On the outside Facebook may look like any other social networking site, however beyond the facade lay in my opinion a blatant hypocrisy. With little to no warning or even a clear understanding of the rules set in place you may be banned from Facebook for sexually explicit material, or drug references. This all sounds fine but when there is no clear definition of what is ok and what is not permissible we run into a problem.
In the PC World community there has been talk of the changes of Facebook’s terms of service. A new user expressed frustration with the social networking site and I had a chance to talk to him in more depth. Facebook had closed his account citing ‘sexually explicit material’ and he called to find out why. They did not give him an answer and not even a specific image as to why it was removed. His call provided no answers other then that once banned you couldn’t start another account. I got a chance to look at these so-called questionable photos and they’re was nothing wrong with them. As many others have complained about, people have posted far worse things on Facebook that had not been removed. The images were from Porno Bingo, which were contrary to the name not pornographic. He primarily promotes the event and it has raised over $80,000 in the last four years for various NY based LGBT charities. The event relies on internet promotion and Facebook was a great tool for the charity. He also expressed frustration on feeling singled out and that he never poached other people’s friends for his own promotion. He had nearly 1,300 friends when his account was disabled, and he said that about 80% of them were friends or fans. Without a clear explanation him and his friend who is a dragqueen had their sites disabled.
The story sadly to say after internet research is not exclusive but rather an epidemic. For years now Facebook has been removing breastfeeding images from peoples profiles and closing their accounts. While continuing to provide no clear definition of how much breast is ok to show, and leaving those questioning why more sexually explicit images have not been removed from the social networking site. Most of these images were not even profile pictures, by default your Facebook profiles are friend only and you have to go out of your way to look at the pictures in their albums. Since then their has been a petition called ‘Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene! (an official petition to Facebook)’. They now organize nurse in’s which is where women change their profile images to breastfeeding one’s in order to protest Facebook. There have also been protests outside of Facebook’s headquarters as well. These women had their images and accounts removed with little to no warning telling them that these pictures with their children are obscene.
So Facebook is just trying to make their site a friendly place to be right? So they wouldn’t do something like I dunno use your image to advertise to your friends. For anything from poker to cars while coupling ads with attention grabbing offensive wording now just for the sake of money would they? Yes, of course they would. You can get your account banned for unclear sexually explicit images, or drug references however Facebook finds it alright to let themselves and 3rd party applications on their site grab you and your friends images to catch your attention to an advertisement. When you install a 3rd party application it will tell you that they will pull things off your profile and they need your permission to do so. Which would be fine if they were pulling your images and not those of your friends for advertisements. On my husbands fresh profile with me as his only friend there were eye catching ads that were rather slanderous. The ads were a picture of my profile image with my name beside it and wording like “Do you think Aurora Dizon has ever slept with a parents friend”, “Do you think Aurora Dizon has ever done crack” “Do you think Aurora Dizon has ever paid for sex” done pcp the list goes on. So its not ok to have ‘sextually explicit’ material on your site but its ok for Facebook to let advertisers use your image without your permission in advertisements. According to Facebook’s tos it is. Even though the application asks if it is ok to pull information off your profile “in order to make it work”, they never get confirmation from your friend to use their images in this way. Other then Facebook’s Terms of Service that is. Basically and rather blatantly they tell you that they can use your image for the sublicensing to advertisements without payment to you and that you grant them the permission to do so by even going to the site. Facebook’s tos says that if you even set foot on Facebook.com you are bound by their tos even if you never agree to anything. Basically you can remove your images and they will no longer be used as advertisements but Facebook keeps the ‘right’ to archive your materials forever. Even if you delete your entire account your images profile, wall everything will be intact on Facebook.com’s archive. However due to the tos you are unable to archive anything that is not yours. Facebook claims that they archive it in case you ever want to come back, but have no expiration date on keeping your materials. Facebook also asserts that they don’t have to notify you of any changes in their tos, and that it is your responsibility to find any changes. Did I mention they can change it at any time without notification or confirmation? The least Facebook can do is send you a message of the changes in tos. Would your car or apartment lease be able to legally change the terms of your contract whenever they felt like it without confirmation from you? The answer is clearly and legally no. However with internet laws still somewhat being in the dark ages there are no clear boundaries as far as many things go, and Facebook shows us just how midevil some things can get.
5 things Facebook can change to make it better:
#1: Have a clear definition of what is allowed on the site as far as drug references and sexually explicit material goes. Explain which image and why was not allowed on the site with clear explanations, and be fair to the definitions that you have imposed.
#2: If you elect to delete your Facebook profile give a clear date that your information will be purged from Facebook’s archive.
#3: Notify users via Facebook mail when the tos has changed along with wording in laymen terms what someone can expect from these changes.
#4: Do not use other peoples images for advertisement purposes. Especially those that you would deem slanderous, drug or sexually explicit material you would ban a users profile for.
#5: If images are not pornographic and bordering the line of questionable however not removable allow only in personal pages viewable by friends with an over the 18 warning of materials contained much like YouTube, or Deviant Art does. Allow the user to specify if the image or artwork is for those over the age of 18. Also allow settings to disable access to questionable images if one elects to do so.
On a funny side note soon after starting this article Weird Al had posted one of his videos on his Facebook page. Which Facebook promptly removed. Weird Al updated his status “I’m posting “Pentiums” again – got into some trouble with Facebook for “illegally” uploading my own videos. I think we’ve got it all straightened out now. ”