Posts Tagged ‘FaceBook’

Perry Brass: Blocked by the Impregnable Fortress of Facebook, or How Much Does Facebook Hate Books?

March 21, 2016

books

My Facebook page is “no longer available.” This means that my 2,200 Facebook friends will have to go someplace else to find out about my books, and what I am doing as a writer. I learned 2 weeks ago that I have been permanently “blocked” from Facebook. Why, frankly, I have no idea except that it must have to do with the books I write and publish that have been banned “forever” from being advertised on Facebook because of their titles and possibly their covers—namely, The Manly Art of Seduction and the follow-up book The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love. Both of these books are available on Amazon. The Manly Art of Seduction has gotten great reviews, was an Amazon bestseller in several categories, received a Gold Medal IPPY award and other awards, and is now available as an audio book on Audible.com, and in Portuguese. It is currently being translated into Spanish.

Cover of the Manly Art of Seduction, by Perry Brass

The book banned on FaceBook

After I was told by the completely faceless “Facebook Team” that The Manly Art of Seduction violated Facebook’s usage code because of the word “Seduction” in it, and that I could never advertise this “product” on Facebook, I tried futilely to appeal their decision (since you have no idea where this decision comes from: you never actually deal with people with names). I explained that there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of books, movies, and TV programs with the word “Seduction” in it. It was ridiculous.

I was told that there was no appeal—this decision would stand forever. After I posted word about this on my Facebook pages, friends suggested that I could still put up information about the book on my page, and it would be a good idea to include the cover in my profile picture. I did. Nothing happened.

Still, hope springs eternal, and I figured that my follow-up book The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love which did not have the word “seduction” in its title would be permissible. It wasn’t. After I tried to “boost” a post about The Manly Pursuit (this is Facebookese for advertise the book) I was told, point blank, by the famous Facebook Team, that the word “desire” itself was not allowed in any advertisement of any product on Facebook, therefore advertising this book was also not permitted. In both situations, the books were categorized as banned products, like sex aids or enhancers, and advertising them was refused on Facebook.

This was done by people who hadn’t read or researched the books—like Salmon Rushdie’s horrifying fatwa. Or maybe by computer robots that set off an alarm, or in some backroom in India which decided it was not going to allow books of this sort into any country.

Small.Manly.Pursuit

Being busy, as writers are, I did post word about these books (and other books of mine) on my Facebook page, and I’m sure it got onto the pages of my 2,200 Facebook pals. Then for the last month I didn’t even go on Facebook.

I was in Cuba for 10 days, from Feb 9 – 19, and when you are on that island, Facebook is off limits. At a hotel with Wifi in Havana, I tried to log into a friend’s post mentioning me, but got a message that Facebook and Cuba are not on good terms. Afterwards, I spent three days in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with friends, and during this time forgot about Facebook completely.

When I got back, I was too busy catching up after being away to pay attention to Facebook. I also came down with bronchitis (I’m still being treated for this), which put me away from Facebook and my pals there even longer. Then, about a week ago, after getting a slew of Facebook emails directing me to log onto the pages of friends sharing updates with me, I started hitting links that would send me directly into Mark Zuckerberg’s empire.

When I did, I got this message.

We removed the content that was posted

            Under this was a link to this message:

We restrict the display of nudity. Some descriptions of sexual acts may also be removed. These restrictions on the display of both nudity and sexual activity also apply to digitally created content unless the content is posted for educational, humorous or satirical purposes.

We remove content that threatens or promotes sexual violence or exploitation. This includes solicitation of sexual material, any sexual content involving minors, threats to share intimate images and offers of sexual services. Where appropriate, we refer this content to law enforcement.

To learn more about the kinds of messages and posts that are allowed on Facebook, please review the Facebook Community Standards.

 

I couldn’t figure this out. Why were some of my 2,400 Facebook friends’ posts being removed so that I could not get to their links? After enough attempts with my friends, I tried my own page, and realized it was the opposite. I had now been completely blocked.

Totally, absolutely, blocked from Facebook.

As in, I cannot even get onto Facebook to protest being blocked.

I started Googling like mad what to do when you are blocked from Facebook, and learned a few things. Facebook has recently instituted a new policy that it can block anyone at any time without warning or notice. In addition, it is enforcing a new series of “global community standards,” meaning anyone in any country can now complain about your content. So if, in say, Timbuktu, someone is offended by your “content,” it can be blocked by the “Facebook Team.”

This has meant that if in, say, Australia, as recently happened, someone is “offended” by an image of middle-aged barechested Aboriginal women showing their painted nipples, this kind of image can be censored—and even blocked. I guess this means that my books and I no longer stand a chance.

