Last month I posted the above image as a commentary on a Facebook post. The image is a caricature of a campaign poster in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, on which a veiled Muslim woman and a Jew are kissing in front of the iconic Erasmus bridge.
I greatly dislike the puritanical culture that Facebook imposes on its users. Of course, it has every right to do so as an enterprise operating in a free market. But such ‘blocks’ that last 3 days after the first violation, 7 days after the second and ‘even longer’ after more offences, become a serious barrier for those of us who are used to slightly less puritanical limits to their free speech.
These bans convince me that we need a Commons Facebook that differs from the current commercial platform in three ways:
1) It has no central authority, hence no universal ‘community standards’. There can be several coexisting communities with slightly different standards;
2) It has no incentive of profit extraction. The platform shall be paid for by public funding (like the British National Health Service);
3) Since it is tax-funded, decisions about the platform will be made by a representative democracy.
Facebook has too much power. Its good intention to ban images it considers offensive are promoting a very specific and dominating puritanical culture at the expense of minority views. It makes these values appear as universalities, especially to young social media users, to whom a block from the platform is akin to ostracism. First, they are afraid of speaking up against the arbitrary morals of the all-powerful Facebook, then it becomes unthinkable to do so. There is no need for mind control. The new generation of users that Facebook is raising, will voluntarily censor themselves. They will incorporate the mores of the behemoth, and the fear of becoming an outcast will make them aggressive against those who violate the ‘community standards’.
You have been warned.