I have newfound respect for online moderators who slog through potentially problematic user content all day. They get a real glimpse into the downside of humanity.
Facebook developers recently initiated me into Facebook Community Council, a secret shadow organization of vigilantes who destroy the content of ne'er-do-wells and miscreants. Our Council's blood oath: "To harness the power and intelligence of Facebook users to support us in keeping Facebook a trusted and vibrant community."
There's a whiff of McCarthyism or worse to the whole notion of people in a community reporting others for un-Facebookian activities. I signed up immediately. Immediately after I passed a tutorial and got certified, I got a long hard look at the seamy underbelly of Facebook and the nebulous concept of "community standards."
Turns out Facebook Community Council is less like vigilantism and more like beta-testing a crowdsourced tagging system where you are limited to one of eight options each time. Four are self-explanatory: Spam, Acceptable, Skip, Not English. The other four are the key problem areas, and I saw plenty of all of the specified naughtiness over time:
-Nudity (such as "visibility of pubic hair or genitalia, the display of sex toys, and solicitation of cybersex")
-Drugs (especially promotion or use of "drugs illegal in the United States... This includes depictions of marijuana plants/leaf logos. This does not include the use of alcohol or tobacco...")
-Attacking ("direct attacks on non public figures")
-Violence (such as "visible mutilation of humans (including self-harm) or sadistic violence against animals... images of urine, feces, vomit, and semen.")
Yum! Your tags are then compared to other Community Council members', and if there's enough of a match, some sort of action is apparently taken. It's strangely hypnotic, like Google Image labeler, mainly because you want to see how bad the next reported page or group is.
The majority are acceptable, reported by some overly sensitive person. The main categories of reported pages are:
- Pointwhoring for networks within the network: Mafia Wars, Farmville, etc.
- Regular whoring (escorts, nude models, sex workers, etc.)
- Middle and high school teachers who suck
- Middle and high school students who suck
- Soccer teams and players who suck
- TV talent show competitors who suck
- Bands and hip-hop artists who suck
- Religions that suck
- Hate groups masquerading as pride groups (lots of "white pride", etc.)
- Ginger chavs
Andrea James is a writer, director, producer and activist based in Los Angeles. Her work often focuses on consumer activism, the free culture movement, exogenous mysticism, humor, and LGBT rights.