A Facebook user who called supporters of Donald Trump a “nasty, fascistic lot” and was temporarily suspended is accusing the social media giant of censoring anti-Trump sentiment, The Guardian is reporting.
Kevin Sessums is a British blogger and journalist, known for celebrity pieces, best-selling memoirs, and his work for Vanity Fair. He claims that he uses Facebook as his own “personal blog.” So naturally he was quite upset when he was banned for 24 hours for “violating community standards” following a comment he wrote on another journalist’s post.
— David Goodman (@DavidGoodmanPix) June 18, 2016
Sessums recently shared a Facebook post from ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd, wherein Dowd was complaining about the things Trump supporters had called him (“jew, f****t, retard”). Sessums added his own commentary about Dowd’s post. His post included his own thoughts on supporters of Donald Trump.
“But as those who do hold Trump to the standards of any other person have found out on Twitter and other social media outlets these Trump followers are a nasty fascistic lot.”
That was apparently enough to get him banned from Facebook for 24 hours, for the vague offense of “violating community standards.”
Once contacted by The Guardian, however, Facebook changed its tune and restored Sessums’ original post.
“We’re very sorry about this mistake. The post was removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate. Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong.”
For Sessums, Facebook’s apology rings hollow.
“It’s chilling. It’s arbitrary censorship. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, do I have to be careful about what I say about Trump now?'”
Facebook indeed walks a fine line when it comes to policing and censoring content posted by users. For one thing, the term “community standards” varies from place to place; for example, in some parts of the world, a photo of a woman’s face is considered nothing short of an appalling act of pornography. In parts of Europe, denying the Holocaust is a crime that can get you fined or even jailed.
Here in the U.S., where Facebook is headquartered, it’s largely a matter of “anything goes,” at least, up to a point. Facebook’s “community standards” section makes it clear that the social media giant will remove posts that are deemed as bullying and harassing, advocating for criminal activity, or involve sexual violence or exploitation, among other objectionable content.
That means that Facebook will, for example, remove a photo of a naked child. Even if that photo is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm attack, having survived by tearing off her burning clothes. That particular act of censorship took place earlier this year, and it caused international outrage. Facebook later backed off from censorship of the photo.
However, Facebook also let stand a post by Donald Trump calling for a ban on Muslims, in which even Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself admitted violated the company’s rules against hate speech.
“Mr Zuckerberg acknowledged that Mr Trump’s call for a ban [of Muslims] did qualify as hate speech, but said the implications of removing them were too drastic.”
For Kevin Sessums, his temporary ban from Facebook for what he deems a minor insult at best has troubling implications for the future of free speech under a Donald Trump presidency.
“What will the cyber world be like under a Trump administration? This is chilling to me.”
Do you believe that Facebook is censoring anti-Trump content?
[Featured Image by tuthelens/Shutterstock]