Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Censorship Facebook Media Social Networks News

Anti-Porn Facebook Page is Deleted, Then Restored 145

Posted by Roblimo
from the let's-make-up-our-minds-here dept.
Slashdot regular contributor Bennett Haselton writes: "An anti-porn organization's Facebook page is disabled by Facebook, and then resurrected. Was the page the victim of a 'complaint mob,' and could the previously-discussed 'voting algorithm' have saved the page from being shut down?"

Speaking of Facebook pages being unjustly shut down, on Monday the anti-porn Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/PornHarms/, run by the non-profit Morality in Media, was abruptly disabled by Facebook. The page had 35,000 "likes" at the time the plug was pulled. Morality in Media CEO Patrick Trueman, who also ran the Facebook page, says he never received any warning from Facebook before the page was removed.

Some time on Wednesday, the page was restored. I had emailed a contact at Facebook to ask why the page was shut down, and he replied later to say that it had been deleted in error and the page had been restored. (He didn't say whether the page was on track to being restored anyway, or whether it would have remained down indefinitely if I hadn't pinged him.)

Facebook did not respond to inquiries as to why the page was removed, but as Evgeny Morozov has pointed out regarding political pages (and as many other users have heard from people's anecdotal experiences having pages pulled without explanation), it's common for pages on Facebook and YouTube to get removed that were almost certainly not violating those sites' Terms of Service. If enough users decide to file "abuse complaints" simultaneously against a piece of content on Facebook or YouTube, this has a good chance of getting the content removed, whether the complaints were legitimate or were simply part of an organized campaign of filing false complaints.

Meanwhile, I correspond with dozens of people every week on Facebook (usually people who use my proxy sites to get on Facebook at school or work), and about once a week I get an automated message from Facebook that says, "You have been sending harassing messages to other users," and goes on to sternly list the types of messages that violate Facebook's TOS. (Only twice has this resulted in my account actually getting locked, and it was unlocked after I bugged my friend at Facebook about it.)

I figure that these are either the result of users clicking "Report this message" accidentally, or parents hacking into their kids' accounts, reading their messages, and then trying to get the account shut down of the person who was talking their kid about proxy sites. In either case, I assume it's not the result of an "organized campaign," but perhaps your account gets locked if you're unlucky enough that two or three people file complaints within the same short time frame.

So I have no reason to doubt Mr. Trueman's claim that the PornHarms Facebook page never contained any content that violated Facebook's TOS. He says the page mostly contained links to academic research supposedly demonstrating the harmful effects of pornography, and that while the target audience was adult academics, there was nothing in the content that most parents would consider inappropriate for underage viewers. There was certainly no actual pornography on the page, not even in censored form with the fun parts blurred out (although I didn't check every single academic paper linked from the site to see if any of them might have used pixellated/censored porn for illustrative purposes). Trueman also says that they prevented third-party users from posting on the PornHarms page directly, and regularly monitored the page's content to remove any "inappropriate" comments that users had written in response to the officially authorized posts. (Of course, even if the page admins hadn't done this, inappropriate comments should be the basis for penalizing the user who posted them, not the Facebook page that they were posted on, but it was a moot point in this case.)

Because of the word "Pornography" in the title of the page, it's also of course possible that a human at Facebook actually did review the complaints, but thought the word "pornography" meant the page was a porn-trading hub, without looking to closely at it. (It's also possible that the word triggered an automated filter at Facebook. Obviously, there is no filter pre-emptively preventing pages with words like "pornography" in the title from being created, since otherwise the page never could have existed in the first place. But it's possible that an automated algorithm does something like the following: If a page receives X complains within time period Y, and the page contains certain keywords in the title or the content, then shut down the page automatically.)

