(Warning: This article contains profanity, partial nudity and images depicting violence. All memes and images shown here have at one time or another appeared on Facebook.)
The definition of a social media meme, pronounced /mēm/ or ‘meem’ is, “noun. an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered
- to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.
- a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.“
Facebook’s own mission statement from their ‘Community Standards‘ Page reads, “Our mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Every day, people come to Facebook to share their stories, see the world through the eyes of others and connect with friends and causes. The conversations that happen on Facebook reflect the diversity of a community of more than one billion people.”
Before going forward, it is important to understand that Facebook is a privately owned company and they are free to set whatever standards they feel are necessary to promote and facilitate a ‘family friendly’ forum. Freedom of speech and expression need not apply when conforming to the standards laid out by this privately owned company.
It is also important to note that with over one billion users, ‘diversity’ is a relative term. What may be considered offensive to some may not be considered offensive to others.
One could reasonably infer from this mission statement and indeed when reading the entirety of the ‘Community Standards’ that such posts containing nudity, profanity and/or racial slurs, threats of violence, pornography and religious discrimination would be deemed unacceptable.
It is also important to understand that Facebook has no one algorithm that automatically flags content as undesirable. Rather, Facebook relies on its users to flag offensive content. Upon receiving a complaint of content, Facebook administrators (herein referred to as FB) decides if the content is acceptable or should be taken down.
Herein lies the beginnings of a double standard.
It is widely understood that this meme (fig 2) was flagged by FB as it depicts a woman who is partially naked. She was photographed standing next to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (albeit, before he became Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister). This was a newsworthy event and was covered by several media outlets.
But FB banned it, it was flagged as offensive content because it did contain nudity and was reported to FB by one or more users.
Fair enough FB.
But now enter double standard. This next image (fig 3) was taken at a Toronto Pride Parade. With genitalia exposed, this image was never flagged as inappropriate.
Why is a bare breasted woman not okay, but a display of penises is fine?
To clarify, displaying a penis if one is Gay is okay. If a straight male tried that, odds are the police would be knocking on the door; FB jail would be the least of all worries.
Both photos were taken at Pride Parades attended by various politicians and public figures. Both images showcase nudity.
In the beginning, FB would flag and ban photos of women breastfeeding. They have since changed their minds on that subject. It apparently was finally realized by FB that breastfeeding is a natural process; it took the actions of Facebook users (and other social media using the hashtag #FreeTheNipple) to convince FB of this and to allow such photos to be shared (fig 4).
So, bare breasted women are not okay to post. A woman breastfeeding is okay to post. And Gay penises are okay to post. Yet it is all nudity in some form or another.
This is the definition of a double standard. Either all forms of nude or partial nude expression must be allowed or none at all.
Enter in a second example of FB’s contrasting principles; it’s okay to slam former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but it’s not okay to even merely question Canada’s new P.M. Justin Trudeau.
This image (fig 5) was featured on a popular grassroots Facebook Page, “Justin Trudeau Not“. Note that the meme does not contain any profanity, nudity nor threats of violence. It was merely a statement surrounding current events. Yet it was removed by FB for an apparent violation of their ambiguous ‘Community Standards’ (fig 6).
The “Justin Trudeau Not” Facebook Page was also threatened with permanent shut down should they continue to post memes of this nature. Again, herein lies a double standard when on the flip-side of the coin, memes such as these (Figs 7 & 8) are still circulating the social media giant.
There was an article that surfaced on cijnews.com, “The popular Facebook page – “Justin Trudeau Not” posts daily memes and articles both poking fun and criticizing the Canadian Liberal Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. On December 11th, one meme was posted highlighting the double standard in Trudeau’s sentiments.”
Political discord is a means to a successful democracy and politicians are fair game for criticism, but how is one kind of criticism that is obviously more blatant and profane okay when another factual meme based on current events is considered a violation of FB ‘Community Standards’?
It would seem that FB was so very careful in the crafting of their ‘Community Standards’; while lending credence to the notion FB stands for freedom of speech, FB covers its own buttocks by reserving the right to remove any post the particular admin may come across.
The third example of FB duplicity is evident in their refusal to remove such hate filled Pages; point-in-case, the ‘Death to Israel’ Facebook Page (fig 9). This is just one Page among more than a few (fig 10) that actively seek to destroy the Jewish state.
