Facebook censorship – erm, no, probably not

I posted a couple of links on twitter yesterday, which is synched with my Facebook account. One of the links were to D'Arcy Norman's Things that are more fun than Blackboard. When it came through to Facebook and you clicked on it you got this message:

Picture 2 

And then any link I posted got reported as such. On a Friday night one's thoughts turn to conspiracy theories: Was someone from Blackboard amongst my friends and had taken offense and was now reporting every link? Or more sinister, was the part MS-owned Facebook looking out for criticism about the part-owned Blackboard and censoring it? Eh? Was it?! We demand to know!

The problem is that there is no recourse or appeal here – Facebook doesn't tell you who reported it as abusive, or what to do if you disagree. I reported it through the bugs area, but on further searching it turns out it seems to be a technical problem in FB (maybe it's related to the use of a u.nu url?). This forum has people with similar problems.

So although the link still isn't working we can probably discard evil overlord theories. But it did make me appreciate that FB is sensitive to this in a way other systems aren't. If you really can't appeal again a decision then if one of your 'friends' took a dislike to you, could they get all your links taken down simply by reporting them as abusive? The closed garden approach of FB means you could get cut off from connecting – and if you're not connecting you're cyberdead.

But for now, let's just say dealing with Facebook glitches is More Fun Than Blackboard.


  • Carl Morris

    This is a classic problem with closed gardens.
    See also: Apple controlling which apps are available for the iPhone and sometimes ditching them from the store without warning.
    In this instance it doesn’t matter if its conspiracy or error, the cause and effect is the same: Facebook’s excessive control has stopped you posting what you want.
    You could try posting it as a long link?
    I’m trying to wean myself off closed gardens in general. The problem is that they are very often ultra-easy (less scrappy than open systems, fewer broken links, incompatibilities etc.)
    This assists mass adoption of the system. Then the network effects set in and it becomes harder to find good alternatives because the closed garden becomes useful to you and your network(s).
    Stay vigilant.

  • Martin

    @Carl – yes, you’re absolutely right – this is essentially Zittrain’s argument in The Future of the Internet – we trade off messy, open systems for safe, convenient closed ones, but at our peril.

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