Previously I'd suggested an algorithm that Facebook could use to stop users from coordinating phony complaints in order to shut a page down. The gist was: If a page receives a sufficient number of complaints, have the page reviewed by a random sample (chosen by Facebook) of Facebook users who had signed up to review abuse cases in situations such as these. If enough of those users vote that the page was violating the TOS, the page gets shut down, but if not, then it stays up. What makes this algorithm difficult to abuse, is that in order for a "coordinated mob" to swing the vote of the jury, they would have to comprise a majority (or a significant minority) of the entire set of users that the randomly-selected jury could have been chosen from -- a difficult task if thousands of people have signed up as content reviewers. I offered a $100 prize to be split between readers who submitted the best suggested improvements or criticisms of the idea; their ideas were summarized in a follow-up article. A couple of readers commented that there was no point in debating the idea since I don't work for Facebook and have no influence there; they have a point, but the idea has to start somewhere. If engineers at Facebook are looking for a way to fix the problem, one thing that can be said about this suggestion is that it was posted to a large audience of smart people, and several readers suggested very clever improvements, while nobody found any obviously fatal flaws in it.

It seems pretty likely that a process like that for reviewing abuse complaints, would have saved the Pornography Harms page from being yanked from Facebook. Anybody who seriously reviewed the page's contents for more than twenty seconds would have understood the page's real purpose and seen that it was not actually distributing pornography or otherwise violating the Facebook TOS. In my experiences posting surveys on sites like Mechanical Turk, where you can pay users a penny apiece for filling out surveys or performing other tasks, I've gotten the impression that people will take such tasks seriously, even for zero (or virtually zero) pay, if they find them interesting. In the case of the Facebook "jurors" who are voting on whether a page violated the TOS, you're talking about users who voluntarily signed up to be jurors, after all -- not underpaid workers grinding through as many tasks as they can squeeze into their working hours.

Finally, it would be easy to point out the irony of a pro-censorship group being censored (and some people did, on the mailing lists where I saw this news announced), but I don't think that's really fair to Morality in Media, since even MIM doesn't oppose people's right to express their opinions in favor of pornography. Likewise, MIM presumably supports the use of Internet blocking programs in schools, even though their Facebook page (as well as the companion website PornHarms.com) would probably be blocked by default by most Internet blockers because of the word "porn" in the URL -- but even that is not as richly ironic as it would seem. Neither Morality in Media, nor almost anyone else, is in favor of political sites about pornography being blocked because of the word "porn" in the address; presumably they'd just want the error corrected by the blocking company, and if a left-wing site on the opposite side of the debate happened to be blocked because of the word "porn" in the URL, I have no reason to think that Morality in Media would be opposed to correcting that error and unblocking that site as well. So this really isn't a case of them being given "a taste of their own medicine."

No, the real irony in this particular case -- at least, if I did have a role in getting their Facebook page restored -- is that not only would I support their right to express their view (duh), I would support students' right to bypass their school's Internet blocker to view the page from school if they had to, and I would even support the right of under-18-year-olds to view the page even if their parents were specifically trying to block them from it. I highly doubt that even anyone at Morality in Media would go that far.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Anti-Porn Facebook Page is Deleted, Then Restored

Comments Filter:
  • Without porn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0racle (667029) on Friday May 27, 2011 @09:56AM (#36263094)
    Without porn, what is the point of the Internet?
  • Okay, I give up (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cforciea (1926392) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:10AM (#36263308)
    What is this guy giving to the /. editors to keep getting these useless stories front page'd? Do we really have to be subjected to this guy's "novel" musings over what is essentially a copy of the /. mod system every few weeks?
  • by nightfire-unique (253895) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:11AM (#36263314)

    I have to say. Nothing gives me the chills quite like an organization called "Morality in Media."

    I'm dead serious when I say it's only a hop and skip from denying girls education and stoning people for sex before marriage. Their attitudes are derived from the same imperative - moral superiority, and the belief that they have the right to dictate the personal behavior of others.

    It's a good thing the constitution denies our government the privilege of restraint on speech, because this is one group I would like to silence.

  • Morality? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Dog-Cow (21281) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:13AM (#36263348)

    What do morals have to do with porn? What could possibly be immoral about displaying one's body, no matter the context? I could understand a claim of indecency, but it's not as if everyone who participates in the creation of porn is exploited. To most, it's simply a job.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:14AM (#36263362) Homepage

    a thick "network cyst, preventing packets from spreading further into the network" is growing around locations like China and Iran.

