by Carmen Rios
If you told me five years ago when I signed up for Facebook that the site would eventually come to lock me out of my own account for speaking at a protest, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s what happened last Thursday, August 16.
In August of 2011, I spoke at the DC Slutwalk march. I was honored to be involved as a speaker, volunteer, and media organizer for the event. It was my first opportunity to speak at a protest, and I remember the rain falling and the 2,000 dramatic faces staring back at me. I remember the Washington Monument in the background. I remember taking a photograph of the crowd and sending it to my mom in a text message, and I remember her being proud of me. I spoke about consent, about ending violence against women, about reforming sex education.
I was unable to attend the 2012 Slutwalk DC. I was on the SPARK Retreat instead.
It came as a surprise, then, to be stopped from logging into my Facebook account on Thursday. I hit a virtual wall each time I attempted to log in, a Facebook “checkpoint” alerting me that someone flagged my content as offensive and that a Facebook team member found the complaint valid and removed the content in question. They asked me to read the message from my reporter, a woman named Kim, who sent a sometimes incoherent paragraph discussing her problems with Slutwalk DC’s 2012 march. They sent me her full name and email.
They sent me a link to the community standards document for their site, a short checklist of what counts as inappropriate content. My content, presumably images of my friends and I at the 2011 (not 2012) march, did not fit into any of the categories. At the bottom, they included a note that Facebook would review every single complaint and determine how to proceed, and that “differences in opinion” would not be accepted as reason for content removal:
I have yet to hit “continue,” mostly because I have reached out to Facebook and am hoping they will remove the checkpoint from my login process. (Facebook has no customer service representatives on their customer service phone line, and offer no contact information for feedback. I sent emails to press@, complaints@, legal@, and mark@ fb.com.) But leaving Facebook behind means no longer being able to meet with the SPARK team regularly in our chats, no longer being able to pitch blogs and actions, losing track of my friends’ birthdays, and no longer being able to share my articles and projects with my friends. It means no longer being able to create Facebook accounts for my clients when I am tasked with heading up social media ventures, and no longer being able to use the space for personal or professional reasons ad nauseum.
In an attempt to restore my content and be allowed to enter the site, without implicitly agreeing that I did anything wrong, I have tried reaching out to Facebook on Twitter, raising awareness about the issue on Tumblr, writing about the block for various websites, and pitching it to others. I have sent emails, attempted phone calls, and searched for a “feedback” box on the site. Thus far, I have had no luck.
I have accepted that Facebook was a flawed medium throughout my use of the site – acknowledging the rape joke controversy, forgiving the stories of fraud and bad leadership, ignoring the obvious illegal behavior and intellectual copyright issues Mark Zuckerberg involved himself in. It was possible, until Thursday, to pretend that none of that affected how I interact with the all-consuming network. But now that I have been warned, I feel my relationship with the network will inevitably change – whether or not I click “continue.”