A Few Home Truths About Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is a human right. 
It is the right to express  one’s ideas and opinions verbally or in writing, either publicly or privately.
It is the right to engage in public conversation about personal and public issues and events.
It is the right to communicate meaningfully with other people. 

Even so, it has it’s ethical limitations. 

All individuals have freedom of speech. It is not just the domain of one person, or one group. 
This means that the right is also accompanied by the responsibility of listening to, and responding thoughtfully to, the ideas and opinions of others. Freedom of speech is a two way street. 

It is not the right to cause harm or injury to other people. 
It is not the right to incite violence. 
It is not the right to abuse, slander, or misrepresent situations or other people. 
It is not the right to spread dangerous disinformation.
It is not the right to break the law or commonly accepted rules. 

The people decrying Twitter and Facebook for banning Trump need to understand these things. 

When he opened his social media accounts, he agreed to the terms and conditions. Nobody can have those accounts without agreeing to those rules, which clearly state that one cannot use that social media platform to break the law or encourage anyone else to do so. There is a clearly stated warning that infringement of those rules will result in your account being suspended or cancelled. 

There is no doubt that these are the rules invoked when the accounts belonging to a range of criminals and terrorists were cancelled in the past. People and governments actively and rightly demanded that this should be the case in response to the manifesto and live streaming of the actions of the Christchurch mosque terrorist, for example. 

It is illegal to use social media to promote illegal activity or post offensive material. 

Why, then, should Trump not be banned for inciting a riot or encouraging sedition? Why should his followers not be banned for plotting violence and premeditating murder and insurrection? 

The clear answer is that they absolutely should. 

Anyone using social media to plan or conduct a criminal act should be banned and then prosecuted to the full extent of the law. 

Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have acted rightly. 
They have not assaulted anyone’s free speech. It is not censorship. Those on the quiet end of a ban have invited that consequence for themselves. 

A Few Home Truths About #FreedomOfSpeech
#Rights2021 #SocialMedia

A Handy-Dandy Social Media Skill

I have a really handy social media skill. It may actually prove to be a talent: time will tell. 

It’s super for my mental health, and has amazing benefits in maintaining positive content on my social media feed. 

It is, quite simply, deleting rubbish content on social media and snoozing the people who post it. 

Obviously, “rubbish content” is a highly subjective term. But since it’s my hobby, and since it’s my social media feed, I get to decide what’s rubbish and what’s not. I don’t dictate to anyone else what they post, or what they read, or what they want to see. But I do get to decide on what I allow to speak into my life. 

Things that get an instant veto are racism, intolerance, and hatred. The chances of them changing my mind on those issues range at the lower end of remote to zero. Also high on the veto list are conspiracy theories, politics, and ignorance. I’m not limiting their right to free speech, nor am I insisting that they think or believe. I am simply choosing not to engage with them. All I am limiting is their ability to speak into my space and my mental health. 

To that end, I have deleted comments. Obviously, people can see if their comments have been deleted. If that bothered me more than  the comments do, I wouldn’t delete them.

I have also muted conversations in messenger. The person on the other end of the conversation won’t know I’ve muted them, because I don’t often respond to general content in messenger anyway. Forwarded messages, videos, chain letters, those virus-laden ‘OMG I can’t believe this!’ messages and spam only ever come to my inbox to die, friendless, unacknowledged and alone. If it’s a personal message, that’s a different thing entirely. 

I have snoozed or unfollowed people on Facebook. The advantage is that you can do both without those people knowing and getting all offended and being weird with you when you see them at the next family gathering or in the supermarket. 

Furthermore, I have zero shame about doing any of it. 

I have chosen to not engage in debates because I don’t have the energy, nor do I have any inclination to enter into conflict. My social media feed is not the place for a bunfight about whose lives matter or whether or not something is real. And if I post something and someone disagrees, they’re completely free to do so without starting an existential debate on my thread. They can do what I do, and simply walk away. 

As someone said to me last week, it’s a bit like peeing in a wetsuit: it gives you a warm feeling, but nobody else notices. That’s absolutely true, but that doesn’t matter one bit, because I’m not doing it for anyone else. I’m doing it for me.

