opinion

Facebook Censorship Hits The ACLU – The Epitome Of Irony

Colin Rowntree

Between Google, Wikipedia, Bing, RedBook and the Ladies Home Journal, there aren't many mainstream media or tech outlets that haven't stuck an angry finger up the butt of Porn lately to supress it, take away its traffic and simply be annoying in a destructive way.

Even that bastion of free speech and civil liberties (?), the ACLU, fell victim to corporate cowardice and censorship this past weekend at the hands of Facebook!  Now how the hell did THAT happen?  Well, it was the result of the ACLU posting a blog article on their site covering their First Amendment fight with some stodgy town fathers in East Cupcake Kansas about a bronze statue that showed.... OMG..... BREASTS!  The blog posting  covered a group of citizens organized by the nutbar American Family Association that believes the statue to be criminally obscene (it isn’t), and has begun a petition process to haul the sculpture to court (really, they are).

Where the ACLU ran afoul of the new mainstream morality is they included a photo of the statue which, as most blog posts do, got automatically posted to the ACLU Facebook page. The ACLU got word on Sunday that the Facebook post had been deleted, and was no longer viewable by their Facebook followers or anyone else. Then, astoundingly, on Tuesday morning they discovered the ACLU had been blocked from posting for 24 hours, with a message from Facebook warning them of  the dire consequences for repeat violations of its no-porn policy.

The theory of how this happened is Facebook, famous for its privacy invading facial-recognition technology, also has bare booby recognition detectors.  Now, EVERYBODY knows that although you can post photos of beheadings and mutilation on Facebook, don't even THINK about posting up a titty shot. Even if it's a family photo showing a baby breast feeding.

To seal the deal with the cyber-sniffing Facebook censor technology, the woman in the bronze statue has a rather remarkable rack that must have set off a five-alarmer at the Facebook's little NSA wanna-be division of public morality. What the ACLU then discovered is what those of us in the adult entertainment industry have known all along about the corporate giants that now control our information and set the standards for what you can and can't see:  there is no easy way to contact the media corporation that did the takedown, or even any sort of online appeals process for little boo-boos like this one.  

The ACLU is not just your average Joe on the street and within a few days, it's probably certain that a liberal Senator or Federal Judge that are ACLU members stuck a nine iron up Mark Zukerberg's butt at the 19th hole of the golf course.  It all ended quickly. Peace was restored to the ACLU realm, and Facebook sent a rather spineless bullshit apology:

We apologize for this error. Unfortunately, with more than a billion users and the hundreds of thousands of reports we process each week, we occasionally make a mistake. We hope that we've rectified the mistake to your satisfaction.

Facebook then restored the original post. The ACLU forgave them. Hmmmm.... Spineless knows no bounds and the ACLU is right up there with the EFF for this sort of mainstream corporate ass kissing (fundraising is a tricky issue they say). The astounding thing in this matter is that the ACLU did not even hint at a defense of posting a boob pic of a bronze statue covered in bird poop, but deflected to its political importance. Shame on you for pandering and bowderlizing this into your fundraising strategy. You posted a boob photo. Defend it. In a subsequent post, ACLU spokesman Lee Rowland hinted at his organization now getting a bit more aware of digital censorship, saying

My colleague Jay Stanley has highlighted the dangers of corporate censorship before here on the pages of Free Future. He argues that as the digital world steadily eclipses the soap box as our most frequent forum for speech, companies like Facebook are gaining government-like power to enforce societal norms on massive swaths of people and content. A business primer from our colleagues in California illustrates how heavy-handed censorship is as bad a choice in business as it is in government.

Ashcroft statue censorship

Most of us remember in a combination of amusement and horror back in the Bush Administration when then Attorney General John Ashcroft demanded putting drapes over the naked bits of statues in Washington D.C. (as just an added touch to his horribly failed war on porn).  But there is a new enemy to free speech and it's not the government - it's the corporations which are a far more impossible foe to defeat. Governments, at least in the US and other NATO countries, have some checks and balances and although difficult, citizens can unite and through the due process of the constitution, changes can be made to happen. Well. Aside from the NSA. On that, go pound sand, buddy, and be careful what you write or say or think.

But, corporations are different.  They are kingdoms unto themselves and unless they do something REALLY stupid, are pretty much exempt from anything unless hit with a class action suit (which takes years and usually doesn't work), petitions to boycott their goods and services (which RARELY work), or enough pissing and moaning on twitter to get a damage control reaction. Trusted source that knows about these complex issues, Stewart Tongue, adds:

The real danger is that the current climate creates a symbiotic relationship between giant companies in need of regulatory preference and governments seeking back channels for squelching opposition without drawing legal challenges or the attention of the public" said Stewart Tongue of Engine Food. "From a legal perspective, Freedom of speech only covers pure and direct government prohibitions, but with programs like Prism and the dark work of the NSA, the idea that large conglomerates like FaceBook, Google or others might be used as proxies to interrupt and curtail free speech with no possibility of a successful legal challenge by Free Speech advocates is more than just a fleeting possibility.

As for the ACLU's little brush with the new reality of corporate censorship, I'm glad somebody other than pornographers and erotic ebook authors are now getting a taste of this bitter pill.  Maybe they will spread the message before it's all just too late to fix, or at least loudly protest, and we end up back in some version of 1955 Middle America morality. Will the ACLU or EFF have the spine to take this on? I seriously doubt it, but would love to see them shift focus onto mainstream corporate censorship.  I suspect they won't though. Too much money at stake from sponsorships. Dream on......

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