Facebook also states that A), only they can remove the block, so it’s totally futile to appeal it. B) If, somehow, they do decide to remove the block on you and your page, they will do so in their own time with no communication with you.

And C) even better: The actual cause of the block will never be known to you.

Now this may not mean much to people who regard Facebook as ridiculous and a waste of time (something Facebook works to keep happening; or as Mark Zuckerberg has always maintained: “We want to keep you there”), but in reality it is at this moment the world’s largest social media organization. And, in our Brave New Post-bookstore World, for many people a major route to “discoverability” for books and other kinds of information.

I also discovered through Google (using a backdoor into Facebook) that the site also has a new “Unpermitted Link” engine. Using a product’s link, you can do a search for products not allowed on Facebook, and they will (graciously) remove these links off your Facebook page. The only problem is that when I tried to do this with Amazon links for my books, I got this:

We removed the content that was posted

 (Meaning: I cannot get into Facebook to unblock myself—in any way. So, go back to Square One, dope.)

Check . . . and mate.

There is a longstanding history of homophobia involved with this—I have seen straight (i.e., heterosexual) “dating” books openly advertised on Facebook that guarantee success with the opposite sex (usually meaning women), and that are plainly exploitative. I have seen countless ads for men’s underwear and women’s “scanties” that make anything I’ve posted (as well as my book covers) look like stuff from the Daughters of the American Revolution. But we are dealing here with permissible products and my books are not in that category.

I also know that Facebook has a history of harassing gay men and their sites, a good example being the Australian magazine DNA which has received numerous warnings simply for showing on their covers barechested guys in Speedos. Many of my friends have also received warnings from Facebook regarding pictures they have posted showing stuff like an uncovered fanny or two. One of them showed photos of a pool party with a guy in all fun being thrown in and losing his suit—so we saw a little bit of skin from the rear. He was warned severely by Facebook for doing this.

The interesting thing is that I have never received any kind of warning. Not once. So this makes me feel that this action might have been pre-emptive. Rather than go through any kind of dialogue with me (something corporations like Facebook hate, thus their huge walls of protection), they simply blocked me before I could do anything.

I have also heard that it could be that my Facebook page was hacked—in effect unallowable stuff (usually “porn”) could have appeared on my page when I was in Cuba and unable to do anything about it. However, I was given no warning of this (see above about No Warning) so if my page was hacked, and then blocked, I’m now in even worse shape with Facebook.

In other words, I’ve been hacked, I’ve had no warning about it from Facebook, and I’ll have to figure out how to be unhacked as well.

A new wrinkle: every time I have tried to access any Facebook page—even for “guidance” from Facebook on these “issues”—I have been told that I have to log in with my password. When I have tried it, my password has been rejected, and I’ve been told I have to change the password. They have allowed me to change the password, and using the new password to see if there is any change in the block, I am told that a new password must be used every time I try to log in. Then I am directed to the same message:

We removed the content that was posted.

            What this means for other Facebook users, especially writers, is clear to me: You can have what you do censored at any moment. This will be done to protect any “innocents” who might stumble on your page, and the judgment to do this will be done by people you will never see in countries where America’s more open culture and freedoms are anathema.

I feel bad about this, because people all over the globe have come to me through Facebook as I am an openly gay writer in the US. Some of them have read my books on Kindle or other media, and I am gratified for this. I am not a “pornographer,” although my work is sexually frank—but certainly not any more frank than any number of other commercially available books. The covers of my books often feature barechested men, but then so do thousands of book covers, especially of women’s romance books.

The real problem here is simply homophobia on a corporate level, censorship of course, and people applying “community standards” that have no place in an open society. This is really shameful.

There is something else to understand here, and it is very important.

Facebook is not a free service. It is a huge, multi-national corporation making billions of dollars off advertising, and the reason it can charge this kind of money is because of the content you provide if you are a Facebook member. (In fact, they can use this content in any way they wish.) You are using your time to provide this valuable content and your attention. Facebook is selling that attention to advertisers. (I repeat, as Zuckerberg says: “We’re going to keep you on the site.”)

In this vein, strangely, and completely contradictory, Facebook still sends me regular requests to get back onto their site, to update my pages, to “see what your friends are doing,” to “visit your page,” even as I am being completely blocked. They WANT you back to create more content—to boost more ad revenue—on their “free” site.

Therefore the argument that as a “free” social networking service they have the right to do what they did to me is spurious. I am providing them with the content they need, and the attention they want, as every member is, and for them to do what they did—to “pull the plug” with no warning or explanation, because they have to power to do so—is reprehensible. It is something you’d expect from a corporate monopoly and dictatorship. It is really disgusting, and I think people should understand that.

