Facebook, considering the power and authority it has in today’s world, is not always great at making decisions.
A classic case of this was picked up on by almost every major newspaper earlier this week, with artist Jackie Charley bafflingly having her festive painting of a robin blocked by the social media site for its supposed “sexual” and “adult” content.
It’s just about the most inoffensive picture you’re ever likely to see, but Facebook, for some reason, didn’t like it. It seemingly either had a bit of quirky view of sexuality, or it made a mistake. The latter was soon revealed to be the case, with a spokesperson from the site admitting to The Telegraph that the picture was banned in error and has now been reinstated with apologies for the inconvenience.
It’s not the first time, however, that Facebook’s decision to censor something has caused some bewilderment. Here are three other examples of times when the site went a bit power crazy, and received a big ‘thumbs down’ from the media and general public as a result.
1. A Pulitzer prize-winning photo
Nick Ut’s iconic ‘The Terror of War’ photograph, showing a naked Vietnamese child fleeing from a napalm attack, is undoubtedly a moving and powerful image. When it was included on a post by Norwegian writer Tom Egeland in September 2016, however, Facebook seemed to struggle to distinguish it from child pornography, deleting the post and suspending Egeland’s account.
It was only after heavy pressure from the media, and a number of Facebook users sharing the photo on the site themselves, that Facebook changed its stance and admitted that the response from its community suggested the “history and global importance” of the image was too significant for a zero tolerance policy on nudity to apply.
2. The word ‘English’
This sounds like the sort of dreadful, hysterical, Daily Mail-style “you can’t say anything these days” story that I can’t stand, but let’s discuss it anyway.
It’s true that last month, a Derbyshire electrician was pulled up by Facebook for using the name ‘English Tim Cox’ on his profile. Facebook has never been keen on people not using their real name, but does allow nicknames. Cox insists that, due to his proud patriotism, he has had the nickname ‘English’ since school, and some of his friends have contested that he is being targeted by a politically correct, anti-English agenda.
Personally, I have to wonder about someone who is so overtly patriotic that they end up with a nickname of their nationality – even among friends with of the same nationality themselves – but it probably is another thing Facebook should’ve just let go. A nationality in itself is not offensive.
3. Viz comic
In early 2016, Facebook showed a clumsy grasp of satire when it “unpublished” the page of adult comic Viz, accusing it of not following its standards.
Viz’s irreverent brand of humour is not to everybody’s taste, but the comic is not trying to deceive anyone, has a huge number of followers and, in physical form, predates Facebook by 25 years. Facebook, really, was just showing here that it didn’t get the joke, and Viz quickly went over to Twitter to make the point.
Just working on our new Facebook profile. What do you think? Still too offensive? pic.twitter.com/5eJufSNoDe
— Viz Comic (@vizcomic) February 16, 2016
Facebook eventually conceded that it had made an error, and removed the block on Viz.
I suppose with the volume of content posted and reported on Facebook every day, it’s inevitable that one or two errors of judgment will creep in, but these oddities – and the time often taken to resolve them – suggest that Facebook headquarters could do with having a bit of a chat about what really is and is not acceptable.