Facebook has, not to put too fine a point on it, a booby problem. The site has been in hot water before for removing breastfeeding photos and hounding breastfeeding communities, sometimes violating its own stated policy on breastfeeding photos — which are officially allowed, until, it would appear, someone complains about them. Now, Facebook may have gone too far: it took down a perfectly PG montage of boobies.
Not THOSE kind of boobies. We’re talking about birds in the genus Sula, famous for their bright blue feet and colorful courting dances:
Just wholesome family fun. Of course, the fact that they share a common name with the slang term for a body part has been a subject of much juvenile giggling and joking among conservationists, but that’s hardly their fault, poor things. And boobies actually need your help — some species, like the Abbott’s booby, are endangered.
Which is why members of the Christmas Isle Tourism Board posted a silly Facebook ad promising pictures of “juvenile boobies.” While in admittedly poor taste, the ad was hardly offensive, and it showed precisely what it purported to advertise: a bunch of adorable juvenile birds. It was intended to encourage people to come visit the island and appreciate its diversity, while having a little tongue-in-cheek laugh.
Facebook, however, did not share the spirit of humor in which the ad was intended, and took it down. The takedown probably occurred in response to complaints about the ad, which raises some interesting questions about the site’s community standards. While the ad was admittedly dorky and might be offensive to some due to the implied crude humor, it certainly wasn’t anywhere near the vicious, sexist and horrific pages that proliferate on Facebook, and are often allowed to remain up for weeks or months without intervention despite repeated complaints.
Facebook hosts Holocaust deniers, self-proclaimed “pro-rape” groups, racist pages, even more horrible pages about rape, and even embeds sexist “jokes” into the site coding. For a site that’s supposed to be about community, Facebook actually endangers many of its community members, with an appeals and takedown process that can move like molasses when it comes to posts and pages that endanger, threaten, or offend people.
Sometimes, it takes a petition signed by thousands and a concerted social media campaign to get the site to pay attention to a particularly egregious page.
But put up some pictures of birds with a tacky joke and expect a swift takedown.
Clearly, someone at Facebook needs to reassess the site’s priorities, because there’s something deeply rotten about the fact that reporting pictures of endangered species gets a fast result, and requesting intervention in a life-threatening situation can result in days or weeks of delays.
Photo credit: James Preston.