Hey Facebook: Don’t Let A Few Dumb Censors Ruin Your Very Pro-LGBT Image

Reports that Facebook has censored LGBT imagery and language are hitting the Internet today. It’s an unwelcome change from Facebook’s long-standing pro-gay stance, from diversity initiatives at the corporate-employee level to the site’s permissive attitude toward gay content to its proactive, GLAAD-approved anti-bullying efforts.

Towleroad reports that Facebook took down a picture of two men kissing, taken by well-known Spanish photographer Juan Hidalgo (right), on a group page that ironically was promoting a homo-positive art festival in Madrid. The reason: it breached a decency code that barred images of a “political, sexual or other sensitive” nature.

UPDATE (Fri, 3/22, 5:30pm): Facebook spokesperson Andrew Noyes responds: “Upon investigation, we concluded the advertisement does not violate our guidelines and was removed in error. The ad is now running and we apologize for the inconvenience.”

Another instance of censorship, reported by AMERICAblog: Intel has a Facebook app called “What About Me?” that allows you to make a pretty graphic with information pulled from your Facebook and Twitter feeds. The objectionable thing: the word “gay” is censored whenever it appears, such as in a shared news story about Tyler Clementi (the **** roommate at left). Now, this is more on Intel than on Facebook, but Facebook should not allow a homophobic app to pull content from its feeds.

Perhaps the international nature of the Spanish culture group and the Intel app mean that Facebook has to be more conservative, but these instances are downright unbecoming given GLAAD’s announcement that Facebook will receive a Special Recognition Award “for the company’s strong stand and leadership around bullying prevention as well as its inclusive options for LGBT users,” presented at the San Francisco GLAAD Media Awards on June 2nd.

It’s probably just a cog or two in the FB machine gone rogue, but don’t let those dumb censors ruin your very positive image, Facebook.

Here’s Queerty’s independent test of the Intel app’s censorship. It censors the F-word, gay, and lesbian, but not GAYEST or LGBT. Ha.

The Facebook post was: “gay gay test Facebook gay LGBT then lesbian.”

And the Twitter: “what’s the gayest thing you could LGBT gay tweet gay.”

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  • Eric

    The Intel app is probably handling the word “gay” that way to avoid its use as a pejorative term, which, as you should know, is an epidemic. This is common on websites and in web applications. As a gay web developer, I’ve worked on some sites where I configured chat software to do this to cut down on bullying, along with “fag”, “phag”, etc.

  • Curtis

    No comments yet, whats wrong people?
    oh, you must all feel very silly..

    Its times like these thar make me feel good that I always refused to partake in facebook.

  • Bob

    If all LGBT people would write things with the word ‘Gay’ on their facebook wall it might overload their censors!

  • Curtis

    Kinda like the word “the”?? :-/
    Just stop people, your all part of a homophobic social networking site.

  • B

    At least they replaced “gay” with asterisks. One homophobic web site had a policy of automatically replacing “gay” with “homosexual”. Then they republished an article about a talented runner whose last name was Gay. It came out something like, “The 21 year old Homosexual …” when the original was, “The 21 year old Gay … ” (may have the age wrong, of course, plus the exact wording, not the effects of the substitution.) As luck would have it, the runner was straight, making the web site look even more ridiculous.

    The substitution was done automatically, based on string substitutions, arranged to preserve upper and lower case. Someone clearly didn’t think about the corner cases.
    They didn’t even notice that if a word is capitalized, not at the start of a paragraph, and the previous printable character is not a period, then the word is probably a proper noun.

  • Evan Mulvihill

    @Eric: I think the positive definition of gay should supersede the negative one here.

  • Miguel

    I’ve had my account suspended for 24 hours when they kept removing posts when I used the word Queer…go figure some of my Folsom St. Fair photos are still up though…

  • Christopher Banks

    It seems very subjective to me. When I was selling a gay short film I’d made a few years ago called Teddy using Facebook ads, we had as our image two men cuddling in bed with a teddy bear. They were topless, but a sheet was covering them and you couldn’t see so much as a nipple – it was just a cute, romantic image.

    It was approved the first time, but on subsequent occasions when doing new campaigns, the image was rejected for being inappropriate, which was reversed after me complaining and pointing out it had been approved previously. The complaints process delayed the ad going live by about a week on both occasions.

    I have also heard reports of other gay couples having their smooching pictures taken down.

  • B

    No. 8 · Christopher Banks wrote, “It seems very subjective to me.”

    It’s probably automated, with them flagging an image if someone complains. The simplest thing for them to do is to compute a message digest for the image (SHA-1 or SHA-256 for example) and store the “objectionable” digests, which will let them catch a resubmission under a different name. They could do something more sophisticated – perhaps something with wavelets.

    To see if this is a reasonable explanation, take the number of pictures facebook gets and divide that by the number of employees who could be tasked with reviewing pictures. My guess is that the number you’ll get would be unreasonably large. If you can’t manually review pictures because there are just too many to handle, you have to use an algorithm of some sort.

  • Cam

    Actually this is not uncommon. There have been multiple incidents of gay bars ads on Facebook being denied with the bars having to escalate complaints only to have Facebook come back a day or two later and saying. “Oh, sorry, we’ll run your ad now.”

  • Belize

    @Curtis: “The” is not censored. Perhaps it is you who should stop. It’s kind of sad.

  • Curtis

    Hmm, well that went right over your thick skull..
    wow you are confused xD

  • Some Random Guy

    Sounds like FB goes to an awful lot of trouble to prevent the occasional juvenile “that’s so gay” reference. Maybe it causes more trouble than it’s worth.

  • G

    I think Queerty should do further analysis into this so we can understand the full scope of what it happening to these pro-gay messages. As it is right now, this article is reactionary to the problem with little explanation and balance.

Comments are closed.