If you are a Facebook member, please feel free to post the link to this piece on your page. And remember, not only is Big Brother and his little friends watching you and judging you, but at any moment he can do to you what he did to me.

Long time poet, playwright, author and activist Perry Brass has published 19 books, and is the author of the bestseller The Manly Art of Seduction, How to Meet, Talk to, and Become Intimate with Anyone, King of Angels, a gay, Southern Jewish coming-of-age novel set in Savannah, GA. His newest book is The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love, Your Guide to Life, Happiness, and Emotional and Sexual Fulfillment In a Closed-Down World. The Manly Art of Seduction is now available as an audio book through Audible.com, and in Portuguese. You can reach him through his site, www.perrybrass.com or here.

 

The Manly Art of Seduction Gets Banned on FaceBook

January 12, 2010

 

Cover of the Manly Art of Seduction, by Perry Brass

The book banned on FaceBook

 

I’m not sure what it takes to get banned from FaceBook. I guess you have to do something so heinous that it has not only no redeeming social value, but you should not be able to show your face either in civilized company or on any street in New York. I mean, it should be in the same category as someone who kidnaps girls out of madrassas in Afghanistan and sells them into prostitution. O.K. I did not do that. And neither was I actually physically banned from a site that now captures the imaginations, time, and for many the advertising attention of edging onto a 100 mil people. That means that FaceBook now is an unofficial country, much larger than, say, Vatican City, with an amount of wealth that would make the Vatican pink with envy.

No, I did not get banned. My book did. Like a lot of authors, I got taken in with the idea that in order to sell my book to the multitudes, I needed a FaceBook ad. I had been flogging the hell out of the book on my FaceBook page to whomever would give me an inkling of attention (and let’s face it, any author’s friends, among whom are many other authors, get tired of being the same old meat to that writer’s works).

I needed an ad. So I clicked the little button that runs you through “creating your ad.” It was simple. My book is a how-to book. It is about mastering an art form. It could be the art of sculpture, or French cooking (pace Julia), Baroque dance, or flirting. O.K. It’s actually closer to the last one. The book is called The Manly Art of Seduction, How to Meet, Speak to, and Become Intimate with Anyone. The book is aimed squarely at gay men (you could pretty much tell that from the cover), and it has absolutely nothing to do with seducing 13-year-old virgins of any gender (sorry, Mr. Polanski), or imposing yourself in a male-chauvinist way on anyway. The main reason for my writing it is that in this age of Cubicle Hell and Digital Isolation, too many queer men have become just as klutzy as anyone when it comes down to going up to, meeting, and scoring with other men. They are wracked with feelings of rejection, even before they leave their apartments. I wanted to change this, and came up with a wonderful program to do this: I know, it has made me psychologically secure, socially popular, and sexually happy as a pig in doody most of my life. Since you are only allowed a paltry 100 character in your ad, I had to get in their “the fustest with the mostest” as Stonewall Jackson advised. So my ad had the book cover and these few words:

Frustrated, scared of rejection, a complete guide to emotional and sexual satisfaction with men.

The ad then came with a link to the Amazon page for ordering the book. Since on FaceBook ad rates are based on the size of your potential audience (and they are steeeep, let me tell you), I narrowed down my audience to single gay men: a merely 13,000 souls I was told. Therefore, the ad would appear on pages that other single gay men would see, and not on pages frequented by Christian households, etc. I released my copy up to the FaceBook gods, and a few hours later, got a message from them saying:

 “Hi Perry Brass,

 Thanks for purchasing a Facebook Ad! Below is the confirmation for the ad that you have created. You will be charged only for the impressions or clicks your ad receives and this amount will never exceed your daily budget. We will email a receipt for each charge from your Facebook Ads account to this email address.”

 This message was signed: The FaceBook ad team. I came to learn that at all points I would be interacting with the FaceBook Ad team, never with a real person who can be reached one-on-one. But I had the potential of reaching 13,000 randy, ready, single gay men, so what the hey (!) as they say.

 Blissfully, my ad ran. I was given a link to spot every page view and click, and the clicks did happen. I was getting a lot of clicks and hundreds of page views. I was happy. The book was not selling through the rafters on Amazon, but then we have a recession going on.

 Everything was hunky-doory for a week, when suddenly I got an email from my friends at the FaceBook Team telling me that:

“The content advertised by this ad is restricted. Per section 5 of Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines, this content is prohibited from being advertised on Facebook. We reserve the right to determine what advertising we accept, and will not allow the creation of any further Facebook Ads for this product. Ads for this product, service or site should not be resubmitted. We appreciate your cooperation with this policy.”

