Puritanical Facebook Censors Parody Publication, Makes Appeal Process A Threat

from the innocent-lambs dept

I have no idea why, but there seems to be a sudden influx of stories concerning Facebook patrolling its site and taking down content over rather puritanical standards of offense and vulgarity. The most recent examples of this have concerned a couple of pieces of artwork that the Facebook Decency Office deemed to be to risque, despite the fact that neither of the art pieces could reasonably be described as particularly pornographic. The most recent example of this kind of censorious brigade is less to do with scary, scary sex, and more to do with parody content that some might find vulgar.

It appears Viz, an outfit that is essentially an old-timey British take on The Onion, has had its Facebook page seized with little to no explanation.

The almost 40-year-old Viz, a parody of titles like Beano but with frequently risque language and humour, tweeted that Facebook has blocked its page. Ian Westwood, group managing director at parent Dennis Publishing, said that Facebook has not said what content violated its content rules.

“The question is what is, and isn’t acceptable to Facebook,” he said. “We have had that Facebook page for five years. We have had correspondence with them before about stuff they haven’t liked and we’ve taken it down. This time they have just blocked the page and won’t tell us what we’ve violated. We can appeal, but we don’t know what we would be appealing about, we put up a significant number of posts from the print brand to social media each day.”

Perhaps more strangely, while Facebook has informed Viz that it can appeal the unilateral blocking of its Facebook page, a loss in that appeal would result in a perma-ban.

The message from Facebook warned that if the publisher makes an unsuccessful appeal to have the page reinstated, it could face being permanently deleted.

Now, it should be noted that Viz uses language and subject matters that could certainly be considered much more crass compared with other parody outfits such as The Onion. It should also be noted that Viz is hilarious as well as useful in pointing out the absurdity of every day news and news publications. That’s how parody works, after all. In fact, the publication has been tweeting out to members, as well as to Facebook, its concept work for updating its Facebook page, on which it has changed most of the imagery to puppies and kittens to try to appease the Facebook prude-patrol. This has had the effect of alerting those following Viz that Facebook has taken the page down, resulting in the appropriate backlash.

The idea that a social media site like Facebook would take down this kind of parody, ostensibly on the grounds of vulgarity, is silly in and of itself. It will, of course, only result in people pointing out just how much other vulgar content exists on the site and how haphazard the site appears to be in this kind of policing. But to do all of this without bothering to inform the victim of why the takedown has occurred and to then use the appeals process as a threat of perma-ban? C’mon.

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Companies: facebook, viz

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Comments on “Puritanical Facebook Censors Parody Publication, Makes Appeal Process A Threat”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Oh when will they finally invent some way of setting up websites outside of facebook. These ‘Viz’ people (crazy kids) could just (I’m just spitballing here) try to create some kind of ‘page’ or even ‘pages’ where they can post whatever they see fit.

If only facebook wasn’t necessary to access the internet. I see a bright future.

marcus (profile) says:

Re: The beginning of the end

I’m hoping that it is the beginning of the end. Unfortunately my local city got rid of their internet site and now I’m required to have a Facebook site just to access my own city website for public notices. I also have to get a Facebook account if I want to comment in my local newspaper. I am being forced to get a Facebook account even though I am 100% opposed to Facebook. The problem is business and even cities are too lazy to create their own websites and like the idea that they can easily create a page on Facebook and assume everyone will simply get a Facebook account not understanding that some people don’t like Facebook and have either never created an account with them or resigned from Facebook.

Suomynona (user link) says:

“The question is what is, and isn’t acceptable to Facebook"

Who cares? Put interesting content on your own website (and DNS address), and put a link to it from FaceBook.

I don’t suppose they can shut you down for some of the comments your readers leave. OTOH, you might host a comment section yourself and just leave a link to the main page or latest entry.

I don’t get FaceBook. No, really. If I want my (real) friends to know something, I’ll see them, tell them, call them, write them (in Snail Mail cursive!) or email them. WTH is the big deal w/FB except for collecting a large count of “Friends” (c, TM, patent, RIAA patent because of the the phonemes, and MPAA because of the TV show) that you don’t even know.

If I wanted a large number of friends, I’d just inflate my Page View counter. (See the URL embedded in my name above. I just can’t figure out why it’s still sitting at 0 though.)

Richard (profile) says:

Viz vs The Onion

appears Viz, an outfit that is essentially an old-timey British take on The Onion,

Well – a bit of fact checking would have helped here because

1. Viz predates the Onion by about 8 years

2. Viz is rather different from The Onion. It is realy more an adult version of a children’s comic in the tradition of the Beano. It majors on innuendo and tends not to include much political satire.

Nop (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If they choose to keep using it anyway, why stop them?

Because, as at least one commenter has pointed out,
1) more & more websites are outsourcing their comment sections to FB, so without an FB account, you’re silenced.
2) More importantly, organisations you may need to interact with online use a FB page instead of running their own website.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But neither of those are compelling reasons. I don’t have a FB account, and I am neither silenced nor am I cut off from any organizations. Of course, I deliberately avoid web sites that require a Facebook account (easy to do), and if I have to do business with any organizations that require FB for their online stuff, I do my business with them over the phone or in person.

It’s slightly less convenient, but “slightly less convenient” is a far cry from “difficult”.

Anonymous Coward says:

power and authority

“Why has this entity been given such power and authority?”

The safe harbour provision of the dmca allowed entities like this to fill the demand for hosting, and content aggregation- rather than entities and efforts that focused on helping people to self host, and aggregate. For all the good that safe harbour did, people seam to miss this aspect of it.

J.R. says:


Facebook seems to be an integral fortress of bigbrother.all, can’t have anything BB disapproves of there. Saw a few minutes ago (a comment on Schneier’s last squid post, I think) where Facebook employees are busy changing “black lives matter” entries/posts to “all lives matter.” Miniprop knows best. Go do a Two Minute Hate on yourself if you disagree with any Facebook action. Remember Big Brother loves you, worthless slimeball.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

A Facebook page would also leave me susceptable to an employer's scrutiny.

I opted out of social media signts when MySpace started using my avatar and name to advertise malware to my friends (leading to an actual malware outbreak). Once I learned that was par-for-the-course at Facebook, I steered clear.

To date news comes in to assure me that was an unregrettable decision.

I thought that once employers were demanding Facebook passwords, and everyone kept a whitewashed employer-friendly account that people would stop taking Facebook seriously. oh, that’s the blog my mother gets to read.

I suppose that one could make a social media site that sustains a more ethical set of rules and will try to provide restricted Facebook content to its members.

But such a provider would have to expect litigation from big F.

Docrailgun says:

It's funny because...

… they won’t stop people from making accounts specifically to insult or belittle someone (not as parody). There was a lady who does cosplay, someone made a page that reposts her pictures and calls her lovely names like “whore” and such. Trying to get that page taken down is a chore – a few people report it for harassment and Facebook rejects the page as not being a problem – but when a critical mass of people complain (and presumably and actual person looks at the page), then Facebook suddenly reverses their decision and takes the page down. The guy puts the page up again a couple of days later and the cycle starts all over again.

marcus (profile) says:

Why do people still use Facebook?

I avoid Facebook even though my local city now requires me to have a Facebook account to view their website since it is now only on Facebook. I would prefer to visit a website without having to use Facebook since I don’t like Mark Zuckerberg and others tracking my every move for marketing purposes. My local newspaper has now decided to take down their own comment section and require me to create a Facebook or Twitter account in order to even post comments on their site. A lot of people are leaving Facebook but now find themselves forced to create an account because companies (and even cities) are taking down their website and creating a Facebook page instead.

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