It's clear now - Facebook has gone on a clicking spree with its block function. It has been taking down pictures of cows, buildings, cricket teams and whatnot, by labelling them as 'overtly sexual'. It is high time to call out its malarkey and set terms for what is and isn't problematic.
Facebook has publicly apologised for banning a small art gallery from advertising after it deemed the photographs used to promote the business are ‘overtly sexual.’ This sprouted a massive controversy as one of the pictures was – A Cow Standing in a Field!
Facebook's Ban - Where Does It Stop (Or Even Begin)?
The Winchester-based Northwall Gallery was prevented from advertising on Facebook for allegedly using pictures that violated the social media giant’s advertising policies. Some of the photographs were labelled under ‘adult content’ for including drugs.
A few of the “offensive pictures” include- cows standing in Winnall Moors, the England cricket team huddled, a high-story building, and nesting herons. It is incredibly amusing how Facebook has found them ‘overtly sexual.’
More pictures of a neon sign spelt as ‘Disco’ and Army soldiers drinking cups of tea were banned for ‘promoting alcohol.’ Many find that Facebook is unnecessarily rigid with its rules. Its algorithms often misunderstand the user’s content.
Anything and Everything Can Be Problematic For Facebook
While Facebook has failed to tighten security on pages and groups that spread lies and conspiracy theories, the likes of which (QAnon) have even lead to severe mishaps like the Capitol Hill Insurrection; it has put the unnecessary foot down for excessive censorship. Come to think of it, emerging platforms like OnlyFans are providing more freedom to users for expressing themselves than Facebook.
Facebook went on to restrict photos of fireworks, stating that it ‘promotes weapons’, and of pond ripples, on the assumption that they were promoting ‘selling adult products,’ according to the Hampshire photographer and gallery owner Mike Hall. Hall was forced to wait for two months before the ban was uplifted on his social media ad campaign.
He had made numerous appeals to Facebook regarding the same. But the artist was disappointed as the ban took a financial toll on his Northwall Gallery. He wasn’t able to share sponsored posts on social media.
A spokesperson from Facebook spoke to MailOnline mentioning how restricting Mike Hall’s advertising account was an error and would be reinstated. He apologised for the inconvenience and initiated cost refunds to Hall.
Unending Appeals and Laggard Response by Facebook
While Mike Hall was furious about being banned from Facebook after the unnecessary censorship of his pictures, he reiterated his appeals to Facebook to get those pictures back up – but to no avail.
He sent all of his information to Facebook’s Palo Alto HQs, to make sure they knew his advertising account was legitimate for selling printed pictures. But the company rejected his images for ludicrous reasons, and he kept appealing, falling prey to an unending cyclical situation with no decisive outcome.
Hall couldn’t comprehend- how a photograph of two cows in a field could be deemed ‘overtly sexual’? The social media giant pulled the last straw was when it banned Hall in November 2020 from advertising altogether. This shook his business.
Facebook Has A Messed Up Algorithm
Facebook’s offices, it finally took account of the situation. As it turned out, there was, allegedly, an error in the Facebook algorithm that did not understand which pictures were acceptable and which were not.
Despite pointing out the error on its part, Facebook couldn’t re-enable Hall’s account immediately until multiple appeals were sent. It reversed the ban only after two whole months since it was first imposed.
Hall’s gallery posts content on wildlife, landscapes, and abstract art. He also uses these images for the paid Facebook advertisements campaigns. He had posted 400 pictures already on his page. When his account was suspended, he fell into an abyss as business promotion halted.
Naturally, he did not want to abandon his Facebook efforts as it makes up an essential part of his marketing strategy, and he remained undeterred to get back his rights.
Facebook Policies Regarding Sexual and Explicit Content
It is utterly ridiculous how a social media giant like Facebook erroneously judges pictures of “cows in a field of rippling ponds” as sexually explicit. Without a doubt, the ban was irresponsible, excruciating, and time-consuming.
Granted that Facebook has a strict policy on ads containing ‘adult content’, the way it is being implemented is way too casual and problematic. Its policies constitute inappropriate content as nudity, depictions of people in indicative positions, or overly suggestive or provocative activities.
AI Isn’t That Smart After All
Facebook uses artificial intelligence to monitor its advertisements and pictures. But as it turns out, AI is not the most rational filter for keeping explicit content off Facebook, given that it has deemed cows as sexually inappropriate.
Facebook & Ads - A Money Minting Enterprise
Advertising makes up for a massive chunk of Facebook’s revenue, and most of it comes from small businesses rather than big brands. This is one of the reasons for their rigid policies. Apparently, Facebook is cautious with what content companies put up, so advertisements don’t endorse, say, drinking or drugs.
But the recent cases of unnecessary censorship of cow and cricket picture makes one wonder- where does Facebook draw the line for inappropriate content? Who draws these lines? When are they marked?
Because it sure seems like the algorithm isn’t working as finely as it is supposed to, and the experience has been not very pleasant for users like Mike Hall.