 In other words, the famous FaceBook team, looking over hundreds of thousands of FaceBook ads decided that my ad, for The Manly Art of Seduction, was not in keeping with FaceBook’s good name in this world. My product, a book, would be banned from FaceBook ads, even though it defamed no one (FaceBook has a ban on any product that calls for racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual orientation hatred of any kind), sold no service, and did not direct anyone to any kind of questionable site other than Amazon.com.

 I was furious, of course, as any author or reader can imagine, and having obtained the name and email address of a real person at FaceBook, who answered me once in the name of the famous Team regarding a billing question, I fired off an email to “Betty.”

 “Dear Betty,

       Can you please explain to me why the ‘FaceBook team’ has decided that after 58,000 impressions and over a hundred clicks, charging me $68, my book will henceforth be banned from ever being advertised on FaceBook? I think that banning books is a very serious charge, and would like to know why FaceBook has suddenly decided that this book is offensive? The book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and probably hundreds of bookstores. So what is it about this book that FaceBook finds offense enough to ban it from ever being advertised on ‘our site’?”

I’m sure “Betty” felt this was a quagmire she was not going to get her kindly butt into, so she turned the question over to “Molly.”

“Hi Perry,

Thanks for writing in to us. This issue has been escalated, and after reviewing further, the product was determined to be unacceptable to run on our site. We do not allow ads for products with a sexual emphasis, including seduction, sexual health, etc. Please note that we reserve the right to choose which advertisements we’ll accept, and we will not allow the further creation of ads for this product. Users have demonstrated that they are very sensitive about these types of ads on our site, and we are taking these concerns very seriously.

 Thanks for your cooperation with this decision.

 Thanks for contacting Facebook,

 Molly

Online Sales Operations

Facebook

 I was, as ever, amazed at the chirpiness of this response from dear ol’ Molly. I was also amazed at how many other truly questionable ads I found on FaceBook—ads for a site for foot fetishists, for a site for definitely X-rated “massage therapists,” and for numerous dating and plain old escort services. One of my friends warned me, though, not to call attention to these ads, because the poor schnooks who took them out and were paying for them, would be bounced off, too, and didn’t they have a right to pay dollars for FaceBook’s millions of eyeballs, just as I had wanted to?

 I also learned that FaceBook has a truly hypocritical attitude toward gay content; they will censor any ad they feel is “too gay,” and once told The Advocate, a national gay magazine, that they could not use a picture of Matthew Mitcham, an “out” gay Australian diver who was a star at the Beijing Olympics, in a Speedo. In other words, an image that a couple of billion people had seen, this diver in a skimpy bathing suit, was not right for an ad for The Advocate. The Advocate, which is now owned by a gay media conglomerate, caved in, feeling they could just as easily switch the cover image to one of a straight celebrity in more than a Speedo. They did, and the FaceBook Team was happy. So my question is, do these more “blue” ads just get past the FaceBook Team’s eyes? Or, did some bluenosy fundamentalist, while on the lookout for trouble, alert the Team to the vileness of my book?

 (In regard to FaceBook’s hypocritical and homophobic stance on “gay” material, I can also attest that numerous other gay men have had similar experiences, to the point that even images of shirtless men have been deleted from some FaceBook pages. This goes on while the same kind of image can appear happily on other pages.)

 It’s all hard to say. But it does make me wonder now that we are entering that phase when Social Networking sites are becoming the gatekeepers of a lot of our culture, one way or another, what other things will be banned from promotion on FaceBook, etc.?

 As an aside, I Googled movie titles with the word “Seduction” in them: They are numerous, and some of them are tied to classic movies such as “The Seduction of Joe Tynan” with Barbara Harris and Meryl Streep. Sorry, Meryl, your movie can never be advertised on FaceBook. Also, I did an Amazon search of books with the same word in the title: I stopped counting after sixty titles. I would gather that none of these books can be advertised on FaceBook either. Sorry, you poor authors, you toilers of the pen and the DVD screen: clean up your acts! The Seduction Police are here.

You can also read more about FaceBook censoring The Manly Art of Seduction, How to Meet, Talk to, and Become Intimate with Anyone  in this article in Out in Jersey:

http://outinjersey.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=608:facing-homophobia-with-facebook&Itemid=1
For more information about the upcoming workshop based on the Manly Art of Seduction, Jan 20, 2o10, please visit

http://manlyartworkshop.eventbrite.com