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Nov 19 2013

Wingnut Writer Doesn’t Understand First Amendment

Michael Brown, a writer for Charisma News, is upset that there are Facebook groups that he finds offensive who are “liking” his posts on Facebook and he wonders why Facebook is not closing down those groups. More bizarrely, he wonders how it could possibly be legal:

To give the relevant details, a few weeks ago, my staff noticed there were “likes” appearing in response to posts on my AskDrBrown Facebook page, and these “likes” were from new Facebook pages, including “Jesus F**king Christ. Slut Mary’s Bast*rd.”

Yes, this is actually the name of a Facebook Fan page—spelled out in full—and the page is as profane as the name. Yet Facebook says the page does not violate community guidelines for hate speech against a religious group!

Facebook also had no problem with pages like “Christo Fascist Bigots Run This Business” and “Virgin? Mary Should Have Aborted,” the latter page featuring a gay and lesbian, sadomasochist version of the Last Supper.

What this means is that anyone participating on my AskDrBrown Facebook page—which reaches 40,000+ per week—would constantly be confronted with vulgar, anti-Jesus profanity, since there’s no way to remove these “likes” once they’re posted. (In contrast, an offensive comment can be removed and an offending participant can be blocked.)

So, when someone would post a question on my Facebook timeline, asking me about the meaning of a verse in the Bible or asking if I’d seen a particular news item about Israel or sharing a beautiful, spiritual insight, soon enough you would see “Jesus F**king Christ. Slut Mary’s Bast*rd” and “Christo Fascist Bigots Run This Business” pop up as “liking” this.

How can this be legal? How can Facebook permit people to post Christ-mocking profanity on someone else’s page?

Again, if Facebook feels that these offensive pages do not contain hate speech against a religious group and they want to have an “anything goes” environment, that’s their business, as long as they’re consistent (which would obviously mean rewriting their community guidelines).

I don’t know why so many people don’t understand that under American law there is no such thing as hate speech. It simply does not exist as a legal category (nor should it, by the way). That doesn’t mean there isn’t any criticism that could be made of such things, and personally I have little patience for stupid crap like a group called “Jesus Fucking Christ. Slut Mary’s Bastard.” That’s just juvenile trolling and there’s no reason for it. But how can this be legal? If you ask that question, you are utterly clueless.

22 comments

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  1. 1
    Al Dente

    Yet another example of someone thinking free speech means that speech which they approve of.

  2. 2
    voidhawk

    Unless he means legal not in respect to American law but *within Facebook’s guidelines* which seems to be his confused and muddled point, in which case I can understand where he’s coming from. I have no idea what FB’s guidelines are (I’m not a member and they seem to change every other week) but if they explicitly ban groups for offending religious groups then there’s a case to be made that the groups mentioned should be taken down.

    That said, he could just block the groups and move no with his life. It’s only Facebook.

  3. 3
    Modusoperandi

    That’s just juvenile trolling and there’s no reason for it.”

    On the internet? I’m shocked. Also, stunned.
     

    But how can this be legal?”

    Look, you know darn well that “community standards” is based on the Pearl Clutching Index of Normal Americans. If I, being a normal person of solid morality, find it weird or bad or ugly or gross then everybody needs to be protected from it.
    That’s just Common Sense.

  4. 4
    sigurd jorsalfar

    I’ll bet there’s a lot more than the First Amendment that this wingnut writer doesn’t understand.

  5. 5
    Abby Normal

    I agree voidhawk, he seems to be using legal in the sense Facebook policy, rather than First Amendment.

    Facebook does prohibit hate speech. Here’s how they define it:

    Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.

    I agree with Facebook that people with anti-religious page names liking comments doesn’t violate their policy. But bringing up hate speech is not an unreasonable challenge.

  6. 6
    fifthdentist

    He should just read his Bible if he doesn’t want to encounter anything shocking.
    I hope he doesn’t find shocking things like these: A woman who lusts after guys with equine-sized penises, genocide that includes even animals, raping virgins from conquered cities, scatological references, incest — lots and lots of incest, stories about two guys who really are into each other, a female who is allowed to save her people and toward the end a shiftless and homeless dude with no job who hangs out with prostitutes.

  7. 7
    eric

    What this means is that anyone participating on my AskDrBrown Facebook page—which reaches 40,000+ per week—would constantly be confronted with vulgar, anti-Jesus profanity, since there’s no way to remove these “likes” once they’re posted

    I can see how that’s a Facebook problem. If “liking” allows people to essentially add content to someone’s Facebook page that the owner doesn’t want, that’s not a very good system. But it has nothing to do with the first amendment.

