"Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many - they are few."
Facebook has just proved itself to be an idiot again - or rather its
algorithms have proved idiotic. Its guidelines on 'nudity' (a particular
cultural neurosis emanating from the dark recesses of American disgust
with the otherwise perfectly natural human body) are actually crystal
clear that if an 'artist' paints a nude, then it is somehow just dandy.
This is, of course, a concession to the nonsensical idea that, for some romantic
reason, artists can represent safely what is not permitted in the real
world. However, those are the guidelines - no nudity (except for a political concession to breast feeding mothers) unless it is art and then it is permitted. Let us be clear - if it is an artistic representation, it is expressly permitted.
In this particular case, I posted, in a Closed Group
dedicated to art and with members who are all invited adults, a picture
by the mid-level baroque female painter Artemisia Gentileschi, somewhat
of a feminist icon. Indeed, I have the cynical notion that Facebook only
backed down when I threatened to set the feminists on it for blocking
their heroine, one of the few female artists to 'make it' in the
seventeenth century - actually a fairly average and over-hyped artist.
cut a long story short, not only did their moronic algorithm not
recognise a work of art and blocked it but the operation did something
unconscionable - it arbitrarily halted me from posting anything and
anywhere for 24 hours. It gets worse by the way, but wait for the end on that one.
My response was
immediate, aggressive and utterly contemptuous. They got a message on
their help desk every five minutes for two hours pointing out the idiocy
of the blocking with a one hour twitter campaign of direct contempt for
their inability a) to recognise art and b) to understand their own
guidelines as well as an expression through every means of direct anger
and outrage that they should arbitrarily block anyone for 24 hours
rather than just block something that their idiot algorithm could not
recognise as a rather unerotic bit of baroque flummery.
result was that the block on my posting was lifted within six rather 24
hours and the picture was restored but my contempt for this arbitrary
act and algorithmic stupidity has returned me to my high level of
distrust for Facebook that had existed some three or four years ago when
they suspended my account without adequate cause and were forced to
relent after another time-wasting and determined twitter campaign and
complaints to the regulatory authorities in Ireland. At least this time,
it was a matter of hours and not months!
But then they blundered again. This time in a way that is almost comical. I made it clear to two Groups that I would no longer be posting on them as a mode of resistance to self censorship but also to preseve rights that now seemed to threaten my right to post in some 15 or so others of an educational nature.
A debate ensued in which a bit of consciousnes was raised about Facebook's arbitrary power and then I commented on another sixteenth century Northern Renaissance nude, posted in the past where others saw 'attachment unavailable'. In other words, Facebook had arbitrarily stopped others from seeing it without giving me fair warning of why this was so. When I commented on it, the result was that the algorithm stupidly marked this art work (well within Facebook's guidelines) as problematic and, yes, in another arbitrary act, banned me from posting for another 24 hours. There is a moron out there, either a programmer or an AI.
Facebook needs to
understand that it has every right to set the rules for its platform but
there are two things it cannot do. First, it cannot breach its own
guidelines - those guidelines give a rather silly priority to art but
that commitment to permit art must be met. Second, blocking a picture
may be unfortunate and immature but it is permissible within those
guidelines. However, it is outrageous that it can behave like a medieval
despot and remove posting rights and make threats of loss of account on
any basis, let alone a breach of its own guidelines. Body neurosis is
tiresome - it shows a weak and decadent culture incapable of standing up
for maturity. It also evidences an even more tiresome American cultural
imperialism. But this weird thing about Art/Good and Body/Bad remains Facebook's privilege. Arbitrary incompetence or algorithmic malice does not.
What is really disturbing here is something much deeper. Because of its administrative errors, my digital existence is being put at threat because these blunders are inexorably leading to my own digital arbitrary execution.
The Debate on the Art Group during the brief period when I had access to posting was instructive because Facebook's acts are raising a sort of 'revolutionary consciousness' through its arbitrary acts which have not just affected me. It is a sinister algorithmic attempt at socialisation that is going very badly wrong.
I do not accept defeat but I recognise the reality of power which is that
Facebook, if I persist, can remove, in an arbitrary way, my entire six
year Facebook ouevre comprising engagement in over 15 groups
and with nearly 400 Friends and 160 Followers. In other words,
Facebook, like a despotic ancien regime estate, can execute me in the
digital world on the whim of one of its own aristocratic algorithms. It
is as decadent, corrupt and villainous as any ancien regime.
does a rebel do? He does, as Churchill points out, like any oppressed
peasantry take to the hills ... or he engages in guerrilla activity
or he emigrates or he gets educated and plots or he engages in a
calculated 'dumb insubordination' and 'go slow' or he raises the next
generation to understand power and eventually seize it. Or all of those
as circumstances dictate. The understanding of power is a fine art -
first one must know one's powerlessnes (which few really appreciate) and
then one must know the power of the powerless (as Foucault pointed out)
in its insidious ability to destroy its oppressor. Eventually
conditions change and there is a revolution against arbitrary power.
