Facebook steps up censorship: People can no longer have online conversations without potentially getting censored


(Planet Today) Facebook’s censorship has gone out of control in the recent past. Now, users can no longer discuss their hobbies on the platform without potentially getting censored.

The social media giant reportedly censored discussion of gardening tools in a group about gardening. “Facebook’s censors are digging deep – flagging the word ‘hoe’ in a western New York gardening group because they apparently confused the tool for a disparaging term for women,” the New York Post reported.

A group called WNY Gardeners has been repeatedly flagged by Facebook for “violating community standards” when its more than 7,500 members discussed the long-handled gardening tool – which is spelled with an “e,” unlike the offensive term.

When one member commented “Push pull hoe!” on a post about preferred weeding tools, Facebook sent a notification that read: “We reviewed this comment and found it goes against our standards for harassment and bullying.”

“And so I contacted Facebook, which was useless,” said Elizabeth Licata, a member of the group. “You know, I said this is a gardening group, a hoe is gardening tool.”

Licata said she never received a response from Facebook, but a company representative told the Associated Press that some of the enforcements had been corrected and an actual person will check supposedly offensive posts in the future before the group is sanctioned or deleted.

“We have plans to build out better customer support for our products and to provide the public with even more information about our policies and how we enforce them,” Facebook said in an emailed statement.

The extra set of eyes did not prevent a subsequent post in the group from being automatically disabled because of “possible violence, incitement or hate in multiple comments,” Licata said.

“Kill them all,” “drown them in soapy water” and “Japanese beetles are jerks,” were some comments posted in the group that Facebook deemed offensive, according to the moderator. (Related: Biden White House will weaponize Facebook against ‘problematic’ accounts.)

Facebook flags posts referencing seaside attraction in UK

It was not Facebook’s first hoe faux pas.

This winter, the social network apologized to residents of Plymouth Hoe, an area of the coastal city of Plymouth in England, for repeatedly flagging posts that referenced the seaside attraction.

“These posts were removed in error and we apologize to those who were affected. We’re looking into what happened and will take steps to rectify the error,” Facebook said at the time.

Plymouth Hoe is one of the most well-known sites in the UK’s seafaring history, the spot where Sir Francis Drake reputedly finished a game of bowls before heading out to fight the Spanish Armada. Facebook has found itself in hot water after challenging some posts from local people who innocently mentioned the Hoe, mistakenly thinking they were using a misogynist term.

The problem emerged when some Plymouth Facebook users spotted that their posts were coming under unexpected scrutiny. The administrator of one Plymouth Facebook page warned its users to be careful when mentioning the Hoe.

“Just a quick post to say anyone living Plymouth h o e, please don’t write it as one word,” the Plymouth Facebook page administrator said. “Facebook is saying it’s harassment and muting people and giving them a Facebook ban. It’s not us doing that.”

One user said: “Someone asked me where I swam in Plymouth and I replied, “Plymouth H O E. I got told off for bad language and could not comment for two days.” Another one added that when she mentioned the Hoe, she received a message: “Are you sure you want to post this, it may be deemed offensive to some?”

Humor writer shares the time he got censored by Facebook

Columnist and humorist David Chartrand recently wrote an op-ed for Los Angeles Times, sharing the time he was censored by Facebook.

It happened when he uploaded a post that contained the sentence “Yes, Virginia, there are stupid Americans.” Three minutes later, Facebook sent him an alert that his post had been intercepted and blocked from publication.

Chartrand said his post had no particular purpose or rationale. “What’s the fun of being a humor writer if you can’t be pointlessly irrational now and then?” he wrote.

He related that Facebook gave him the option to accept or disagree with its decision and that he chose to disagree. Facebook then sent a reply confirming that he disagreed with its decisions and asked him why he disagreed. Five minutes after submitting his disagreement, Facebook rejected it and assigned him a case number and a deadline for final appeal.

The appeals are handled by Facebook’s Oversight Board, which told Chartrand that the words “stupid Americans” constitute hate speech.

“All I remember was a Facebook reply stating that any juxtaposition of the words ‘stupid’ and ‘Americans’ is an offense against the community. It was never clear whether we were discussing my community or Facebook’s. I was pretty sure my community had no standards, let alone any opinions about stupid Americans,” Chartrand wrote.

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