Dear Mr Zuckerberg,
Two days ago, a post popped up on my Facebook feed. It wasn’t a very nice post.
Sometimes I get posts espousing views that I don’t share, promoting causes that I don’t support, enthusing about activities that I don’t like or attacking that which I hold most dear.
And you know what? I can live with that. A lot of them are silly or half hearted attempts at humour – some are in bad taste. Mostly they’re forwarded news items with comments of varying quality and wit. I can live with that.
I can live with it because I believe in free speech. People are entitled to their opinions and they’re entitled to express them publicly – even when they’re saying, without a hint of irony, that other people shouldn’t be allowed to do the same.
I’m interested in what people think. So I read Facebook posts; I read blogs written by people I’ve never met; I read below-the-line and listen to Any Answers. You never know – I might learn something ; I might be challenged; I might have to try and argue my corner – I might even have to change my mind.
But there are limits. And I thought that this crossed a line. I thought that a photograph of a dog baring its teeth over a caption saying “Show me the Muslims” crossed a line. That’s not free speech. That’s something designed to make people feel threatened.
So I did something that I rarely do in any medium – I reported it. You can’t actually report something to Facebook on the grounds that it’s clearly designed to make people feel afraid. The best I could do was say that it was “annoying or uninteresting”. Give me strength.
And what did you say? Well, apparently, it doesn’t go against Facebook‘s “Community Standards”. But – good news – I can block Eric*, I may even be able to unfriend or unfollow him, see fewer posts or remove him altogether from my “Facebook experience”. In other words, I can shut my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears and go “la la la – not listening”.
Ain’t doin’ it. I don’t want to live in some little ghetto where I only mix with people who share the same values, think the same thoughts, use the same words and constantly reinforce each other’s world view. That road leads to a point where people think it’s ok to murder children or mow down tourists or stab policemen or threaten people with dogs because nobody challenges them or stands up to them or argues with them or says “enough!”. It’s not the path to freedom – it’s the road to destruction.
I don’t know what passes for community standards amongst West Coast “liberal elites”, Mr Zuckerberg, but these are my community standards and I’m sticking to them – unless and until somebody can persuade me otherwise.
*Not his real name
“Eric” isn’t actually one of my Facebook friends – the post came up because one of my friends commented (negatively, I hasten to add)