I deactivated my Fascbook account. I promised myself that I would do so if they ever censored one of my posts, as had been experienced by others. It appears that they did so today. In fairness, I don’t think we will ever know for sure what happened to my post. All I know is:
- I posted a commentary on an article that was recommended on my LinkedIn page.
- It disappeared a few minutes later.
- I searched for it; exited IE, then re-entered. Still gone. Did I inadvertently delete it? Possibly, but I can’t see how. Is there a bug with FB? As a software developer, I know that’s always a possibility, but why didn’t this happen with the other posts?
- But … there are numerous examples of this censorship online and among friends. Additionally, someone may have reported my post as “abusive” or something. If that was the case, that person, if they are a “friend”, should have brought it up to me directly.
It probably was that I referred to MSFT founders as “nerds”, but not in any form more harmful than we IT types, me very much included, call ourselves nerds. Good god, I thought “The Big Bang Theory” made it cool to be a nerd. My comment was something like:
“.. a bunch of nerds, despite their great success, still feeling inferior to IBMers …”
My Fascbook post was in regard to a quote in a Vanity Fair article:
“They used to point their finger at IBM and laugh,” said Bill Hill, a former Microsoft manager. “Now they’ve become the thing they despised.”
Unfortunately, I don’t have any record of the full post since I never did think I would need to refer to it elsewhere and not have access to it. It was actually meant to be sympathetic towards the MSFT founders, that they are every bit as much as the IBMers and never had a reason to feel inferior. I had the feeling while I worked at Microsoft that many people harbored inferiority complexes in relation to folks from companies such as IBM (better at delivery and execution), Oracle (better DBMS), and Apple (cooler products). I personally always thought the obsession with being like Oracle, Google, IBM, Apple, etc was silly and I was incredibly proud to work there. My feeling was Microsoft had a ton going for it the others were envious of, but chose instead to be strive to be like “X” instead of Microsoft.
To Facebook: If this is just a misunderstanding, let me know. I can’t seem to find a way to get a human response.
What purpose does this experience of mine serve on a blog site on Business Intelligence? A whole lot. Sites like Fascbook rely on algorithms and feedback from customers to flag posts they may find objectionable. This is a form of “predictive analytics” – predicting “offensive” posts. Then, I’m sure that filtered set of posts are submitted either to a deeper analytics engine and/or a human to determine an action. Predictive analytics has to be more than a numbers game. Even one bad false positive (or false negative) can make a big impact. This sort of thing is precisely what I don’t want predictive analytics solutions I develop to toss onto innocent people already too busy with what is already on their plates.
This thoughtless (literally) implementation of predictive analytics is extremely bad for our business. We will all fall victim some time to this attitude of folliwng 80/20 rules – ex: If we can automatically (or with minimal human intervention) remove 99% of the offensive posts and only 1% of the legitimate ones are removed, that’s great. Most people don’t like the notion of machines “thinking” for us in the first place.
In any case, I can’t see how my post would have violated their “Code of Conduct”, which I 100% agree with as it stands today, BTW.
Although I do make posts on Facebook that express my opinions, which aren’t always sugary and Pollyanna, I would never post anything inflammatory or gratuitously mean-spirited there, especially since my FB friends are family as well as colleagues. Yes, I like other entrepreneurs have opinions. I consider that a good trait and what drives me to put my money where my mouth is and build products like Map Rock that hopefully will fill voids making life better. I’ve seen Facebook’s “code of conduct” and my post doesn’t qualify by any stretch. Some things I post because they are fun. Some are related to issues that I’m interested in that are sometimes not exactly fun and games. So I see this as censorship well beyond what is reasonable.
Besides, even if my post were an over-the-top, mean-spirited one, do the Microsoft founders need the Facebook Police to protect them against me? I believe there are times some things should be censored, but those are very rare occasions that could affect the safety of someone. My FB post certainly doesn’t qualify in the slightest.
This experience is very troubling and a serious issue. At least in the real world, you get a trial for an alleged “crime”. But I’ve had no explanation from Facebook. Apparently, it’s very difficult to get any sort of human response from them.
