As I sit reflecting on the events posted on social media and unable to respond or share I couldn’t help but notice the mental impact of my forced isolation. This past Sunday my best friend posted a commentary regarding folks’ refusal to wear a mask inside establishments as businesses across the country reopen despite the continuing increase in deaths and infected cases. There are folks who don’t want to wear a mask citing everything from religious persecution to health reasons. So I am reading the post and I am thinking folks complained and protested that businesses should reopen, at the expense of increased deaths. So government leaders caved and began executing the plan to open. Many businesses enacted policies for patrons to wear a mask. But no, here’s Karen complaining. Complaining that her civil rights are being violated because she has been strongly encouraged to wear a mask to reduce the risk of others contracting COVID-19 and possibly dying.
So there I was on a chill, bright Sunday afternoon balancing my time between messaging friends, creating content for work, and scrolling through my Facebook timeline on the latest foolishness regarding COVID, politics, and my daily rants on something I saw. My college bestie doing her usual thing posted the latest foolishness. Without a second thought, I posted the following comment verbatim “I’ve come to the realization Americans really are stupid and the ignorance will cost someone their life” Within six minutes of hitting the post button I received a notification that my comment was inciting hate speech and that I was blocked from posting, sharing, or commenting under my account for seven days.
This wasn’t the first time I had been sent to Facebook jail for my content violating community standards. This was the first time I was sent to jail for having made a generalized statement regarding a post I read. And the first time my opinion which is shared by the majority (at least of my friends who occupy broad perspectives of the political spectrum) was deemed hate speech.
The first time I was sent to Facebook jail it was for three days. My crime? I posted content for my photography business. Apparently Facebook doesn’t like any portion of a black woman’s breasts to show despite nipples being covered and in one situation they were my own breasts while discussing the necessity of wearing body tape to avoid having any wardrobe mishaps.
As I sat in jail unable to share, post, or comment on my personal and business accounts I started to notice a perceived trend. I could still see the activities on my timeline. One glaring bias was a sponsored post from another boudoir photographer. The model is completely nude, nipples out for the world to see. She was also white. I clicked on his page and saw his entire portfolio of nude models; nothing was left to the imagination.
The next glaring discrepancy regarding community standards was from a man who posted a meme of former President Obama with a noose around his neck. The post was able to garner over 100k views before it was taken down days later. The most obvious correlation with these posts between these posts which allowed them to stay up and circulate is the authors were White Men. While I am a Black Woman.
I do agree with having regulated community standards. Under the guise of anonymity, people will post extremely disgusting and disturbing content ranging from full-blown pornography to brutal animal cruelty. Snuff videos of murdered black people during a Facebook live have been circulated more times than I can recall. Yet I am blocked because I referenced a select number of Americans as being stupid and ignorant.
It is no secret Facebook has become a mentally taxing platform. After conversations with close confidants both professional and personal, I realized I was giving this platform way too much of my mental energy. Facebook is a publicly-traded corporation that makes its money from the exchange of personal information and data. My freedom of speech means absolutely nothing. Their grossly biased community standards mean absolutely nothing that it is unfair towards my political views or my minority classification as a Black Woman.
The information posted, pictures shared, businesses started are all data; a commodity more valuable than oil and depending on who wants it, gold. This became painfully obvious during the Cambridge Analytica Scandal in 2016. A scandal that folks seem to have forgotten that changed how U.S. elections and campaigning are conducted. Those cute quizzes on what your spirit animal is, favorite celebrity, or dream lover masks a potentially sinister effort to mine your personal data. Your personal intellectual property (IP).
While most may think that seven days is not that big of a deal, to a degree it is. Not being about to wish a happy birthday, conduct business transactions, or connect with someone on a post they made feels like an episode of Black Mirror “White Christmas”. You can look but cannot engage. Unable to engage with connections that matter almost has a fear of missing out (FOMO) feel to it. A corporation suppressing your voice. Facebook isn’t the only social media platform called out for their perceived racial algorithm bias. Black and other minority creatives have voiced complaints that their content, aside from being stolen, isn’t garnering the same amount of views as non-minorities. This is a common occurrence voiced by many minority influencers. A perfect example of how this gross bias is displayed is Tik Toc. A young black girl creates a new dance move, it goes viral. A young white girl the same age copies dance moves her status and profile skyrockets and she is offered brand deals, national celebrity, and opportunities beyond her wildest dreams. Meanwhile the original creator of the dance song is left behind only to finally being given nothing more than acknowledging credit over a year later.
So what does this have to do with my temporary exile on Facebook you might wonder? As a creative artist and business owner the digital marketing space is dominated by two companies. Google and Facebook. My ability to market my business and reach a specific audience has to go through one of the gatekeepers. Since my personal account was blocked it hindered my ability to do my job on the business side of my account. If I didn’t have a separate website that I own outright what’s to say that Facebook doesn’t block my business from reaching its audience? Facebook is positioning itself to be a one-stop-shop for businesses. Why purchase an e-commerce website when it all be done on the platform? That’s when it dawned on me. After multiple conversations with people in my inner circle of trust, I realized I am not in the position brand-wise to go up against a digital titan who was a victim at best and complicit at worst in a conspiracy to manipulate the democratic election process of the most powerful country in the world.
This is a fight I seriously don’t have a bone, dog, or leg in. Despite my ego and pride screaming to call out the glaring racial bias the social media algorithm has. It’s their house and I have to play by their biased rules. Until more minorities and women enter the field of tech and coding, the deck of cards will continue to be stacked and I will still be forced to play by the rules of a game I will never win. Complaints will continue to fall on deaf ears. Facebook will never be a place where people come together to enjoy conversations and share content. It will be a socially divisive platform used as a tool to manipulate people for the benefit of the powerful. As Dr. King said in his letter from a Birmingham jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In the 21st century, injustice in the digital realm threatens the justice we have and seek in the physical world.