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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Good photo, bad photo

Once again, Facebook’s “community standards” raise questions of political bias and double standards

By: Editorial |
May 29, 2021 3:29:09 am
Then there are the pictures regular folk post from their day out at the beach, or an exotic tropical holiday.

Not a day goes by without social media platforms being riddled with photographs of “body transformations”, of male celebrities as often, lately, as their female counterparts. Then there are the pictures regular folk post from their day out at the beach, or an exotic tropical holiday. None of these images offends the sensibilities of Facebook, and rightly so; they are not removed by the mysterious “algorithm”. Yet, images of historical significance that, for many, are a connection to their culture are “flagged” and taken down.

Photos have been removed recently for allegedly containing nudity from a page with over 55,000 members that celebrates the culture and history of Papua New Guinea. Yet, the standards of “nudity” are anything but unbiased. For example, one of the pictures removed — of bare-chested men engaged in a socio-religious ceremony — is something that is frequently seen on private and public posts. Photographs from galleries and museums, posted with context, were taken down, and many of those posting them have had their privileges on the platform suspended. The double standards extend to many political issues: In recent weeks, Instagram and Facebook have also sparked controversy by removing posts that are pro-Palestine, even though there was no evidence of incitement to violence.

As the debate over whether social media giants are platforms or publishers rages on, one thing is clear: It is no longer possible for the likes of Facebook to hide behind the opacity of their algorithms. Ironically, the page celebrating Papua New Guinea’s culture could have actually served as a best-case scenario for social media: Its members connected with each other and their past and a shared culture through the page in a way that would have been nearly impossible in an analogue world. If the algorithm prevents that, it may be time to rewrite it.

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