No really, Facebook has black friends!

Facebook reserves the right to block or ban users who violate community standards. But decisions about what exactly violates those standards sometimes seem arbitrary (or worse).
Facebook reserves the right to block or ban users who violate community standards. But decisions about what exactly violates those standards sometimes seem arbitrary (or worse).

Facebook is like a friend who never forgets anyone’s birthday.

It helps you keep in touch with your friends and family, and even remembers your Spotify and Hulu passwords when you don’t.

Most of us would say this is a good thing (who remembers passwords now anyway?)

We all use Facebook, cause it’s our fave — but our fave is problematic!

Facebook could also be that out-of-touch coworker who you sometimes eat lunch with. You know who I mean: the one that quotes MLK un-ironically, and says, “I love everyone,” but locks their car door when they see anyone darker than them walk by.

Facebook could be one of those ‘cool’ family members that you only see at seasonal gatherings who likes rap but says “Why are they rioting? It doesn’t solve anything.”

Facebook is the kind of friend who invites you over, yet passive aggressively makes it clear that you are just a guest. They are “down” in theory, but not in deed.

I know what you’re thinking “How could this be!? Facebook likes everyone! They’re ‘colorblind’!”

Maybe, but their actions seem to say otherwise.

Facebook is the cop who shows up at KKK rallies to protect their ‘free speech,’ but will arrest you at a peaceful protest for expressing yours.

Facebook retains the right to coordinate with law enforcement in cases of credible threats of violence, self-injury, or perceived involvement with ‘dangerous organizations,’ and what it deems, “criminal activity.” Earlier this month, they were caught by the ACLU providing user data to a police surveillance program that tracked the protests in Baltimore and Ferguson.

Facebook is the cop in riot gear who shows up at KKK rallies to protect their ‘free speech,’ but will arrest you at a peaceful protest for expressing yours. Why else would Facebook shut down Korryn Gaines’ live streamed encounter with police?

Facebook removes posts that are reported to contain nudity, hate speech, violence and other graphic content. It reserves the right to remove what is reported or perceived as spam, as well as trademarked and copyrighted media posted on the site without authorization.

Violate these rules and Facebook unilaterally deletes posts, suspends your ability to post, and in some cases outright deactivates pages reported for violating the standards.

While banning a toxic personality in the world of social media isn’t new, Facebook’s “community standards” are becoming coded penalties for its users of color.

But its ok! Facebook “doesn’t see race.”

“Facebook always punishes activists for speaking out, but not the people making the racist comments themselves…” says Jama Abdirahman, a regular Globalist contributor, who recently had a run in with Facebook community standards.

He’s alluding to the fact that Facebook rarely seems to takes action against white users who engage in racist harassment. Abdirahman was recently blocked temporarily from the platform for a comment of his that was reported.

“Facebook deleted a good amount of my posts and banned me for three days… Almost a week before the ban, I was getting attacked by racist white folks on different comment sections and in my personal inbox, I began to screenshot the comments and messages, [and posted them ] until Facebook deleted them all and hit me with the ban.”

A screenshot taken by Malcolm Bevel after Facebook decided he'd violated their community standards by posting a racist message he'd received.
A screenshot taken by Malcolm Bevel after Facebook decided he’d violated their community standards by posting a racist message he’d received.

“It was frustrating,” he continues, “because the same Facebook community standards used to suspend my account allowed the racists to keep theirs active. I really felt like it was a strategic effort to silence black folks like myself and many other activists using Facebook’s platform as a means to work towards racial justice.”

Another user, Malcolm Bevel, who sometimes moonlights as a moderator for the popular Facebook page, Love life of an Asian Guy, was recently suspended for sharing a profanity-laced, and epithet-filled private message he received from a white woman that he angered in a comment section. Bevel was handed a 30-day ban from Facebook, while the woman who was doing the harassing wasn’t met with any penalties for her actions.

In September, Facebook suspended Shaun King, a Black Lives Matter activist, and the Senior Justice writer for the NY Daily News, for sharing a picture of an e-mail with someone calling him a “N***r.”

Last year, “White Student Union” pages that shared blatant white supremacist ideology on the platform proliferated when a news story alleged that black student athletes had experienced racism at that the University of Illinois. Weren’t the community standards supposed to handle this? Why are some of these pages still up? Why were community members like me left to try to counter their hatred on our own?

