09 May Facebook Moderation and Censorship AKA ‘Community Standards’ Going Haywire
It may be automated systems going wrong or it may be another misguided crackdown on legitimate
posts but as usual with Facebook it’s impossible to get any answers, explanation or guidance.
The CLEAR team has run a Facebook page now for 10 years. According to Facebook data it’s the second most ‘liked’ page on cannabis and drugs policy and its ‘engagement’ is usually in the top three of all similar pages worldwide.
We’ve experienced everything crazy that Facebook has thrown us over those 10 years. But in the past few weeks the inexplicable and quite ridiculous censorship has reached new levels.
Over the years, our page has been hijacked three or four times by breaches in Facebook’s (not CLEAR’s) security. On each occasion it has taken up to a month to regain control which has involved endless unanswered messages and emails. Most recently Facebook has required notarised statements and evidence to restore control to our admins even though they have 10 years history on record. On one occasion, whilst the page was out of our control, Facebook took no notice at all of a stream of hardcore porn videos that were posted day after day.
Facebook’s attitude to cannabis and drugs policy is wildly inconsistent. It goes through periods of not taking any notice at all to what’s happening at present, which is where even the most innocuous mentions get sanctioned. Even links to academic, scientific and medical papers or research get removed on the basis that they are ‘promoting drug use’ or even more absurd, ‘selling drugs’.
Today, it has removed one post in which Lisa Quarrell has been told that the NHS will not pay for her son’s medicinal cannabis because she had previously ‘gone private’ to obtain it and it would be an ‘improper use of NHS funds’. It has also removed a post about a designer who has been ordered to pay Starbucks $500,000 because he designed a bong that looks like a Starbucks coffee cup.
Peter Reynolds was recently blocked from posting, first for three days and then for seven days for posting a meme inviting subscriptions to our email newsletter, the CLEAR Daily News. This, apparently, is ‘selling drugs’. We’ve been posting exactly the same meme regularly for over two years with no problem at all.
What’s really worrying is that two long online ‘chats’ with Facebook concierge support (available to advertisers) achieved nothing except for mindless repetition that the post ‘goes against community standards’. These are real people constrained to the role and inteligence of a bot, unable to think or exercise any discretion.
Meanwhile the endless, lunatic, conspiracy theories on vaccines, Bill Gates, 5G, coronavirus, etc. fill up the newsfeed. Reports indicate that child porn, fraudulent scams, misuse of celebrities’ images, terrorist ideology and violence are still not under control.
Facebook is an essential tool for any business, NGO or campaign. You simply have to be on it. It’s a monopoly that is out of control. In reality it seems to have more power over governments and regulators than they have over it. It needs to be broken up. The fact that it is also Instagram and WhatsApp is a ridiculous state of affairs. How have Zuckerberg and his bots been able to get away with this? Their ‘community standards’ or at least the enforcement are clearly an abuse of US constitutional rights and that is the only jurisdiction of which they take any notice.
CLEAR has put many tens of thousands of pounds into Facebook advertising. Pages now have to pay if they want to reach their followers. Before the algorithms changed all our posts would reach thousands of people, sometimes hundreds of thousands. In the last couple of years in many instances that has gone down to single figures. All the time, money and expertise we have invested in Facebook is being wasted. We have been cheated out of it by this out-of-control, arrogant monolith. As of this week our executive committee has stopped all Facebook advertising for good. It’ll make no difference to Facebook of course, until thousands of others do the same thing but we are not going to give them any more of our members’ money.
We will continue to do our best to bring our followers the news in the face of this draconian censorship. All our posts are also on Twitter which is in many ways (not always!) a better and more adult forum but, of course, it’s very unfocused and inflexible. The minute that there is a viable alternative to Facebook, CLEAR will be off. It’s a phenomenon that has run its course. We need more intelligently managed and properly regulated online media to communicate through.