Monday, November 22, 2010

Who defines abusive? Or why this post title that mentions won't show up in Facebook

[8:35 PM - See follow-up post.]

Whether you like it or not - hey, I gotta start using the phrase before January - there are a variety of definitions on acceptable vs. non-acceptable behavior. Something that is completely acceptable to me - for example, a picture of a woman eating a hot dog - may be completely unacceptable in Taliban City. Similarly, things that are acceptable to others may be completely unacceptable to me.

When you are a guest at someone's home, you are expected to defer to the wishes of your host. If these wishes are morally or otherwise objectionable to you, then you would probably stay away from the house, unless you insisted on making a point.

If you are a user of Facebook, then you are a guest in Facebook's home. Despite what we may think, it is not our home. And if Facebook says that we can't be abusive, then we shouldn't be abusive in Facebook.

Of course, if Facebook gives us the opportunity, then we could choose to question exactly what Facebook means by the term "abusive."

Which leads us into Jason Kincaid's post on TechCrunch. An excerpt:

[M]ake sure not to do something that might make Facebook angry. Otherwise it might nuke every link to your site, choking off this river of traffic that you’ve worked so hard to build.

That’s the message Facebook sent today with its censorship of links to Lamebook, a humor site that posts lewd conversations spotted on the social network. Facebook has confirmed that it is automatically blocking all links to Lamebook and that it has also removed the company’s ‘Fan’ page. Not because the content was offensive, mind you, but because Facebook doesn’t like Lamebook.

It turns out that there are legal issues between the two companies. Here is how Facebook has responded to said issues:

Not only is it currently impossible to share a Lamebook link to your News Feed or a friend’s Facebook Wall — you can’t even include them as part of a direct message or email to friends (you get an error message indicating that it’s “abusive or spammy”, which isn’t even accurate). That’s completely outrageous, and it’s a warning flag that comes only a few days after Facebook announced a new hybrid email/IM/SMS product. Do you really want someone to be censoring your outbound email?

I immediately began some experiments. Whether you like it or not (you can tell me when you get tired of this), all of my FriendFeed content flows into Facebook, including instances in which I mentioned the word "lamebook." But once I mentioned "," the FriendFeed content would not carry over.

But when life gives you lemons, you can make lemonade:

Actually this is a nice feature. If you have material that flows in to Facebook from outside services, and you don't want a particular item to show up in Facebook, just put "" in the text of the item. I did some experiments in FriendFeed and confirmed that this would work.

One of my posts in FriendFeed started a discussion, and the discussion reminded me that Facebook did offer an opportunity for a Facebook user to contest the blocking of content. The message, which is displayed in Kincaid's post, reads as follows:

Message Failed

The message contains blocked content that has previously been flagged as abusive or spammy. Let us know if you think this is an error.

So I did.

In essence, I argued that the text string is not abusive, because that is not the way that I see it.

Of course, I am a guest, and Facebook is the host, and Facebook may see it differently.

[8:35 PM - See follow-up post.]
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