FTM Model Banned from Facebook over Unicorn Gangbang Controversy

The New Locus of Facebook Censorship

Sex-positive activist, filmmaker, FTM model and porn star James Darling woke up yesterday to a 30-day Facebook ban for not showing, but simply linking, to a wonderfully self-explanatory video called Unicorn Gangbang, posted to the FTMfucker website.

The banning comes as the newest controversy caused by the social network’s anti-nudity and anti-sex censorship policies, which activists, feminists, and free speech advocates have widely condemned — particularly when it comes to breasts, which are fine to show if you’re male, but not fine to show if you’re female — and unclear where the rules stand if you’re FTM. According to Fred Wollens, a company spokesman,

Unfortunately, exposed breasts are against our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. At the moment, we have absolutely no way of rationally delimitating “non-sexual images posted by women” from other potentially pornographic nude images. It’s incredibly difficult to come up with any sort of workable standards around non-sexualized vs sexualized nudity particularly for reviewers faced with hundreds of thousands of reports every week.

On November 17, 2012, Facebook admins threatened another group with suspension, The Uprising of Women in the Arab World, a movement where Arab women posted self-portait photographs wearing limited to no clothing, in protest of their religion’s strict sartorial standards.

Feminist individuals and groups regularly report harassment from Facebook officials, while their own complaints directed at the site’s more misogynist content are rarely taken seriously. Huffington Post columnist Soraya Chemaly discusses how Facebook content is rife with slut-shaming, fat-shaming, and glorification of rape culture, which rarely trigger the forms of censorship and threatening language to which female activists themselves have become accustomed:

According to Facebook’s interpretation and adherence to its own policies, they will not take down Boobs, Breasts and Boys who love them, unless the boys are babies since they do take down photos of breastfeeding mothers. They will not take down [Controversial Humor] rape pages, but they will remove a photograph of a woman crossing the street in New York City because she is topless (legal in New York, but not the sovereign state of Facebook). Obscene being defined by Facebook as a breast not in service to a man. Maybe it’s not a breast problem at all, but a nipple issue. Maybe Facebook lawyers are scared or put off by nipples. This isn’t offensive. At best it is sloppy and stupid and incoherent and, at worst, overtly sexist and misogynistic.

Considering these actions are taken by the same company culture that popularized brogramming, shall we truly be surprised?

LOLCats and the Arab Spring

In the words of Tomcat Jefferton.

In the words of Tomcat Jefferton.

The tango ever twists betwixt technology and its intended uses. The telephone, intended for serious man-talk of the business-y persuasion, found its fanbase amongst teens and housewives. The beeper, intended for serious man-beeps of the business-y persuasion, digitized the urban drug trade far moreso than the man-beep telecommunication grid; as quips some chick from a forum:

I’m an 80′s girl.. grew up with a rotary phone not a cell phone. I remember when beepers came out but we couldn’t get beeper because those were for drug dealers.. and Michael jackson… Hello his best years were in the 80′s! 

Now the internet, in all its Discordian tomfoolery, may have turned the axiom upside down — where serious man-beep devices no longer weave their way into consumerdom, but quite the inverse.

Sites sporting the flimsiest veneer of purported public interest may be the very catalysts galvanizing wave after wave of popular uprising — so much the trend these days, these uprisings, perhaps owing to a collective catacylsmic apoplexy raging against the Legion of Morose Hipster Ennui — from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street to the Egyptian Uprising to the Popular Revolts of Brazil to Moral Monday, and more.

What do all these mass movements have in common? The power of lolcats.

Well, sort of. According to the cute cat theory of digital activism, penned by Ethan Zuckerman of the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab, popular social networks, far moreso than tools specifically geared towards activists, become the very tools that activists employ in their organizing:

The cute cat theory of digital activism is a theory concerning Internet activism, Web censorship, and “cute cats” (a term used for any low-value, but popular online activity) developed by Ethan Zuckerman in 2008. It posits that most people are not interested in activism; instead, they want to use the web for mundane activities, including surfing for pornography and lolcats (“cute cats”). The tools that they develop for that (such as Facebook, Flickr, Blogger, Twitter, and similar platforms) are very useful to social movement activists, who may lack resources to develop dedicated tools themselves. This, in turn, makes the activists more immune to reprisals by governments than if they were using a dedicated activism platform, because shutting down a popular public platform provokes a larger public outcry than shutting down an obscure one.

Censorship, whether analog or digital, is a popular bludgeoning tool wielded by states threatened by the prospect of an informed, organized, and unruly populace. However, even the more draconian of governments recognize the people’s right to humorous pictures of cats, if not Marxist screeds against the repression of the proletariat. And woe behold the government who stands between the people and their lolcats.

Zuckerman states that “Web 1.0 was invented to allow physicists to share research papers. Web 2.0 was created to allow people to share pictures of cute cats.”Zuckerman says that if a tool passes “cute cat” purposes, and is widely used for low-value purposes, it can be and likely is used for online activism, too.

If the government chooses to shut down such generic tools, it will hurt people’s ability to “look at cute cats online”, spreading dissent and encouraging the activists’ cause.

Viva la meowvolution!

Thanks to Rachel Swift, author of I, Cyborg: Parsing the Pleasure of Being Hooked on Machines, for the topic suggestion.