• Wed, Dec 8 2010

Facebook, Hate Speech, and a Road to Queer Activism

Today plenty of queer folks embrace words like faggot, dyke and faggot, and they are a large part of the enthusiastic audience for PUSSY FAGGOT! It’s clear that whatever techniques being employed by Facebook to monitor violations are inadequate when it comes to understanding these nuances, but not everyone misses the point. Writing for the New York Press, Gerry Visco admits “‘Pussy Faggot’ is a catchy title for a party. It pairs male and female, straight and gay, and as an epithet it’s pleasantly jocular. It’s so extreme it’s funny.” With 500 million users, is it still possible for Facebook to have a sense of humor?

Actress, writer and performance artist Ann Magnuson had her personal profile removed from Facebook due to a clever send up of the album cover for Roxy Music’s “Country Life” by photographer Austin Young. Word of Magnuson’s removal spread quickly. A “Reinstate Ann Magnuson on Facebook” group was created, and Richard Metzger invited Ann to discuss the incident on his blog for Dangerous Minds. Eventually her profile was reinstated – minus the offending photo. On The Huffington Post Magnuson admitted slyly, “…I’d hate for innocent tots to be exposed to the ‘horrors’ of Seventies-era Roxy Music spoofs, the Kardashians are probably exposing them to worse daily.”

In our evolving digital landscape it’s hard to know what’s a technological “bug” and what is out and out censorship. Unlike physical or service oriented businesses, there’s rarely a live person with whom you can take up your grievances. More often you find “contact us” and “help” links that lead to forms that are then submitted to a faceless team of technicians. At least bureaucrats have phone lines and constituent offices. As more and more of what passes for civic discourse and political activism happens through social networking sites, the sudden removal of profiles, groups, images and other online content raises serious questions. It also creates opportunities. Rather than submitting a petition to have Facebook reinstate PUSSY FAGGOT!, I simply recreated the event under “The Party Censored By Facebook.”

For better and worse the landscape of our lives is shifting as we embrace new technologies and digital platforms for connecting and communicating. Frequently the real battle lines are at the policy level. On December 21, for instance, the FCC will vote on new regulations for internet providers, and media activists are pushing for a true commitment to “net neutrality” which would preserve the open nature of the internet. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has outlined a plan for net neutrality that leaves large loopholes for providers. In the coming week I’ll make calls and engage in other forms of real-time activism around the issue, but I’ll also take to my Facebook page to let people know what they can take to influence this important policy decision. I’ll do so as a proud member of a contingent of pussy faggots who are willing to take action on important issues even as we create our own vibrant queer culture.

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  • Jo

    Thank you for sharing this post! I’m glad to see something about queer issues and experience on here.

    Did you attempt to get facebook to repost the listing?