From the point of view of a citizen, it doesn’t feel like we’re headed in the right direction if your opinions are so easily censored. We couldn’t be that fragile. From a BI or predictive analytics point of view, it makes me stop and think more about the danger of false positives.
None of us are going to agree on everything. Yes, there is a line we shouldn’t cross and I believe most of us know what that looks like. I personally don’t like the idea of having my values and opinions, and equally the values and opinions of others, dictated by anyone at Facebook or anywhere else. If people have disagreements, they can work it out amongst themselves. They don’t need the help of a bunch of strangers who like to play God.
What kind of arrogance does it take for a company to feel they can play judge and jury like that? I don’t want any part of that Facebook world. Who made them the Police of the World? Well, we did by immigrating to their virtual “country”. At least for now, they are only the Facebook Police.
It’s important to understand that there is a difference between me deleting a comment from my blog site and Facebook removing a post I write on my wall, especially since it is only seen by those in my group. A comment on my blog is between the commenter and me. Things on my Facebook wall are between my 59 friends and me, even though it is on “Facebook soil”. All 59 of my Facebook friends can de-friend me or express their disapproval themselves.
I imagine that WordPress (hosts of this blog site) would remove blogs that are truly inappropriate and viewable by the public. However, as a reminder, my post on Facebook was not of that nature. It was commentary, it was tongue-in-cheek, there was no profanity, it wasn’t targeted at puppies or baby seals, it made no threats, there was no slander, and as I said, it was meant to portray support for the MSFT founders who always seemed to have this inferiority complex in relation to IBM.
With that said, I’m deporting myself back to the world of relating to my friends the old way. Facebook re-connected me to many long lost people. Some were blessings, a few perhaps are relationships that maybe should have died a natural death – we all change over time and no longer have that unique chemistry that made us friends long ago. More so though, I do believe some of my stronger friendships were drastically degraded into a lowest common denominator of shallowness because of Facebook. After all, why call or visit when we already know what’s up seeing updates just about every day?
An over-reliance on Facebook to relate to people is part of the McGoogle mentality of no sense of delayed gratification that troubles me deeply. The lowest common denominator level of friendships via Facebook, the shallow answers found through Google, and the mass produced food of McDonalds promote a mentality of instant gratification.
It’s not that I’m not guilty of partaking: I LOVE McDonalds and I use Google at least 20 times a day. Sometimes I just need a lunch that I know I can obtain quickly and will be very tasty. Sometimes I just need an answer now. But I also believe that delayed gratification is the super-skill that is the foundation of peace of mind and performing “miraculous” feats. Every day I take time to nurture that skill while living in a world that operates on instant gratification more and more.
This incident actually happened three days ago. The day after I felt a void without Facebook. I automatically wanted to check if I had notifications or messages or if anyone posted something good. But interestingly by yesterday, Facebook was already out of my daily routine. Email quickly filled the void that Facebook had taken from it five years ago. Life is complex enough in the real world with what as John Stossel refers to as the “rule orgy” without adding the rules of the Teletubby world Facebook seems to want to forge.
Laurie mentioned to me that I was one of the few people left in our Facebook circles who still posted on a regular basis and things beyond just clever retorts of other posts, “… I had burgers for lunch …”, or worst of all, game updates. I think Facebook is fading and will probably be replaced by something closer to home of the “infrastructure” companies.
One last thing, and really, this is the important point about censorship. Think about if Facebook cleansed everything about hating dogs and none of us ever saw anything about hating dogs on Facebook. Wouldn’t you wrongly conclude that there is no problem with dog-hating?
These days the term “censorship” is tossed around more as a benevolent act that protects the public from horrors such as nudity, violence, and profanity. However, in communist/fascist countries, censorship is a tactic to manipulate the general public. I’m not calling Facebook fascists, but ex parte judgement of what is appropriate is censorship. Remember that no matter what your politics may be.
So to all my Facebook friends, catch you on an old-fashioned lunch, phone call, email or … yes, the not-so-old-fashioned LinkedIn, where we will have richer conversations.