The author's Facebook interactions with the University of Illinois "White Student Union" page users.
The author’s Facebook interactions with the University of Illinois “White Student Union” page users.

Maybe it’s be because the technical workforces of Facebook and its contemporaries Google, Microsoft and Twitter are on average 56 percent White, 37 percent Asian, three percent Latino or Hispanic, and a meager one percent black? Maybe it’s the fact that 71 percent of Facebook’s senior staff are white?

Facebook blames its nearly non-existent diversity on a lack of available talent, but it just seems like Facebook (and its contemporaries) may not think of black and brown tech labor as “talented.” In this light, Facebook’s #blacklivesmatter sign seems like a vacuous gesture to make to Mark Zuckerberg (and company) look “totally not racist, bro.”

If #blacklivesmatter so much, why didn’t he hire more black people? Better yet, if #blacklivesmatter so much, why were Facebook employees crossing those words out, and writing “all lives matter” on the company’s signature Wall?

The "Wall" at Facebook headquarters, where employees have been reprimanded for crossing out "Black Lives Matter." (Photo from Flickr by Quim Gil)
The “Wall” at Facebook headquarters, where employees have been reprimanded for crossing out “Black Lives Matter.” (Photo from Flickr by Quim Gil)

Facebook is the person in line with you at Starbucks that interrupts your conversation about social justice with your friend and asks “why does it always have to be a ‘racial thing?’”

Facebook is the person in comment sections who “used to support #blacklivesmatter,” but doesn’t now, because “MLK would never block the Freeway.”

So yeah, Facebook, is the chill neighbor who would lets kids inside their yard to get a ball that went over their fence, but it’s also the neighbor who calls the police on the “suspicious looking black man” in their apartment complex, despite the fact he’s lived next door for a year.

It’s O.K. though! Don’t worry! Facebook went on a mission trip to Nigeria that one time! It was so fulfilling!

Facebook cant be racist, Facebook has black friends!

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3 Comments

  1. I started by identifying myself and had to rethink that. Does it matter? Would you listen or not listen because of my color? Worth thinking about. I get it. I’ve been in the activist trenches for 40 years, that’s the only thing I think really matters here – I have been fighting intolerance, misogyny and greed all my adult life in one way or another, so that’s cred enough, I would hope. I am in agreement with your principle, and it’s high time we all spoke up frankly around this issue. I support your rage, resentment and anguish. I hear you. I also hear a lot of generalizing around this whole issue. A lot of data-induced sneering. I want to hear about the last time you had a real interaction with a white person that led you to a different place. This whole dialogue is uncomfortable for you too, I suspect. I don’t want to stop with more spew that justifies your obvious grievance. I want to hear your struggles to get beyond. I want to hear thoughts you might have about the many white people who genuinely show up respectful and ready to engage and support. Or maybe you have some filters on your lenses, too? All of us, – white, black, women, gay, immigrant, progressive, Jewish, whatever, have some serious river to cross. I, myself, choose to accept and embrace the differences and vow to reach the other side where we can live together with compassion and dignity. It distresses me when I realize it doesn’t matter what sincere intention is in my heart because I can’t overcome how you might look at me or hear my words. It saddens me when I run across someone caught up in grievance to the point they can’t see me at all. Sound familiar? Are you hearing me?

    1. LOL. You sound silly with this “All Lives Matter” entreat. I don’t need you to agree with “my principle”, because these are other peoples principles too. You “Hear” generalizing, because thats your reflexive urge to protect whiteness. Which is ok, America has always been a bastion of white feelings… Don’t you think thats why I wrote the piece in the first place? The centering of how white people might perceive a critique Facebook’s lack of diversity, as “Data based sneering, is also called “Accountability”, which Facebook isn’t very big on when it comes to its users of color. Its not my job to hand out “Good Ally” cookies to every Tom, Bridget, Dick, and Harriet, who is a decent human, fighting the good fight. It is in no way, shape, or form, my duty to talk about what white people do to show how forward thinking they are. You have a whole white dominated platform for that kind of aggrandizement…. Have you heard of Facebook or nah?

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