Here’s the how-to:

At the top right of a Facebook post are three dots, like an ellipsis. Click on those. 

From the drop-down menu, you can choose to snooze the person who made the most for 30 days OR to unfollow them entirely. This means you won’t see anything they post unless you go to their profile. 

If that person is sharing someone else’s post, you have another option. 

I changed the names on this post so that there is no inferred suggestion certain pages should be hidden or unfollowed. I made this name up. Any resemblance to existing pages is entirely coincidental.

You can hide all content from the creator of the original post without affecting your friend’s usual posts. This is usually my first choice, and I don’t snooze or unfollow my friends until they have deliberately and repeatedly shared what I consider to be rubbish on multiple occasions: that’s when I understand that I am better off just not seeing their posts. 

Finally, if people think something I post is rubbish or disagreeable, they’re welcome to ignore it or snooze/unfollow me, too. Fair’s fair, and I’m really not that easily offended. 

On Offending Facebook’s Community Standards Yet Again…

Apparently, yesterday’s blog post about supporting our young folk through the Covid-19 pandemic was offensive to Facebook’s community standards. They took it, and the shares people very nicely did because it was a positive and commonsense post, down. They gave no explanation except “Your post goes against our community standards”. 

What? How?

With all the rubbish stuff people are posting, I am at a complete loss as to why something constructive on an important topic was removed.  

Was it because I named the virus correctly instead of using the more generic term?  Was it because I mentioned kids and teens?

I’ll never know. The great bot overlords at FB’s censorship department don’t explain things. They’re too busy censoring the wrong posts and thinking themselves clever for it.

It is yet another reason to stick to WordPress.

Shakespeare Nerd.

In an attempt to organise all my Shakespeare-related posts so they might actually reach the readers they were written for, I have a new Facebook page called Shakespeare Nerd

It’s easy to find those posts on WordPress because you can search, or simply click on a category like Shakespeare or a tag like Shakespeare Nerd and they will magically appear.

Finding specific posts on Facebook is not that straightforward, and so my new page was born. 

It’s already full of all sorts of hey nonny nonny and hurly burly, and waiting to be discovered by my fellow Shakespeare lovers.

If you are on Facebook, love Shakespeare, and want to make my day, please give it a like. 

If you’re not, or you don’t, or don’t want to, there is absolutely no obligation. You won’t miss a thing, because you’re already here, right at the front of the line waiting for me to serve up the wordy nerdy goods.

Thank you for being a supporter and reading my posts, by the way. It’s very much appreciated.

Why We Should Rethink Using The Angry Face Reaction on Facebook

In a recent post, I commented that someone suggested that the angry face reaction to one or more of my Facebook posts may have contributed to some of the problems I have been having with them flagging and suspending my posts for no obvious reason.

It turns out that this theory may well be  correct. 

Having read a number of conversations on forums in the hope of discovering the cause of my problems, I have a strong suspicion that the algorithm may well interpret an angry face reaction as meaning that people don’t like the post, or object to it somehow. Whether or not this causes that post to undergo more scrutiny by the algorithm, and whether or not that might result in the post being deleted by Facebook, and the user having certain types of access or posting permissions suspended for a time, can only be a matter of conjecture, but it would certainly explain my circumstances.

The problem with that is that people might not intend for that to happen at all when they use the angry face reaction. It may be that they are sharing the anger, frustration or dislike expressed by the author of the post about something entirely different. It’s not the post they object to, it’s whatever the writer is angry about that makes them angry, too. 

It would be most unfair if the algorithm were to completely misinterpret that and set in place consequences that are both unintended by the responder while they are trying to be supportive of the author of the post. 

While I cannot prove that this is what has happened to me and to others, it seems to me that it is better to be safe than sorry. 

In short. unless someone posts content that is completely objectionable, I will not use the angry face reaction.

There are, after all, much more helpful alternatives:

  • Use the “wow” or “sad face” reaction
  • Comment with thoughts or reactions
  • Post a gif that expresses thoughts or feelings about the content of the post

That way, your friends and their posts will actually receive support rather than potential suppression. 

Let’s save the angry face for those posts that express hatred, vilification, prejudice, discrimination or violence. They’re the ones that should be suppressed. 

