On Tuesday morning, the music section of the Dallas Observer published an article on local musicians talking about addiction following former Colleyville resident Demi Lovato’s recent drug overdose. The writers of the article (myself and Stephanie Salas-Vega) shared the article on our personal Facebook pages, as writers normally do in hopes of getting some extra readers.
By midday Tuesday, Facebook decided the article was spam and it did not fit the social media platform’s “Community Standards.” That’s right: an article talking about the struggle of addiction with a profanity-free headline and a header photo of an almost-empty bottle. Thus, no one could share the article on Facebook for the rest of the day.
I sent an appeal to Facebook’s support section within a few minutes of the notification, explaining I was the co-author and it was not spam or meant to be malicious. I woke up to this message on Wednesday:
“Thanks again for letting us know about this post. We took another look and found it doesn't go against our Community Standards, so we've restored your post. We're sorry for the trouble and appreciate you taking the time to get in touch with us so that we could correct this.”
It’s no secret Facebook has cracked down significantly on articles from baseless, untrue news sources and offensive content lately, but with something like this, one has to ask if they’re trying too hard (or why Fox News still has a Facebook page).
Local Brandi Beakley related to this, as she had recently experienced something similar. She wanted to show some concrete proof to counter a claim that the employment rate is significantly higher under the current presidential administration.
“It wasn’t even an article,” she says. “It was a link to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics page on unemployment rates over the last 20 years. It got removed twice.”
She didn’t know what to think, especially since she based her post off a legitimate source.
“My initial thought was that one of my Trump supporter Facebook friends reported it as spam and that’s why it got taken down,” she says. “But the second time?”
Joe Royland of Gorham, Maine, could also relate.
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As a rabid music enthusiast, Royland decided to play along with the popular “10 Albums in 10 Days” trend, posting the covers of his favorite albums back in May. One of them was Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, a 45-year-old album found in almost every record store in the world. It features the backsides of naked preteen children on its cover.
This past Sunday, he got word from Facebook stating the post went against the platform’s community standards on nudity and sexual activity.
“I was amazed that, one, they even bothered to tag it and remove it, and two, that it took them over two and a half months to bother to do so,” Royland says. “Surely hundreds, if not thousand[s], of people saw it in my post during that time?”
With experiences like this, one has to wonder if Facebook has flattened the line between reputable sources and the opposite, coupled with policing anything remotely offensive. Of course it’s always been important to think before you post on social media, but is everything suspect now?