LGBT Folks Flagged on Facebook For ‘Inappropriate’ Content

Photo: Sister Roma. Credit: Matt Baume.

Some LGBT people are pleased with how Facebook handled their concerns regarding the flagging of "inappropriate" content on Facebook, while others feel that the social media giant could do more to address the community's concerns.

Bruce Beaudette, a gay man in San Francisco, was recently banned from Facebook for one week for posting the word "dyke." A Queer history buff, Beaudette shared the cover of an issue of Dyke, a quarterly lesbian magazine which was published in New York City during the 1970s. The cover photo featured five butch women with the caption "Dyke Is Out. Are you?" Beaudette added his own caption to his posting: "Dyke should always be out. And yes, I am also always out."

The posting was removed by Facebook. "We removed the post below because it doesn't follow Facebook community standards." stated the message Beaudette received just prior to his banning, during which time he could not post, comment, like posts or respond to messages. He notes that Dyke Magazine is archived at Radcliffe College and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

"A human being at Facebook was not against what I posted," Beaudette told SFGN. "Nor do I think that anyone reported me. A computer program flagged and blocked me. A call center and a human operator could figure out the mistake."

Many in the LGBT community have asked Facebook to set up a call center where issues such as these can be properly resolved without unfairly penalizing someone who has done nothing wrong. Though Facebook has declined to set up a call center, the company has, according to some, made strides in addressing community concerns.

"I am happy with the progress that the #MyNameIs team has made with Facebook," said Sister Roma of the San Francisco chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who was a leader in the recent My Name Is/Real Names controversy which forced many people to use their birth names on their Facebook pages. Facebook's Real Names policy was offensive to many transgender people who no longer live as their birth names. The policy was also said to put the lives of battered women at risk, as they might be using a pseudonym in order to hide from their abusers.

"We got them to meet with us and really understand how our community, specifically LGBTQ people, use the site authentically with names that can't be proven by a government ID or piece of paper," Roma added. As a result, Facebook changed the "Fake Name" reporting process to make it more difficult to report someone. They have also made changes to the appeals process and gone as far as to establish a team specifically assigned to address LGBT and other users who check the "special circumstances" box. Now you can explain who you are and why your identity is authentic."

Sister Roma feels that Facebook remains safe for queer people. "I know that Facebook embraces diversity and welcomes all users, especially the LGBTQ community," she said. "They never had a personal vendetta against LGBTQ people. Unfortunately, it is the Facebook users who attack and harass our community. Facebook has defenses we can use against that type of behavior including blocking and reporting bad behavior. However, the site, which I believe now boasts 2 billion users, has a lot of work to do recognizing the difference between queer positive posts that reclaim and honor queer words that can also be used in a hateful and abusive way."

Brooke Oliver is a lesbian attorney who represents Dykes on Bikes. Like Beaudette, Oliver had a comment removed and was banned for using the word Dyke. Dykes on Bikes is a well-known lesbian motorcycle organization.

"We're using the word dyke to reclaim it and to take out it's sting," Oliver said. "Context is essential. Self-referential speech is political speech and is protected by the constitution. I think it's important to reclaim these words."

Oliver noted that she got through to Facebook attorneys by contacting them via snail mail at Facebook's Menlo Park CA headquarters. She got a response. "We are insisting that there be apologies and that they be public," she said. "These are bad business practices."

Other feel that Facebook does not have the community's best interests at heart. "The negatively impactful prejudice exhibited by Facebook's decision to target and flag our community is a reflection of the prejudice that we experience in our society," said Monica Anderson, an African American queer woman. "Until marginalized LGBTQ folks hold decision-making power at Facebook, or form our own Social Media platform to rival Facebook, we will always be the last considered when it comes to human rights and the first considered when it comes to tokenism and exploitation."

Lil Miss Hot Mess, a drag performer who was also involved in the Real Names controversy, is another who feels that more can be done to protect queers on Facebook. "Facebook doesn't consider an unsolicited message telling you to kill yourself to be bullying/harassment, surprise surprise," she posted on her page. SFGN was unable to reach Lil Miss for comment.

Beaudette, nevertheless, maintains that he feels safe on Facebook, and continues to claim that a call center would resolve all LGBT issues quickly and fairly.

"It is frustrating that Facebook chooses to ignore people," he said. "They seem to rely too much on their own cleverness. They could though, staff a call center somewhere in America that is needful of employment opportunities, like Flint, Michigan. Helpful to their users needs like me, and great publicity for them."

Facebook reps Will Nevius and Justin Osofsky did not respond to the author's emails inquiring how the issues raised by Beaudette might be dealt with.


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