Author’s note: When I first wrote this post, it was based on information I found in forum conversations while looking for the answers to problems I was having with my posts and my ability to post on Facebook being suspended even though I was not active, and had not been for some hours, when those suspensions occurred. The posts in question had received angry responses because people were angry at the problems I was having. 

I should have recorded the urls of those conversations at the time, but failed to do so then, and am unable to find them again now. 

Therefore, I have edited my original post to reflect the fact that what I have written here can now only be considered anecdotal and conjectural in nature. 

My intention was only ever sincere and honest, and my initial statements based on information that did indeed seem to be consistent with my own experience. I apologise that I am unable to direct my readers to that evidence now. 

Dear Facebook… Yet Again.

I quote, verbatim, this afternoon’s status on my Facebook profile.

Dear Facebook,

You have been temporarily blocked from accessing some of my features.

I’m not telling you why. 
I”m not going to listen to your appeal.

But you can bet your algorithmic little hiney I’m going to have my eye on you for quite some time. Possibly forever.

Joanne Van Leerdam, June 25, 2019.

So, it seems that I’ve run afoul of the Facebook algorithm yet again.
Now they’re suggesting I’m a robot.

You read that right. A robot.

I haven’t made identical posts in forever. I vary what I post from page to page. l really don’t know what brought that on.

And let’s not overlook the irony of an algorithm calling me a robot. It’s beyond ridiculous.

They can’t still be sour about my “What I Do and Don’t Like About Facebook” post… can they?

One suggestion that has been made is that when I’ve posted about things that annoy me, some well-meaning people have responded with the “angry face” reaction because they’re angry at the nonsense that a certain social media platform is throwing at people lately.

Apparently, for all its cleverness, the Facebook algorithm is unable to comprehend that it’s actually Facebook people are angry at. It interprets this reaction as those people being angry at me.

This is good to know.

Because who could be angry at Facebook or its ever-changing algorithm?

It’s fair to say that Facebook is not doing a single thing to recommend itself to me right now.

Why a Heart is Better than a Thumbs Up

In the ever-evolving state of affairs that is the Facebook algorithm, there is one recent change that is actually quite easy to work with. Facebook now places more value on the other reactions than it does on the standard  “thumbs up” or “like”. 

I can understand why.
It takes just a little more effort, so it is easy to see why it might be interpreted as a more thoughtful and deliberate response to a post than simply hitting the default. 

It’s all part of their reported change of focus from content to engagement. It may be that this is a way to still be able to increase the reach of our posts, and boost our audience engagement at the same time. 

So, I’m trying to respond accordingly: 

  • I’m using the heart and surprised “wow” face more. I don’t know how much difference it makes, but for something so simple, it’s worth a try. 
  • I’m responding to the posts I make via my pages and groups with those “power responses” using my personal account in the interests of pushing my posts to gain more reach and engagement. 
  • I’m trying to respond with more comments, even if it’s just an emoji or a gif, in addition to using one of the response buttons. Obviously, I can’t do this for every post because I don’t want to spend my entire life on Facebook. I may have to be choosy, but there are posts out there that deserve a little extra love, so I’ll try to give it to them. 
  • I will still use the “thumbs up” to acknowledge posts. I don’t want to stop using it altogether, because then the others will become the default, and everything will undergo another adjustment. 


It’s all positive interaction and engagement, so it can’t hurt. 

Hopefully, it will be contagious. If people see more hearts and wow faces, and additional comments, they might start using them too! 

Facebook’s Delicate Community Standards

Facebook’s “community standards” did not enter my thoughts last night when I was posting about what I love and hate about Facebook. Had I been writing that post today, it would have been a very different story. 

This afternoon, I set up a new page on Facebook with the aim of extending my reach to new readers by using a popular bookish hashtag phrase, What To Read, as the title. 

As soon as I had set up the page, Facebook started coaching me to complete certain steps to make my page more visible. 

Profile photo: check.
Cover photo: check. 
First post: check. 

Oops! My first post violated Facebook’s delicate community standards. 
Want to know what it said? 

So… people can freely incite hate, vilify and shame others, put up pictures of them humiliating themselves… but I can’t suggest that my friends might like a page about books? 

Wow. 
Maybe I should have said something dumb instead. 

