What Can A Banned "Sexual" Bird Tell Us About SM Censorship?
November 22, 2017|Sara Araujo
For some strange reason, there's a lot of content in social media that is restricted, when it shouldn't be.
Have you ever felt like speaking your mind, and then someone just comes along and shuts you up because they don't agree with you? Well, as dramatic as it sounds, this is a reality for everyone right now when it comes to censorship. Going against what we called "freedom of speech," the digital era has changed everything we used to know about everything. One day, we think we have the power to express ourselves. Then, next thing we know, our voice is turned off by someone else who to has the power over our own point of view.
Sadly, the control of information and ideas is nothing new. Ever since people have had the need to express a thought or a feeling, there has been censorship. We can go as back as ancient Greece, when Socrates defied attempts by the Greek state to censor his philosophical teachings, and because of this, he was sentenced to death. What’s worse, censorship can still end up in this terrible fate. Nowadays, sharing “sensitive information” has turned into a vast and blurry concept. Anything can be censored if it offends or compromises anyone, but in a world with more than 7 million human beings, it's pretty hard to find a neutral space where no one ends up offended, don’t you think?
These days, literally anything can be banned. That is kind of a bummer because freedom of speech is now seen as some form of attack. A stranger’s way of seeing life can be considered a threat if you disagree. Sure, when you're dealing with a hater, blocking them helps. But what happens when you're sharing something as personal as your artwork? That's what happened to Scottish artist Jackie Charley and her colorful masterpieces. Her case shows how censorship can become ridiculous and how confusing the guidelines on social media are.
One day, all of a sudden, Facebook decided to block Jackie’s sale of a pack of Christmas cards, which featured a robin redbreast. Apparently, the platform blocked her content because of its “sexual” and “adult” nature. At first, Charley’s reaction was laughter because this was complete nonsense and she couldn’t believe this was actually happening. But giving it a second thought, it wasn’t that funny. Why was she banned? Completely baffled, Jackie tried to reach out Facebook, but she never received any kind of response. Later on, the interest generated from the gaffe led to a lifting of the initial ban.
Why would Facebook want to take such a beautiful work of art out of the internet? There are tons of stalkers and catfish, sharing, and manipulating sensitive information, and no one says a word. But a little birdie shows up and something goes wrong. I can't help but wonder what's going on. Aren't we free to paint, write, draw, or photograph an art work and share it on social media? What did Facebook perceive in this picture that was too offensive to be online? It seems completely arbitrary. In the worst case scenario, this might look like the beginning of something bigger in the banning area. I'm pretty sure the Netflix series Black Mirror did an episode with this similar story, and that's scary.
When a website bans someone's work for no apparent reason, you start wondering what's really going on with digital game rules. On the one hand, people are constantly feeling offended by everything and anything. We don't know it for sure, but this could be the case of the people behind this platform's guidelines. I mean, it seems bizarre, but in this day and age, anything is possible. On the other hand, it can also be a glitch. Most probably, the developers at Facebook created some sort of algorithm that had to spot pre-programmed inconsistencies in the platform. But sure enough, every once in a while computers tend to fail. We all know the downside of trusting non-human processes. My question is, how convenient is it to rely on this kind of programs for these digital platforms? Do they even notice what's happening? Do they care? Should we really trust these guidelines when there seems to be no common sense?
This whole issue gets even more confusing if you research the list of things that could get you banned from Facebook. Leaving aside the obvious ones, like nudity and violence, you can find other strange reasons to be banned: sharing pictures of breastfeeding, having the same name as a famous person, or posting pictures of newborns are among the reasons why you can get censored in Facebook. I’m really sorry for all those girls whose real name is Selena Gomez or Jennifer Lopez, because one day they might find that their Facebook account has been unfairly blocked.
This particular case is one of many Facebook has dealt with. Sure enough, other platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are not exempt from these situations. But cases such as Jackie’s ban are proof that the digital world has become more absurd and bewildering. Worst of all, there’s not much we can do about it. You can try to create another social media platform, but we all know where all of your friends are going to be at.
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