    What the hell are you talking about? Citation, please? Or did you just make that up because it sounded cool?

  • Re:Okay, I give up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Roblimo (357) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:17AM (#36263408) Homepage Journal

    New Slashdot policy: you are no longer required to read stories that don't interest you.

    Really. Just skip over them. The Slashdot Goon Squad will *not* come to your house and smash your computers.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:20AM (#36263450) Homepage

    So in other words, your morality is superior and that enables you to silence disagreeable groups, because it's in our best interest (or at least what you consider to be so). Nice one, there. You're not so different from them. Not so different at all. Do you know what a "heel realization" is?

    "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
    -- Evelyn Beatrice Hall (1906)

  • Re:Without porn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:36AM (#36263632)
    God help us all.
  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday May 27, 2011 @10:39AM (#36263672) Journal

    "Complaint mobs" are exactly the kind of tactic supposedly christian moralizers use to keep free expression off the airwaves. For instance, the Parents Television Council is responsible for 99% of FCC complaints [arstechnica.com].

    As far as I'm concerned, it's time the pro-censorship crowd gets a taste of their own medicine.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday May 27, 2011 @11:01AM (#36263956) Journal

    Sure. Let them live by their own rules for a while and see how they like it. They argue that offensive subjects should be censored. I find censorship more offensive than anything that's ever been censored. Exposing children to pro-censorship beliefs is vastly more harmful than exposing them to pornography. Therefore, by their own argument their website should be taken down.

    This is why free speech has to protect even the most offensive garbage you can imagine. No matter who you are, someone is going to find your speech offensive.

  • Re:Without porn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Moof (859402) on Friday May 27, 2011 @11:04AM (#36263986)
    On the Internet, all men are men, all women are men, and all children are the FBI.
  • Re:Without porn (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 27, 2011 @11:07AM (#36264042)

    Who said it's a guy?

    The normal economics of supply-and-demand don't apply to pussy. If they did, pussy would be a nearly worthless commodity since: a) women are 52% of the population and b) each woman's pussy is instantly replenished after use. Therefore women unconsciously and consciously conspire to implement a model of artificial scarcity to increase the market value of pussy, what they can get in exchange for it. It is similar to copyright but the mechanisms are different.

    Each individual woman pretends to be disinterested in sex in order to raise its cost. Truth is, the average woman has more of a libido than a man and has her "mind in the gutter" more than a man, but she has learned to repress this (causing the fundamental female neurosis and cognitive dissonance, leading to irrational behavior). As a group, women hate "sluts" and "whores" and treat them with contempt to discourage those who do not participate in the artificial scarcity, giving them a lower social status and a bad reputation, in an attempt to decrease both their standing with other women and their perceived desirability to men. It is like the way the media companies feel about bittorrents.

    Therefore a user who never looks at porn likely is a woman, or could also be a feminized man. A feminized man has been taught to think it is bad to have a penis, to be a heterosexual male, to feel the effects of testosterone, to look at the world rationally and not emotionally (he is accused of being "cold" if he does that). He has unconsciously adopted the female agenda of artificial scarcity. Both women and feminized men work to permit and encourage the phenomenon of legalized prostitution, where all men married or single are expected to pay in some way or another for the sex act despite the female's mutual enjoyment of it. The archetypical model here is the poor woman who marries into money because she happens to be very attractive and knows what price she can get on the pussy market, though even women who are millionaires tend to marry men who are multi-millionaires.

    The major difference between a street prostitute and the average woman is that the prostitute has no illusions about the nature of the transaction. The other major difference is that a prostitute won't talk about her character, her mind, or her outgoing personality as things men should want her for. Average women by contrast give lip service to these things while the vast majority of time they spend working on themselves is spent on their physical bodies, in the form of cosmetics, tanning beds, hairstyles, clothes, etc. Their actual behavior contradicts their overt statements that they value something more than physical attraction. It is a rare women who actually does.

    Anyway that's where most of this Puritannical bullshit comes from. It gets packaged in religion and moral crusades but its roots are immensely practical and designed to achieve a goal.

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake

Working...