling in a form and explaining why I thought it was wrong. I didn’t bother. I did however start to think about whether it was the result of someone filing a complaint or of automatic screening of whatever I post.

I haven’t investigated FB’s system so I have no answer to the question. I decided to believe that it is an automatic screening of content and that the blog was ‘flagged’ because of a post that had the word ‘barnpornografi’ (child pornography) in the title. Because of this I read with great interest how Dangerous Minds got a warning from FB because of a picture of two people kissing. And yes, they had the same sex.

What FB engages in when they deem content to be offensive or inappropriate is a process of upholding and creating moral boundaries. Lately social media in general and FB in particular has been seen as important parts of resistance and democratisation (Egypt!). I’m not downplaying the importance of FB, Twitter and other forums in North African protests, but I would like to emphasise that how FB can be used in organising protests is clearly circumscribed by their policy (Statement of Rights and Responsibilities). As long as anything that relates to sex is automatically considered inappropriate and becomes blocked, it does not only limits the discussions that can be held on FB (e.g. if we can discuss how to understand public reactions to child pornography), it also severely limits the kind of ‘resistance’ and struggle that can be assisted by ‘new social media’ such as FB. Dangerous Minds report in the above mentioned post, that the FB page organising a protest against a London pub where two men who kissed had been asked to leave, had been removed. So, FB may play an important part in some protests but are at the same time contributing to the upholding of other oppressive systems, such as the hetronormative moral order.

Remains to figure out a good research methodology for studying what it is that is removed, which debates that cannot go on, and which pictures we are believed to be offended by. Because I doubt that FB will give access to someone who wants to conduct an etnographical study.



1. Christoph - April 20, 2011

Regarding access for ethnography: if covert police surveillance is accessible to ethnography, I would say: it’s worth trying with facebook!

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