Facebook can be seen as the third biggest nation on earth. With 7.5% of the earth’s population as active users comes bigger responsibilities.
Most nations have mechanisms for handling justice and injustice. A nation is expected to treat its citizens according to well established traditions and agreed upon laws. A company like Facebook does not have by far the same requirements. But when a company builds a virtual nation like Facebook, should there not be requirements beyond the usual mom and pop shop?
Facebook is building not just a virtual nation. It is well on its way in establishing a communication monopoly. As a user you have extremely limited power. Not even powers to appeal an arbitrary decision seem to be granted to some struck by injustice. It lends credence to Wild West forums such like WhyWeProtest.org where lightning may strike from above but not from a blue sky.
Here’s my time line:
A month ago I sent friends requests to some old acquaintances still in the Church of Scientology. Apparently among them were people who felt offended by a renegade like me trying to hook up on Facebook. I received a complaint from the Facebook administration. Lesson learned: Do not communicate to anyone hitting the Kool Aid. I stopped sending out friends requests altogether. I still received a good deal of friends requests and proposals from my friends that I accepted.
A few days ago one of my FB acquaintances (let’s call him Jack) sent out a message to some 20 people complaining about a person (we’ll use the name Paul) allegedly impersonating him on Facebook. I was on the list of people he sent this complaining to. He kept on ranting about how bad this other person was until one of the 20 recipients (let’s call him Rusty) dared to query him about the incident. Jack all of a sudden jumped on Rusty and claimed he was ganging up with Paul in attacking him. In between calling Rusty a liar, a unionist, an idiot etc, he threatened legal actions. Jack went completely ape shit. I asked them to take this off the list and handle this only between the two of them. Jack was offended by this. Others on the list asked the same as this was spamming their message area. Jack started generalizing his attack and ended up sending complaints on perhaps everyone on the list to the Facebook administration. One innocent bystander asked Jack to stop it as she had received a Facebook warning.
The next day my own account was disabled. Apparently Jack managed to also hit me with an FB warning and it seems one is exiled after a second warning. I asked why my account was disabled. Here’s the answer I got from Facebook support:
“Your account was disabled because it was in violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Nudity, sexually explicit, and other graphic content is not permitted on Facebook, nor is any content that contains self harm, depicts violence, or attacks an individual or group. In addition, harassing others through unsolicited friend requests or messages is prohibited.
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to reactivate your account or respond to your email directly. This decision is final and cannot be appealed.”
It cannot be appealed. Wow. No explanation. No appeal. No recourse for the injustice. Now there’s a recipe for debarring someone you don’t like on Facebook. Cook up some reason for complaint and they’ll get hit by lightning from a blue sky. Amazing.
If you wonder if the crazy story about Flippin’ Jack is also Scientology related… yes indeed it is. Around the Church of Scientology is a mine field.
This little story exemplifies why a serious debate is needed about the responsibilities of social networks. For me it’s certainly not the end of the world. I got onto FB less than a year ago and had only some 1200 friends. But for those who have invested much more time and effort into this social network such arbitrary injustice may inflict real damage. A debate on consumer’s rights, freedom of speech, recourse for injustice and democratizing social network seems timely.
Maybe it’s time for a democratic, Open Source, SETI-at-Home type of Facebook alternative?
Now I may well be barred again for trying to bounce back, but such arbitrary injustice without possibilities for appeal should not stand unopposed.
So I have created a new Facebook account. I refuse to be shut up. I love to have many friends. I cherish the many different viewpoints. I am enriched by people having very different views than myself. Communication is dear to me. And so I will accept anyone asking to be my friend on Facebook or elsewhere.
Want a new friend? Use this link to hook up on Facebook: