The guardian had an interesting article today, it is one point of view, but it is a driven point, a point from the view of some. Now, the article makes us ask good questions, it makes us ask the right questions too, but at the heart of the matter is the issue not phrased, what about the value of others? The article ‘When it comes to nudity, Facebook is little different than Victorian England‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/09/facebook-nudity-policy-censorship-freedom-of-expression) looks into the censorship. You see, censorship is always a tough question, when we consider ‘freedom of expression‘ censorship can creep in. This view might seem odd, but it is a direct confrontation between freedom of speech and accountability of what is being said. When I state ‘Bill Shorten is an idiot!’ The honourable BS might take offense, he might take no offense at all and most likely he will not give a toss what I think regarding him! The man just found out the hard way that Justice Heydon has the ability to make a man feel raw, grilled and roasted all at the same time! You see, we all (including me) all go overboard at times, we say a little more than we thought we needed to say and sometimes we show a little more than is acceptable, at this point censorship comes into play. You see, most men (nearly all) and many women do not care whether the young pretty 1st year university lady does the topless selfie and posts it to show that she is fearless, proud and whatever other emotion she had whilst doing it (like being slightly too intoxicated). Yet, people forget that social media is global, Facebook, Google+ and several other players reach hundreds of nations. Many have democracy and freedom, yet they all have laws and many of them have restrictions on nudity. India with its 1.2 billion people makes up for 16%-18% of the global population and they are just one nation, many other nations have even more strict rules, so places like Facebook, if they want to remain in the game, need to be a lot more strict in their application of ‘allowing nudity’.
Yet, this issue, would not have been an issue if there is a clear and equal cover. When we see “Jay-Marie Hill found that photos she had posted – of San Francisco demonstrations against police killings of unarmed black women that shut down rush hour traffic in the city, no doubt a newsworthy event – had been removed from Facebook because some of the female protesters were topless. Hill sees Facebook’s policies as racist, and “exceptionally forgiving to white bodies over other bodies and life experiences”“, we get another issue all together. However, is that the complete truth or a subjective truth?
The quote “Ultimately, these images were not taken down because we were ‘nude’ but because we challenged a system and made people uncomfortable” is a strong one. So was this about discomfort? That is a problematic question in the world of censorship, because even Facebook realises that in EVERY social media there is a point where someone, or a group can become ‘uncomfortable’. You see, censorship is negatively strengthened by two elements, the first being the people confronted with the question, the second one is the censor with his/her own feelings in all this. The second one will ALWAYS taint the first one, it is a mere fact. If you doubt that than look at the Australian censorship of videogames.
Could I walk up to a woman and state ‘I love you!’ or ‘I want to have sex with you!’? The directness is overwhelming in case one and extremely likely to be regarded as offensive in the second case. Yet, when I change that into ‘Are you interested in having sex with me?’ could be regarded as equally offensive, but why (academically speaking)? Analytically stated, it is a question, this one is likely to get either the answer ‘no’ or ‘NO!’ You see, this is not just about censorship, this is about our inner self, the bulk (99%) of the people are all in an ‘I must not cause a fuss’, which is basically an insincerity filter, which opposes honesty and directness. Even though directness when it is laced with what one might regard as ‘diplomacy’ might be seen as honesty shaded in grey (less than 50 of them).
In my view, when we turn to a life comprised of ‘shades of grey’, we will soon forget the true impact of either black or white, which I regard as a direct detrimental impact on our values. In addition, when we live in ‘grey’ mode, people are forever looking in a paranoid way, if there was something behind the meaning. If you want to test that theory, go to any person that is a mere acquaintance of you or slightly less than that and ask that person to join you for a tea or coffee, you will be amazed on the percentage of people that will assume something behind that request. It is the effect of living through ‘greys’ as I personally see it.
Let’s get back to the article, where we see “Although it’s true that Facebook’s user base is diverse, Facebook is not a “community”. It’s a corporation, and its users are its products – but have no say in how the space is regulated“, which is a very true statement, but seems incomplete. In my view it is “It’s a corporation, and its users are its products – but have no say as the space is mostly managed according to international laws“, you see, we all know that sex sells, so for the most, the more the ‘exposure’ the bigger the flock, yet Facebook must remain mindful of the national laws where the pages arrive (for example India and Muslim nations), because the one thing that social media fears most is the dangers of national bans or even possible prosecutions.
Now we get to the part that is debatable, or even as I see it incorrect: “Here, Facebook is making a distinct choice: rather than enable freedom of expression as the company often claims to do, it is imposing cultural conservatism by claiming that nudity is somehow dangerous. In this, it is little different than Victorian England“. No, I disagree! Facebook (and all social media) need to traverse a restless ocean of laws, where the most stringent one seems to be the one calling the shots. This gives us the issue at hand. The issue in the second degree is not social media, but the poster.
Let’s take a look at the case of ‘Frédéric Durand-Baïssas, who is suing Facebook for €20,000 ($22,000) in damages‘, why? Because his account got cancelled? Is this about the art, or about his ego? Consider that the painting in question can be seen unreservedly (at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L’Origine_du_monde). So instead of Freddy posting the message with a link to the painting on a private website or in another way, we see that he decided to share the picture to a very wide audience. Very wide, because his friends got it, but the friends of those friends would have seen the link too (as it was on the timeline of this friend), which means we now have two degrees of projection. So, why did Freddy not think this through? I have seen loads of photographers sending me a link as Facebook might object to materials. So is all of this a mere storm in a teacup?
It might not be!
Consider the quote: “Men’s nipples are acceptable, but women’s are not. And despite Facebook’s seeming progressiveness toward gender (the platform allows users to self-define their gender), its treatment of transgender bodies is troubling: in one case, a user’s semi-nude photo was taken down and reinstated when they decided the user was a man – despite the user’s physical presentation and personal gender identity“, from a common law view, this could constitute discrimination, making Facebook look even less innocent than they thought they were, yet the overall situation of international laws remains a hot potato, one that seems to work in degrees, which is no help to anyone it seems. Japan is a clear example of the previous (see below)
Yet, is this truly about freedom of speech? So far we have seen a biased presentation of what people want to see, regardless of law. Is that the correct atmosphere to conduct events in? That is partially answered in the last quote “Despite being the main driver of profit for these companies, the user lacks all control over their own content. Even inside a closed network, we are still denied the opportunity to opt out of morality policing. If we want more control over what we can post and see, then we must fight for more control over the platforms we use every day“, it seems to be the simplest part “we must fight for more control over the platforms we use every day”, which is at the core of the issue, but the solution is as I see it quite simple, “we must own the platform we use for the freedom of our speech”, so as you install your own personal webserver, you can be the art evangelist all you want, but that is not what people wanted to do, they just wanted to post the selfie/painting and be done with it, in that path they forgot about the law of the land of the reader.
Yet if you do become a publisher at this point, you must also take heed of what comes next, as the enthusiast that becomes a publisher and cannot hide through an ‘innocent dissemination’ defence. When we take a quick look at the law, we see for example the Anti-Cyber Crime Law (2007) of Saudi Arabia, where Article 6 of this royal decree makes it a crime to produce, possess, distribute, transmit or store Internet content or a computer program that involves gambling, human trafficking, pornography or anything deemed to be against Islam, public morals or public order, which would have put Frédéric Durand-Baïssas in a real amount of trouble if he had uploaded it there. This is the only angle missing and the issue that I have with the article, which is nicely written. You see, Jillian C York is all about freedom of speech, which is fair enough, but global freedom of speech comes at a price, because not all places embrace it and social media needs to be careful where it posts, or soon be blocked from too many places, which would downgrade the social media company in less time than it takes to boil an egg.
So let’s be clear, I personally do not care, and when you see local/international actions like #FreeTheNipple where plenty are on board and most don’t care, but in all this the law is an issue and yes, in many places the law should be massively adjusted, if only to make sure that the baby can get fed. Those protesters should also realise that even though it is all good and fair to fight for the rights and freedom in their nation, not all countries are on board and even nations where there is a democracy and clear freedom of speech (like Japan) some of them still have Draconian laws on frontal nudity, which is an issue many US photographers had to deal with in the past, hence the use of social media becomes a bit of a loaded canon.
So was it about choice or was it on the pure indifference of law towards ‘freedom’ of speech?
It might be a little bit of both, but what is on par at present is that ‘enthusiasts’ who wish to make a name for themselves in social media need to learn that ignorance of the law will hit them square in the face more and more often, after which the clean-up operation (like getting your social media account back) will be another time consuming matter entirely.