arbitrary act by the ancien regime increases resentment and eventually
the heads of the aristocrats roll, eventually humanity will command
these AI-driven platforms by revolutionary fiat. I engaged
the platform in struggle and temporarily won the
'pay rise' to which I was owed anyway but the power relationship has not
changed and the capitalist may still fire me at will when conditions
change. He may have put me on a blacklist. Indeed, that is what happened. Within hours of the first suspension, I got 'locked out' again with the suspicion that I am a 'marked man'
I can engage in an idle
and short term trades union reformism or I can take the revolutionary
route and plan for the long game - the utter overthrow of the arbitrary
regime and its replacement by a dictatorship of the subjects! The Art
Group remains - it just does not have me posting. It is for others to
carry on the revolution in the factory. Better to die on your feet than
live in fear on your knees so off to the hills I go with mental kalashnikov in my fist. My investment elsewhere is too valuable in
the revolutionary cause and there is nothing they can do about that except 'kill' me. And, if they kill me, others will arise to protest their arbitrary power. My
very small amount of power has been redirected with more force. The only
thing I can hope is that I have raised the revolutionary consciousness
of my own fellow Facebook proletariat.
What is going on here? I think Facebook is running
scared of legislation from an equally neurotic government structure and
is trying out algorithms that restrict and contain us, all on the
spurious grounds of protecting us. The platform is weak and governments
are oppressive and, between them, we could be but nuts in their
nutcracker. The answer is simple as it is to all arbitrary power -
expose it, fight it and apportion blame where it is due: in this case, cowardly
and greedy unchecked corporate power and weak and oppressive states. We must never be the nuts ... the
nut cracker must be broken, and we should be allowed to grow into great
Appendix: My Protest At The Second Suspension
I cannot believe your stupidity or is it the stupidity of your
algorithms. Yesterday, you suspended me for 24 hours on a seventeenth
century artwork which met your guidelines. Six hours later you restored
me. I commented on 'old' posting of a sixteenth century artwork (well
within your guidelines) this morning and you suspended me again for 24
hours. Now I fear that your algorithms are marking me out for account
loss on your idiot mistakes.
This really is not acceptable. I
want the painting restored. I want the 24 hour suspension lifted. I want
my algorithm corrected to remove all references to these arbitrary
actions outside your guidelines.
If this is not done clearly
and quickly, I will do the following: I shall write to the regulatory
authorities and to my elected representative (who is a
member of a minority government putting datas regulation through
Parliament); I will produce a blog posting on your failures which I shall
circulate widely; and you will have a Twitter reference every ten
minutes for as long as it takes.
This is an absolute outrage -
two blunders in 24 hours against your own guidelines with arbitrary
and unjustified attacks on service provision.
On July 22nd, 2017, I posted a photographic art work in a thread on the photographer Man Ray in the same closed Art Group censored above. In this case, it was borderline because it is moot whether a photograph is art to some people though few actually contest Man Ray's status in this respect and the picture was part of a series, all classically correct, as representative of Man Ray's work including his anodyne but attractive 'Pebbles'.
This particular work was interesting because it was a staged (and very obviously staged) image of 'crime passsionel' which only a moron would not see as expressive and poetic rather than either as a) an incentive to crime or b) some sort of vicious misogyny though, of course, some of the half-educated wallies coming out of the universities nowadays seem unable to draw a mental distinction betwen reality and fantasy which is, I suppose, a sign of the times. If the American President cannot do this, it is probable that his subjects may have difficulty as well.
However, accepting that Facebook are not sophisticated and they have rules, in this case, I am perfectly happy to see the picture removed as borderline since they are clearly trying to protect any one in any sex-negative, body-fearing, unthinking culture to which they want to flog their advertising from having their imagination or brain cells tested very far.
What I do not accept is a) the blocking from posting for 24 hours and b) the bullying threats associated with the blocking. What they should do (as I made clear in my main posting) is remove the picture without threats and advise that this has been done and suggest the possibility of a problem if there is a pattern of such activity within some system of adequate due process. This is what I wrote to them:
"You've done it again .... removed an art work. In this case, a clearly staged photographic art work by the great photographer Man Ray in a thread about Man Ray's work in a closed Group dedicated to Art.
"I have dealt with your censorship behaviours in depth in the past (as above) which I urge you to read with care ....
"In this case, I recognise that it is borderline in terms of the actual posting and that it is reasonable for you to remove the picture in the light of your guidelines - idiotic though the act is in every other respect (the closed and dedicated nature of the Group and its dedication to art amongst consenting adults who do not include primitives).
"However, it is not acceptable to block an individual for 24 hours and offer threats but only to remove the picture and a note to this effect will be added to the posting if posting rights are not restored within one hour.
"I accept that the picture may be removed. I do not accept your arbitrary decision to block posting without due process."