It was announced today that Faceboook will “flag” satirical articles, such as those from the online satire news site, “The Onion” (which was named specifically). The report (link) goes on to explain that many Facebook users are “fooled” and “fall victim” to satirical articles. So, in order to “combat” this issue, the article says, “‘We are running a small test which shows the text ‘[Satire]’ in front of links to satirical articles in the related articles unit in News Feed,’ a Facebook spokesperson told Ars Technica. ‘This is because we received feedback that people wanted a clearer way to distinguish satirical articles from others in these units.’
To many, however, this is raising some very serious red flags. First of all, back in May of 2014, Facebook was blasted for labeling ANY article posted on the site which just mentioned the word “Islam” as unsafe. An article from The Examiner dated May 31, 2014 (link) stated, “How far is Facebook apparently willing to go to stifle certain topics or articles? On Friday, administrators of the Facebook page ‘Islam Exposed’ informed Examiner that at least two of our recent articles were falsely flagged by Facebook as ‘unsafe.’ Affected articles had one element in common: Both mentioned Islam.”
For years, Facebook has faced scrutiny over it’s self-labeled “privacy policies”. Many feel that the company takes broad liberties in using surveillance-like technology to gather information on it’s users. But why is this latest revelation a reason for concern? Well, let’s start with the word “satire” itself. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition is as follows (link):
sat·ire noun ˈsa-ˌtī(-ə)r
: a way of using humor to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc. : humor that shows the weaknesses or bad qualities of a person, government, society, etc.
Let’s take a look at Oxford’s definition (link):
Pronunciation: /ˈsaˌtī(ə)r /
1The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
Now isn’t that interesting? Facebook is mistaking the words satire and hoax. You see, the critical issue with Facebook saying it is going to ban articles with the word “satire” is that satire, in it’s purest form, is a way for people to make other people aware of the government’s mis-doings and actions. Mark Twain popularized satire in the 1800’s as a way of helping people to understand crooked politicians and laws.
According to Wikipedia (link), the history of satire dates back to ancient Egypt. They explain, “Satire and irony in some cases have been regarded as the most effective source to understand a society, the oldest form of social study. They provide the keenest insights into a group’s collective psyche, reveal its deepest values and tastes, and the society’s structures of power. Some authors have regarded satire as superior to non-comic and non-artistic disciplines like history or anthropology. In a prominent example from Ancient Greece, philosopher Plato, when asked by a friend for a book to understand Athenian society, referred him to the plays of Aristophanes.
Historically, satire has satisfied the popular need to debunk and ridicule the leading figures in politics, economy, religion and other prominent realms of power. Satires confronts public discourse and the collective imaginary, playing as a public opinion counterweight to power (being political, economic, religious, symbolic, or otherwise), by challenging leaders and authorities. For instance, it forces administrations to clarify, amend or establish their policies. Satire’s job is to expose problems and contradictions, and it’s not obligated to solve them. Karl Kraus set in the history of satire a prominent example of a satirist role as cofronting public discourse.“
Satire is a way for the public to “challenge leaders and authorities” – and it must remain that way. The Onion is a fake newspaper – akin to Mad Magazine or any other Hoax website or magazine. There is even a website called “Not The Onion” (link) for those who may be confused (such as Mark Zuckerburg and literally everyone at Facebook, obviously) that clearly explains what satire is and is not (hint: “The Onion“, though hilarious, is not satire).
We are already in dangerous times. Just this past week, Princeton University announced a study that concluded America is no longer a democracy (link)! Banning true satire is an infringement on our freedom of speech by Facebook. They may very well be “easing” us in by claiming this is for us poor, defenseless victims of … a lie on the internet by a hoax news website… but this leaves the door wide open for them to start censoring everything they deem “unsafe” for it’s beloved “users”. Facebook is the real user here – using and abusing it’s power with slick PR announcements like this latest one.
Remember the articles with the word “Islam” being used we discussed earlier? Here is another rather scary excerpt from the article (link): “One article dealing with allegations made by a counter-terrorism expert was falsely blocked by Facebook on Wednesday. The other article ironically dealt with a petition on the White House “We the People” site calling for an end to censorship of speech dealing with Islam.
Islam Exposed’s Lisa Michelle said Friday at least six links mentioning Islam appeared, then mysteriously disappeared but “have now miraculously reappeared.” Attempts to share the links on Facebook, however, failed as of this writing.
Administrators of Islam Exposed, a Facebook page recently pulled and restored by Facebook, say it is no mere coincidence that the pages and posts of certain religious, right-leaning, pro-Israel, and humanitarian groups vocal about Islamic brutality, Sharia law, terrorism and jihad, are vanishing into what they called the black hole of Facebook’s abyss. A status update posted by the page asking users to abide by Facebook’s community standards, for example, was removed. According to Facebook, the post violated their community standards. The administrator who posted it also received a 30-day ban. Imagine: A 30-day ban from Facebook for asking visitors to abide by Facebook’s own standards“.
Lest we forget, on top of all of this, Facebook admitted in a scientific study published a few months ago (link), that it purposefully manipulated it’s user’s news feed so to see if they could make certain users happy or sad. Also known as sever psychological warfare. From an article in The Independent (link) about this: “Facebook manipulated the emotions of hundreds of thousands of its users, and found that they would pass on happy or sad emotions, it has said. The experiment, for which researchers did not gain specific consent, has provoked criticism from users with privacy and ethical concerns.
For one week in 2012, Facebook skewed nearly 700,000 users’ news feeds to either be happier or sadder than normal. The experiment found that after the experiment was over users tended to post positive or negative comments according to the skew that was given to their news feed.“
Facebook has been playing with fire, and they will continue to get away with these sweeping policies and “security” measures more and more. What is the solution? No one can be quite sure. But, be aware of the game Facebook is playing with you – what was once a genius way to share information and connect the world may very well have been a dangling carrot that’s sole purpose was always to give us a taste of the freedom before the cage.
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