The Controversy Over Facebook's Gay Kissing Ban Isn't Over
Facebook has apologized for what critics called homophobia, but not changed its policies
This week, with some satisfaction, a number of gay and lesbian news sites reported that Facebook had "apologized" for removing a photo of two men kissing on its site. The initial censorship had sparked a week-long protest and attracted coverage from The Huffington Post, MSNBC and other news outlets. But now, the man who started the controversy says he's not satisfied with Facebook's response. "This is being presented as some kind of victory or that there's a reason to go do a conga line down Christopher Street," says Richard Metzger, who posted the photo of two fully-clothed men kissing that was removed from Facebook on Saturday for containing "nudity, or any kind of graphic or sexually suggestive content" according to a notice from the social network.
On Monday, after many gay men and women protested the decision by putting up pictures of themselves kissing on Facebook, the company issued a statement to a handful of media outlets: “The photo in question does not violate our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and was removed in error. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
But Metzger doesn't see why anyone's celebrating that acknowledgement. "It's just generic PR speak that doesn't even refer to a gay kiss," he says. "The real problem here is certainly not that Facebook is a homophobic company. It's that their terrible corporate policy on censorship needs to stop siding with the idiots, the complainers and the least-enlightened and evolved amongst us."
According to Facebook's FAQ page, a "Facebook administrator looks into each report thoroughly" when deciding whether to remove an item. "There shouldn't be a human being making that determination," says Metzger. He would prefer a censorship system that removes flagged photographs based on an automatic, crowdsourced method similar to the one used by the comedy site Funny or Die. Essentially, he's promoting a "wisdom of the crowd" system that would work like this: One user flags an item and a second alert pops up asking other users if the material is offensive or not. That way, no single person could get a photograph banned.
But would a "majority rules" system make for a more tolerant Facebook? We're not sure. Asked if he thought his proposed system could result in more homophobic behavior, Metzger responded as such:
That's possible, but in our ecosystem that kind of behavior would be expelled. On Free Republic-type groups, behavior like that might get voted up but it wouldn't affect the whole Facebook ecosystem. These groups stay with their own kind.