May the fates be in my favour when I actually start encouraging people to read. 

***

Update: it took me three attempts to share this blogpost on Facebook.
If they don’t want me to be snarky, they’re going the wrong way about it.

What I Love… and What I Don’t… about Facebook.

There’s no doubt about it: Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms on the planet.

Like anything, it can be fantastic if it’s used the right way, and it can downright dangerous if used for sinister purposes. 

There are some aspects of Facebook I really enjoy:

  • Being able to connect with my family and friends all over the world in real time. What a blessing! When I’m homesick for someone I love – there they are! When I’m lonely – my friends are right there! I can see their pictures and videos, and respond to them right away. I can chat with them, talk with them, and send them stupid memes to cheer them up when they are down or unwell. 

  • Being able to connect with like-minded people all over the world. As part of the Indie author community, I have received so much help, encouragement, knowledge, advice and good direction from people in Facebook groups.

    It has also been a very great pleasure for me to be able to pass some of that knowledge and advice on to others, and to encourage them in their journeys.

    Similarly, I’ve made some wonderful lifelong friends in a particular grammar-nerd group, and have met two of them on one of my trips overseas.  I can’t imagine not knowing them or being able to talk with them.

  • Being able to find things I’m interested in via the pages people create. I’ve discovered some wonderful blogs to follow, some great information on specific topics, and I can’t tell you how many excellent Indie books I’ve found to read. That number has to be in the hundreds. 

  • Being able to permanently hide things from my timeline that I don’t want to see. This is generally anything racist, hateful, or politically zealous. 

  • Being able to permanently hide things from my timeline that I don’t want to see. This is generally anything racist, hateful, or politically zealous. 
  • Memes, jokes, and videos that make me laugh. Some of that stuff is pure gold.  
  • The block function. It’s really good. 

Of course, with the good comes the not-so-good. 

There are things I really hate about Facebook. 

  • The fact that they don’t show me everything my friends post. If my friends think it’s worth posting, I probably want to see it. But no… Facebook gets all choosy about showing me their posts, and when showing mine to them.

    Of course, they’ll tell you that boosting your post will get it shown to your friends. For $13, your post can reach… er, how about no? I’m not giving them money to show my posts to my own friends. They should do that for nothing. 

  • That dratted algorithm. It seems any moron can make a stupid post that will go viral because people “like” and  respond to it, but you can’t post a link for a product, or a blog post, or an event, or a website outside of Facebook without them suppressing it so that maybe 3% of the people who follow you or your page will actually see it.

    And every time you get clever about how to communicate your product/event/website to your audience, they change the algorithm so you are actually  no further ahead, yet again. 

    I know: it’s a business. But if they showed my stuff to the people I know, I’d probably be more interested in giving them a bit of cash to show it to folks I don’t know. 

  • The perceived freedom some people feel they have to deride, belittle, criticise, mock and bully others.  In a not-so-surprising coincidence, this correlates very closely with one of the things I hate most about people in general.  Just because they’re hiding behind a profile picture or an avatar, they think they can say what they want to and have no consequences. 

    Not in my world, Julie.
    Block, block, block.
    Fixed. 

The verdict: As much as I hate it, I love it.
I’m definitely keeping it.

But if I ever meet that algorithm in person… it may just walk away with a black eye. 

Attention: Facebook

Due to recent trends, my algorithm has been realigned.

You may notice that your invitations to boost my posts or create advertisements will receive zero attention. Some may be marked as spam due to lower perceived relevance to the audience. 

If you won’t show my posts to the people who do follow me, I most certainly will not be paying you to show them to people who don’t. 

Because, as you say so often yourself, “it’s all about engagement”. 

Fortunately for the rest of us, there are other places to “engage”, too. 
Are you aware that Twitter neither suppress nor hides anything I post? As soon as it’s sent, BAM, it’s out there for the whole Twitverse to see.

We’re you aware that WordPress allows me to use tags, categories and SEO to make my posts available beyond those who already follow my blog? And they do it free of charge. Ingenious, no?  

I’ll still give you a little attention, Facey. But not as much as you want. And not to help you make money. From what I have heard on the news, you’ve already got quite enough out of people like me.