In what would be considered common sense to most, threats of violence are apparently not tolerated on Facebook; unless it’s a threat made against Israel or straight white Christians, and even Christians in general, apparently those types of posts are okay by FB standards.
Apparently, if one posts something like “Fuck Palestine, kill them all”, this will be flagged and removed but if one posts “Death to Israel” that is okay by FB standards. How is this anything but a double standard?
Numerous complaints have been submitted to FB by many Facebook users over the “Death to Israel” Pages. One such Facebook user, Cathy Bowslaugh, has reported these Pages numerous times.
“I checked, I reported them 5 times, same answer.” (fig 11), reports Bowslaugh.
Many others, including yours truly, have reported these same Pages to no avail. We all received the same notification of conclusion FB arrived at: “We reviewed the Page you reported for displaying hate speech and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards”.
There also exists a Group that is actively trying to get FB to remove these Pages, “Death to Israel group should be removed from Facebook”. This Group has had only limited success as the Pages still exist but at least were able to take down one of many (fig 11.1 & 11.2).
An article surfaced on YesImRight.com that noted, “Facebook has, for a long time, been a beacon of liberal thought, from its “trending topics” somehow always having something negative to say about Donald Trump and positive about Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, […]”.
This meme (fig 12) was widely reported to FB and was subsequently removed.
Yet entire Pages and groups devoted to the destruction of Israel and Western Democracies are permitted to remain.
Facebook must decide if it really supports freedom of speech (in which most of this content would be okay to post) or it must choose to hold all users and their perspectives to the same standard and disallow all of the above mentioned memes, Pages and Groups.
Another article surfaced on byzvest.com which writes, “Criticizing political leaders and political ideology is the hallmark of a free and democratic society. It’s not up to the Silicon Valley social justice despots who run these social media sites to take it upon themselves to filter the content that’s delivered to us. We can decide for ourselves what content we subjectively deem appropriate.”
Yet another example of the ambiguity of Facebook’s ‘Community Standards’ is shown. One image (Fig 13) was never flagged nor removed by FB, while this image (fig 14) was taken down almost as fast as it was shared on the social media site.
In no way, shape or form am I advocating for hate speech. Many of these images, but certainly not all of these memes & Pages are pure and utter garbage. My issue lies solely with Facebook’s decisions on which content to remove and which content is kept.
I do not condone violence or rape in any sense. I challenge FB to explain to me and its billion users, the difference of a post advocating for the rape of women and a post that is highly critical of the Islamic so-called “Religion of Peace”.
I sincerely believe that FB will not address these issues any time soon. And this is very unfortunate.
It is remarkably hypocritical of the social media giant to censor some posts and apply a double standard to which posts or pages will be removed.
My message to Facebook, An Open Letter:
Attn: Facebook Admins,
Please stop pretending you stand for freedom of speech and expression. Your actions clearly indicate that you are bias to a particular way of thinking.
I do hereby demand a re-evaluation of Facebook’s so-called ‘Community Standards’ as I feel that there exists a double standard in what is censored and what is permissible to post.
Banning photos of topless women while allowing the display of naked men, banning memes featuring harsh criticism of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while allowing memes that feature harsh criticism of former P.M. Stephen Harper, banning pro-Israel groups and Pages while allowing hate-speech Pages like ‘Death to Israel” are all examples of double standards.
Facebook, you must re-evaluate your ambiguous Community Standards Policy. I demand that you do conduct a thorough review.
You either stand by Freedom of Speech, Expression and Perspective, or you don’t. There is no middle ground on this issue. You cannot have it both ways.
If you, Facebook, truly wish to enforce a liberal agenda or one particular mindset, then update your Community Standards to reflect your position. You’re a private company and are free to pursue that avenue should you choose.
You have a choice Facebook; either you stand with free speech or you stand against it.
Either way, you must take a stance and inform your users.
Kevin Harris of Canadian Common Sense
Facebook failed to reply to that message at the time of this publication. Any replies received will be posted here.
I invite all of you to help me hold Facebook to account. I ask you all to sign this petition to force Facebook to re-evaluate their ‘Community Standards’. Thank-you.