    Actually, this situation is kinda like the Advertisement situation with FtB. Every week or two some commenter decides to complain that some Ad on Ed’s page is for some conservative or religious cause. Now, I can undertand why that’s a bad system and how viewers might not like it, but Ed’s first amendment rights aren’t violated by it.

  8. 8
    Raging Bee

    I don’t know why so many people don’t understand that under American law there is no such thing as hate speech.

    Well, that could be because that’s simply NOT TRUE. We don’t ban hate speech altogether, of course, and maybe our laws don’t actually use the words “hate speech,” but we do keep it out of certain places.

  9. 9
    Chiroptera

    I don’t know anything about Facebook, but they certainly should allow people control over what gets displayed on their pages. And as social media becomes more important so that it becomes more and more difficult to do business without using it, their moral responsibility, I would think, becomes greater.

    That said, if the good pastor has a complaint, there it is, I just made it for him. If his main concern really were vulgar messages on his FB page, this is what he would be complaining about. But he’s not really concerned about his page, it’s shutting up people he doesn’t like.

  10. 10
    doublereed

    I also get confused when people think Facebook is a government.

  11. 11
    Abdul Alhazred

    Either he doesn’t understand the First Amendment, or he thinks Facebook is a government agency.

    Or both. :)

  12. 12
    dingojack

    Yes Facebook should be totally controlled under American Law because the whole universe is within the USA, am I right? (no other kinds of law need apply)
    Whoops, seems your privilege is showing.
    DIngo

  13. 13
    Abdul Alhazred

    @12

    Facebook is under US law as it happens.

    Just not part of the government.

    You ignorance and arrogance are showing.

  14. 14
    timberwoof

    Abdul, hold still while I recalibrate your sarcasm detector.

    Oh, this? This is just my clue-by-four.

    Dingo, I think what we’re seeing is rules-bound people (RBP) demanding that some People In Authority, Facebook in this case, enforce the laws that the RBP think need to be enforced. OF course, they want them enforced in their own favor.

  15. 15
    John Hinkle

    Pretty funny, to me anyway.

    Reminds me of Lol Jesus.

  16. 16
    Raging Bee

    Okay, this guy is suggesting remedies that aren’t really in line with US law — but who cam blame him for getting frustrated at the pointless, childish and obscene messages he’s getting? He’s not lobbying for a legal crackdown on free speech, he’s merely expressing frustration at his apparent inability to avoid getting a lot of childish hateful flak for his harmless actions. Why do you have so little patience for someone else expressing his feelings about what looks like cyberbullying? If you don’t have the patience for him, then don’t bother with him — that’s no cause to try to make a “free speech” case out of it.

  17. 17
    dugglebogey

    If you don’t like how Facebook enforces their rules, stop using Facebook.

    Facebook is free for users. So Facebook is definitely NOT a service that you use. Facebook makes money, and you’re not paying for it, so you’re NOT the customer, you’re the product they’re selling to advertisers.

  18. 18
    Cal

    He also doesn’t seem to understand Facebook, since it is easy to simply block profiles which would keep those from seeing, posting, or even liking anything on your page.

  19. 19
    Doug Little

    That’s just juvenile trolling and there’s no reason for it

    Comedy value?

  20. 20
    matty1

    There is a point, not about shutting down groups but about being unable to delete likes. Yes facebook can do what they want and yes non paying users are in a sense a product being sold to advertisers. However telling people they cannot stop stuff they don’t want appearing on a page that is in their name is a way to loose that audience, and if it becomes unpopular enough could hit ad revenue so it is in their interest to makes likes deletable.

  21. 21
    Big Boppa

    It is kind of odd though that Facebooks terms of use allows this but anything that remotely looks like boobie is strictly verboten with them.

    Jesus F**king Christ. Slut Mary’s Bast*rd = OK

    ( . ) ( . ) = OMG! Where’s mah clutchin’ pearls?

  22. 22
    eric

    @21 – you’re right, but IMO that isn’t just a Facebook issue. Mainstream American culture in general is still pretty puritanical by global standards. We have an inordinate bias against public talk and images about sex (in contrast to, say, talk or images of profanity and violence). Facebook’s rules reflect that bias, and I guess you can sorta hold them responsible for contiuning to propagate it, but in reality the bias was there before facebook, and I’m guessing they would in fact receive vastly higher complaints about sexualized content (from both their “products” and their advertiser-customers) than they would about profanity or violence.

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