by Roxanne Tellier
I’m happy to report that the rumours of my death were greatly exaggerated. I’ve only been dead to the social media world for the last 30 days.
But, let me tell you – if you’ve ever wondered if people would miss you after you’re gone, take a long Facebook break. The majority will most certainly not even notice your absence. It’s a fast-paced world, and either you’re in the fast lane, or you’re eating everyone else’s dust.
Facebook has really been cracking down on its users over every little thing since the last time Zuckerberg had to explain Facebook’s ways to Congress. Zuck’s been able to rely on Section 230, which allows social media companies to self-regulate. It shields the platforms from liability, shunting any blame to individual users, who can be sued for posted content, while granting legal immunity for good faith efforts to remove content that violates their policies.
The key part of the provision reads: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
While there have been small inroads into Section 230 protections, lawmakers have only been able to do so much. In 2018, a law was passed making it easier to sue internet platforms that knowingly aid sex trafficking, but there’s the rub again … define and prove ‘knowingly’ when a cadre of well-paid lawyers are claiming ignorance. Federal crimes and intellectual property claims are further exceptions, but again, there’s a rallying cry of ‘prove it!’ whenever the platform is charged.
Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey of Twitter claim that their platforms could not exist without the protections provided under Section 230, but at the end of the day, what stays or goes on these platforms remains solely under their jurisdiction.
Which is perhaps why we’re hearing more and more horror stories from Facebook users who are being penalized unfairly, without recourse, and lately, even for offences committed four to seven years ago.
Musician/radio personality Bill King noted today that there doesn’t seem to be an actual court of appeal for unfair charges.
“I was there (FB jail) recently for a humorous post of which I challenged, won, and still got a week. I’m serving a 60-day sentence for something from 2020. This is crazy.”
The most famous North American repeat offender is, of course, Donald Trump. The former president was banned ‘indefinitely’ from all Facebook platforms after the Capitol riot of January 6th, when his supporters ransacked the hallowed halls in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win.
The ban was a disaster for Trump, since social media played a huge part in his campaign and subsequent presidential term. He appealed, which resulted in his claim being kicked upstairs to Facebook’s Oversight Board. There, the suspension was upheld, but the board chastised the company for not having a clear policy, and for imposing an indefinite time period.
Facebook’s principals responded by creating new enforcement penalties that deemed Trump’s ‘severe violation of our rules’ to merit the highest penalty available – a two-year suspension, effective from January 7th. This would keep his account suspended until January 7th 2023, when it was determined that he would only get his accounts back if “the risk to public safety has receded.”
Naturally, Trump’s furious over being held accountable for his sins. Although he was a supporter in the good times, now, like a belligerent husband furious that the wife is refusing to iron his underpants, he’s determined to break Facebook and Twitter, by any means possible.
Trump’s response: “What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country. Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before. The People of our Country will not stand for it! These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process.”
And then, in a separate statement, Trump again claimed fraud in the 2020 election, because of course he did.
Meanwhile, there’s a pretty solid front of both Dems and Republicans who believe that all of social media’s big companies have become too powerful, and need tougher regulations to hold them more accountable for policing content.
Democrats, led by Biden, want Congress to revise Section 230, considering the lack of liability a big gift to Big Tech. They want social media to be compelled to remove hate speech, proven falsehoods, extremism, and election interference.
Unsurprisingly, Republicans, led by Trump, are more concerned about the Orange One being banned, conservatives being censored, and a limit to political reach on social media platforms. Florida’s Ron DeSantis recently passed a law that cracks down on the Big Tech platforms, claiming that they are conspiring against conservatives, and their free speech.
This law would make it illegal for Big Tech to remove political candidates from their platforms in the runup to an election, while also making it easier for Florida’s attorney general and individuals to sue these companies if they felt discriminated against.
(But DeSantis DID exempt ‘companies that own a theme park’ – such as Walt Disney Co, which runs Disney+, a streaming service. He knows which side of the Floridian bread is buttered by the Mouse.)
There are so many holes in this law that I imagine there are ACL lawyers across America wetting their pants over who will be the first to challenge this snowflake fest. Firstly, it’s unconstitutional. The bill is a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on government controlling the free speech of private companies.
Corbin Barthold, internet policy counsel for the Washington, D.C., nonprofit group TechFreedom, wrote, “The bill is extreme. It’s a brazen assault on the First Amendment. DeSantis wants to compel websites to speak. He can’t. He wants consumer-protection law to erase free-speech rights. It won’t. DeSantis is attacking the very constitutional principles Republicans just spent four years putting conservatives on the courts to protect.”
Beyond that, it would seem yet one more example of DeSantis currying favour with Trump and his acolytes, by standing by his man. The snowflakes are thick on the ground down in Florida, it would seem.
