The social netwroking site, Facebook, is again in the news for deleting pages that deal with the socially unacceptable topic of breast feeding.
From the New York Times:
This past weekend, Facebook deleted the page for The Leaky B@@b, a breast-feeding support group where thousands of women come to ask questions and trade answers. It was the latest in an ongoing series of skirmishes between Facebook and nursing mothers — specifically those who have posted photos of their children breast-feeding.
This is nothing new for Facebook. I wrote about a similar incident back in April.
Apparently Facebook is not really very consistent or systematic in the process by which they purge material they don’t like:
Soon things got interesting. Martin-Weber issued a statement asking for her page back, and also demanding that Facebook stop treating breast-feeding as an obscenity. Facebook, in turn, appears to have deleted the pages of several women who were members of the original group. On Tuesday the Leaky B@@b page was reinstated, and Facebook called the deletion a mistake. Then, that same night, it was deleted again. Yesterday afternoon it was back. Last I checked, though, while one of the protest groups, TLB Support, is still in existence, the other, Bring Back the Leaky Boob has disappeared. A third page, Bring Back the Leaky Boob — Again, seems to have popped up in its place.
My main concern over cases like this is our increasing dependency on networking sites like this that impose arbitrary rules that are enforced inconsistently. Being private companies, they certainly have the right to decide how their sites are run, while we as customers can go elsewhere of we don’t like their policies. The problem begins when some tragedy triggers a paranoid response that gives the government an excuse to pass legislation that forces internet companies to police the content on their networks.
If you remember, just before Craigslist capitulated to the intimidation campaign demanding the removal of their adult services section, Congress held a hearing about whether sites like Craigslist should be held accountable for content they carry. By doing so, private companies would immediately be forced to eliminate any content that might expose them to civil suit or criminal prosecution whether that content was protected by the First Amendment or not. In other words, simply by making private companies responsible, the government could sidestep any need to prove the content was in actual violation of the law. Companies are not bound by the First Amendment and their strategy would necessarily be to err on the side of caution.
Personally, I think this is inevitable. It’s just too easy and attractive an option for the government not to exploit it. It’s only a matter of time.