I’m a big fan of the “posted items” feature on Facebook. It’s an easy way of sharing “interesting” links that I find on the Internet without spamming my friends’ e-mail accounts or taking the time to write a whole big blog post about it. Yesterday, I posted a link to this Read-Write-Web article on Facebook censoring messages.
Although there is an option to do so, I didn’t add any of my own commentary to the post because, frankly, I didn’t really have anything to say about it – mainly because it’s entirely possible that those problems mentioned were caused by a faulty spam filter and I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to giving companies time to work the bugs out of things. Still, I thought my friends list – a group comprised mostly of librarians and thus super-interested in issues of censorship – would find the article interesting.
So I hit the “Share on Facebook” button on my browser, posted it and didn’t give it another thought.
This morning, as I do most mornings, I stumbled into my office and checked my e-mail/SNSes while waking up enough to contemplate taking a shower. I had a Facebook notification that I had received a comment from fellow law librarian Scott Frey on the censorship article. I read it, didn’t really have anything to say in response, played my Scrabulous moves and decided to get on with my day. Then, right before I logged off, I decided to re-read Scott’s comment and check to see if there was anything that I could say in response.
The comment and posted item were gone.
Now, granted, I am not a morning person. But I was 99.99% sure that there was a posted item and comment there not 5 minutes before. So I changed my status message to “Sarah is disturbed that Facebook censored her posted item about Facebook censorship.” And then I went back to my posted items list to see the hole where my posted item was. And guess what? It had somehow been restored. So then I thought, “Okay, Glassmeyer, you haven’t slept well all week, it’s before 7 am and you haven’t had any coffee. You just imagined that.” I erased my status message and hoped that not too many people saw it.
Here’s where things get a little weird and hinky.
As soon as I erased my status message, the posted item also disappeared. So I decided to do a little experiment. (I am a scientist after all….a LIBRARY SCIENTIST.) Okay, with all of the following screenshots, I deliberately didn’t crop them so that the times would show in the bottom right corner. Also click on them to enlarge. These are also getting uploaded to my flickr as soon as I post this blog post.
So, here’s my posted items list with a message that “The message contained content that either has been removed or is not visible due to privacy settings.”
And here’s my profile. Note that nothing appears in my mini-feed about me posting anything. And yes, I have a bit of a problem with the Facebook games. I’ll start a twelve step program about it tomorrow.
I changed my status message back to one that indicates my displeasure with Facebook’s censoring, and WITHIN SEVEN SECONDS, the posted item appears in my mini-feed.
And it has also reappeared in my list of posted items.
Lest you think Scott’s comment was somehow “offensive” here it is. It too has been restored.
Okay, so what have we learned here, class? I don’t know. As I said, it’s one thing for something to be inadvertently caught by a spam filter. It happens – spam filtering is not an exact science and it takes a while for the engineers to get their algorithims down. And the article I linked to did mention the “stop words” and Scott’s comment used an edited version of them. But the fact that the “spam filter” seems to be tied somehow to my status message? HINKY.
I’m not a reactionary type and I’m not going to run out and cancel my Facebook account this morning. The fact remains that right now I need Facebook more than it needs me and even if I did cancel it, they have millions of other subscribers. What I am going to do is keep an eye out for other types of hinky behavior, document it and publicize it as best I can. Perhaps if there’s enough evidence, Facebook will change their behavior or enough users will get disgusted, leave and start to hit Facebook in the pocketbook. (I am a card-carrying member of the tinfoil hat brigade and I have heard the stories about Facebook’s “evil partners” but I still believe that at it’s heart, Facebook is a business and at the end of the day, the financials are going to matter most. ) And although I’m not canceling my account today, as an information professional, I am going to continue to evaluate whether or not I want myself or my library associated with Facebook.
I would also just like to say that I do know some adjectives other than “hinky”, but I still haven’t gotten around to drinking my coffee yet.