The Capricious Gods of Facebook

Facebook’s community standards algorithms have been even wackier than usual lately. I have occasionally had a post pulled. Usually it was because the algorithm misinterpreted a word that was benign in the context in which I was using it, but that in other contexts might have been controversial. For example, one guy who posted to recommend that the Senate “kill the filibuster.” The word “kill” got his post pulled for violent content. And I know quite a few people who have been put in Facebook Purgatory — a temporary suspension of their accounts — because they posted something that seemed reasonable to me but must have ticked some box in the software’s weird little brain.

Now it’s happened to me again. I recently received a notification that something I posted last November has suddenly been pulled for violating Facebook standards. I can’t figure out which standards it could have possibly violated. Or why it took nine months for Facebook to decide it was offensive. I once built an entire human being in less time than that.

My offensive post was a link to a short piece about a town in the Marche region of Italy that embraces Bookcrossing and has bookshelves around town so people can take and leave books. Yes, it was just a cute story about a quaint village that likes to read. Could someone have reported it? Maybe, but I cannot imagine for what.

Ideally, the algorithm would flag a post, and then an actual, thinking person would review it. That does not seem to happen. In fact, after informing me that the post had been pulled, Facebook asked if I wanted to contest the decision. Of course, I checked the box for Yes — and received a response that said, basically, “We’re shorthanded and probably won’t ever get around to looking at this, so tough luck.”

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