This weekend I spent 24 hours in Facebook jail. That means I was blocked from using the service and warned with a stern, wagging finger from Zuckerberg and his buddies that what I was sharing was not OK. I was told I had “violated community standards” and was forced to read through reams of moralistic prose that I had to “agree” with in order to “get out of jail”.
FB jail, implies I had done something wrong, something sinister.
What I had in fact done was merely my job. I am a sex and relationship therapist and a sex educator among other things. That means my job is to teach people how sex works so they can feel more comfortable with it.
This is both straightforward and complex in so many ways. Something that FB struggles with. Something that our communities struggle with. I get that.
My offence? Sharing an article and video that explains how sex education works in Norway and suggesting that there is in fact also an English language product – The Atlas of Erotic Anatomy & Arousal – very similar to it that I had made for those who may be inclined.
I was not the only one who ended up in FB jail this weekend.
Educators in the US who shared similar links were also banned in what appeared to be a valiant attempt on FB’s behalf to disrupt discussion of global approaches to sex education.
The evidence over years of systematic research has repeatedly shown that Scandinavian approaches to sex education work best; yet this evidence is consistently ignored in Australia, the US and the UK. This is why I shared the video. Not to be a violator, but to be heard.
Social media is called social for a reason. It’s media made for and by the people, largely the people who support it. The trouble is when such support opportunities are restricted based upon a moral hierarchy that perpetuates stigma and ostracism, my hands are tied. In other words, when FB decide my posts are ‘lewd’ and shut me down or do not allow me to run advertising, the opportunities for people to access more about helpful sex and relationships education are thwarted.
This mightn’t sound like such a big deal except that the lack of sex and relationships education is essentially the number one reason young people and adults suffer in their sexual and intimate relationships. The relationships most folk value highest in their lives.
While FB’s job is to provide a balance of opinions and maintain a relatively G-rated atmosphere for everyone, they consistently target the wrong folks in their blanket silencing of public discussions of sex and gender. The most recent example; I have awoken this morning to find pages like this allowed to flourish while mine remains censored.
I am not suggesting a page like this needs to be shut down necessarily. I do support freedom of speech. But hate pages being allowed to flourish while educational posts are removed and their creators banned, presents an inconsistent approach to FB’s notion of “community standards” that is emblematic of the troubles we have distinguishing what’s helpful and what isn’t. The sheer fact that hate pages like this exist merely reinforce the dire need we have for sex education globally.
This is a big deal Facebook. You get to choose if you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution.