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On Tuesday, conservative artist and meme creator Carpe Donktum launched a new meme repository site called MemeWorld.com. After the announcement, in a private group chat on Facebook Messenger, I tried to share the site and received an error message that stated, "You can't share this link: memeworld.com." That means that beyond banning conservative content on its public-facing site, Facebook is banning you from sharing content it finds objectionable with your friends in private messages.
On Wednesday, a Facebook spokesman responded to Blaze Media's request for comment by linking to the company's "Community Standards Enforcement Report" and said more information on the particular case would be forthcoming. The report lists categories that content can be banned for. It includes things such as terrorist activities and the ubiquitous catch-all term hate speech.
Moments after Facebook's initial response to Blaze Media, MemeWorld.com was able to be shared on its platform. Facebook confirmed that "site was blocked in error." A spokesman was unable to confirm what caused the error and said the company is looking into "what caused the error."
While that's an encouraging sign, it doesn't change the fact that sharing the site was banned not only on Facebook's public-facing platform, but in a private message in the first place.
On Wednesday, Axios reported how Facebook and other social media companies are looking to placate progressives by pro-actively banning questionable content.
Taking a hard line on things like deepfake videos is something that should be done. But banning satirical videos or content like memes that are clearly exaggerations for effect is another thing altogether.
The other major concern is who is helping these social media companies determine what is and isn't objectionable. According to the Axios article, nonprofits are driving this agenda. If they are left-leaning, it can only lead to more censorship of conservative content.
The type of censorship shown by Facebook in Messenger is the kind of thing you'd expect a company to do if it were providing communications services in a country like China ruled by a repressive regime. It's not something you should expect or tolerate in a free and open society.
Author's Note: After publication a Facebook spokesman provided the following statement to Blaze Media:
The site was blocked in error by our automated system and has since been unblocked. We often use AI and machine learning to help identify and prevent the spread of harmful content on Messenger like malware, child pornography, or videos like the New Zealand shooter. When someone reports suspicious behavior, we will review the content and take action to enforce our community standards where appropriate. Occasionally, there are errors in the automated system, and we fix them as soon as we find them.
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