There’s a lot of other factors going on here as well, since, no matter how you look at it, Facebook is near to keeling over from ‘death by demographics.’ 10% of Facebook’s advertising audience are 55 and older, while Facebook remains the most popular social network for seniors. 62% of Americans 65 and older use Facebook. And – fun fact! Guess who shares the most fake news on ANY social platform? Seniors! We’re Number 1! We’re Number 1!
As is the case in Japan, people over 65 make up the brunt of Facebook’s population, and that number is rising. Meanwhile, the ‘kool kids’ bolted years ago, to the hipper pastures of TikTok and Instagram.
So why do so many stay on Facebook, despite the arbitrary updates of it’s interface, unreasonable banning, lack of customer support, or recourse for common errors? Basically, it’s all about sunk costs.
It’s a lot like changing jobs or moving house; when you’re younger, there’s always a greener pasture to be found. But the older you get, the less you want to gather up all the energy you’ll need to get up and out of that comfy chair. So we stay, year after year, and simply take whatever the social media platform gods dish out.
There aren’t a lot of platforms that ring the same bells as Facebook. The current ‘next best option’ is Liker.com, which bills itself as the ‘kinder, smarter, social network’. Liker has recently gone through a serious overhaul and revamp, further to being hacked in March of 2021 by ‘politically motivated trumpers’, and allegedly in retaliation for the Gab data breach and scraping of data from Parler.
I have re-upped with Liker, and hope to be setting up a new home over there as soon as it’s back up and running. With Facebook now so hair-triggered, it can’t hurt to have somewhere else to go, especially for those days when you get kicked off the platform for the despicable crime of quoting Shakespeare.
So, a month without Facebook. It was fine, really. After the first few days of withdrawal, I started to realize how much free time I had, when I wasn’t constantly monitoring the freeform thoughts of the masses. In a way, it was sort of like those first few days after Trump was originally banned from Facebook – at first, you can’t put your finger on what’s not bothering you anymore. Then you realize – it’s the absence of the white noise that was constantly permeating your environment, keeping you slightly off balance at all times.
I’ve been reading all the books on tech and social media and current social issues that I can carry home from the library. I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube, scarfing down educational programs, TedTalks, documentaries, music specials, and watching the antics of The Sorry Girls. I’ve redecorated the front porch, started working on sorting out the back deck and the shed, and have a couple of document files I’m about to rework into eBooks to see if I can make a few bucks off that tech writing certificate I aced decades ago.
And the funniest thing is, once you get off the Facebook treadmill, you soon start to realize how little ‘new’ there’s been for the average person to marvel over, since around 2015. It’s as though the world was so fixated on trump and politics that actual societal progress halted, while the right gloated over the one bill they passed in four years, that being the one that made the rich even richer, while doing nothing for the other 99.9%.
We’re still fighting old wars. We’ve gone through a global pandemic, serious incursions upon our democracy, and we are making tentative forays into re-entering this post-pandemic world, without many people even noticing that nearly six years have passed, but very little has changed.
Thirty days away also gave me perspective on how seriously too many people take their Facebook presence. For the average user, any social media platform should be either an escape, or a legitimate business outlet. But many people get so addicted to the place that they have to share every minor moment and experience of their lives, along with what they ate for lunch. It’s almost as though they believe that nothing is real unless it’s seen by an audience.
Then there’s the huge segment of people who seem to think that the expression of their thoughts and opinions is tantamount to a ‘job.’ Facebook isn’t paying anyone I know to tell them ‘What’s on your mind?’ No one pays me to curate news items, or to be first with a link to the latest Randy Rainbow video. The water cooler we gather around is virtual, as are most of our friends, and if there was a break room, your sandwich would already have been stolen by a troll.
And, let’s face it – Facebook is also where you go to ask random strangers whether or not you should bring a baby to a ‘no kids allowed’ wedding. Or to seek the seal of approval on your not wanting to get vaccinated before getting on an airplane and going to said wedding.
So, yeah, back again, sadder and wiser. Thinking I’ll use Facebook for my business social media purposes, maybe keep another account for private convos.
But there are still reasons – which have nothing to do with how FB is run – to be on Facebook.
One, is finding the little precious nuggets hidden on the internet … I’d never have found this video, or seen these incredible, sensual contortions, had I not been pointed in their direction by photographer Anne J Gibson ….
(The 13th Floor Elevators – Roller Coaster – Footage by exotic dancers Janik and Arnaut, 1954.)
And of course, I’ve got a lot of people I really enjoy seeing and interacting with on Facebook.
But let’s face it, the odds of me being a recidivist are pretty high. I’m a terror, you know, a wild one, a granny with a grudge, a troublemaker that just doesn’t learn. Odds are good it won’t be long until they’ve sent me back to the pokey.
It’s just the way I roll. Unrepentant. A Facebook Felon. You’ll never take me alive, copper!