Rachel Stovall

Facebook is in the hot seat again. It looks like everyone in the political world is angry with it. Facebook has been blasted in headlines, dragged before Congress and roundly criticized by users on both sides of the aisle.

Trust in the social media giant is at an all-time low. Even though the research shows that 4 in 10 adults receive their news on Facebook, a poll performed by Pew Research at the end of June showed that 72 percent of respondents believe that Facebook censors posting by users based upon opposition to political content

Addressing concerns Facebook has made some recent changes to how they decide what fits community standards. For the first time, the tech company has revealed their criteria for approving content.

Maybe they can rebuild trust with their users. Or can they?

I wrote a column on Thanksgiving evening about “holidays” and the practice of counting one’s blessings. I tried to contrast gratefulness against the attitude of entitlement we see in some of our society today.

To add a dimension of 2018 politics, I pulled in a quote from conversation that I participated in on Thanksgiving. The quote and summary of the conversation was meant to be my example of how toxic politics keeps us from being grateful. Or content.

I can’t see how this is controversial. I wrote a quiet reminder to all of us, that others do not owe us simply because they have more. And yes, I included an admonition to avoid such thinking.

After the column ran on the Gazette website, I posted it onto my social media page. Much to my shock within mere minutes, I received a demand from Facebook to delete the post. With the demand was a link to the Community Standards page of Facebook which said in part:

“The consequences for violating our Community Standards vary depending on the severity of the violation and a person’s history on the platform. For instance, we may warn someone for a first violation, but if they continue to violate our policies, we may restrict their ability to post on Facebook or disable their profile. We also may notify law enforcement when we believe there is a genuine risk of physical harm or a direct threat to public safety.”

For those who do not use social media, you must imagine this Facebook process as receiving a cease and desist letter.

In sending me the notice, Facebook basically called my column inappropriate.

I refused to delete the column and instead called upon my Facebook followers to support it. Since when has reminding people to count their blessings been inappropriate?

In about 20 minutes, the demand to delete my post was gone.

No wonder people are having a hard time trusting Facebook. I was not told what my supposed violation was. If I had violated the rules, I would have no idea what I did wrong.

That is not how trust works. Using an algorithm or other automated processes to regulate what people say on platforms is not a good way to run conversations. Human beings need to govern conversations to ensure civility.

Also, allowing Facebook users to report anything that they dislike without — is irresponsible.

The community standards that are supposed to moderate these conversations are being bypassed by people too childish to participate in dialogue.

The way things are on social media right now, people are reporting children with birthday cakes, people’s vacation pictures and other harmless items to Facebook employees for removal. And algorithms with (and without) employee input are removing the content.

My column from Thursday, Nov. 29, titled “Don’t Count Someone Else’s Blessings” can be found on the Gazette website. Read it and consider its words if you haven’t already.

It’s a shame.

The platform that is supposed to connect people is losing the human touch. Trust is the cornerstone of humanity. Facebook needs to rebuild trust with its participants by being aware and involved in its conversations in a fair way.

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