It’s Time To Abandon Facebook

Last month, ProPublica journalist Julia Angwin published a damning article about Facebook’s failures to protect marginalized and vulnerable people on the social network. “Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men from Hate Speech But Not Black Children” might seem like a click-baity headline, but it’s the dead truth, as the article shows.

This came as no surprise to anyone who has spent time on Facebook as a Black person, a woman, a transgender person, someone with a name that isn’t deemed “normal” by Western cultural standards, or a breastfeeding mother, to highlight a few. The article does detail the evolution of how the departments and executives have dealt with the issue of creating and enforcing community standards across the site. It also reveals how flawed the thinking is now and has always been, to the point where it would almost be comical how bad they are at this if the results weren’t such a problem.

For years and years and years Facebook has failed to protect or address the concerns of people who are most likely to be harmed by those with more cultural or actual power. Facebook is more concerned with protecting the powerful. So why are we all still hanging out there?

Part of it is momentum. Everyone is on Facebook. It’s how we keep in touch with friends and family and probably how you found that one cousin no one had seen in a decade and also your friend from elementary school. There are some great things about Facebook, such as the many Groups that have sprung up around interests or activism or support that serve as mini social networks of their own. Some people even use it as their primary way of sending emails to others.

I get it. We’re all there, we all enjoy the connection, and there’s no where else to go with the same kind of feature set that doesn’t suck.

Still though, the issues have been outweighing the benefits for a while, and that ProPublica piece only served as yet another reminder.

It’s time we abandoned Facebook.

Because Facebook will put you in time out and remove your post because it contains the words “White people.” See Also: [1] [2]

Because Facebook won’t ban a user for sending harassing messages in private, but will put you in time out for posting those messages to your wall to show what happened to you. See Also: [1]

Because Facebook will force you to use your wallet name on your account even if you’re a trans person who no longer goes by that name but hasn’t yet gone through the legal rigmarole to put your new name on your ID. See Also: [1] [2]

Because Facebook says that a page literally titled “ritual Jewish murder” and filled with anti-Semitism and blood libel doesn’t violate their community standards. See Also: [1] [2] [3] [4]

Because Facebook will shut down the live feed of a woman afraid for her life if the police, who are threatening her, request it, so no one can see them when they eventually shoot her. But uploads of murders can hang around for a little while. See Also: [1]

Because Facebook still won’t take a nuanced approach to their rules on nudity even after being shamed into ‘quietly’ dropping their censorship of breastfeeding mothers. See Also: [1] [2]

Because Facebook decided for every lesbian that the word Dyke was not allowed, even for names of events, even for self-labeled dykes, since clearly Facebook’s censors know best. :rainbow pride reaction: See Also: [1] [2]

Because Facebook is responsible, in large part, for the way the 2016 American election went down, even if Mark Zukerberg denies it and Sheryl Sandberg didn’t feel like leaning in to address it. See Also: [1] [2]

Because Facebook, even with all its rules, does a terrible job of protecting vulnerable people and communities from harassment, even though they’ve been asked multiple times to maybe take a look at that. See Also: [1]

[side note: If you have more links I should add above, please leave them in comments. I’ll occasionally comb through and update.]

Facebook as a company fails to be a responsible social network on so many levels. But they don’t need to care about that because they make millions of dollars a year. Off of you, their users. The users they feel no compunction about not listening to, unless you happen to me a white male (y’all are protected. Go you?).

But what can you, the users, do? If the only voices Facebook will listen to are those in power, how can individuals who don’t have collective power make real change?

By abandoning Facebook.

I don’t make this suggestion lightly. As I said, it feels like everyone is on Facebook. It’s where you connect and keep up and find new friends and learn things. But it’s also where all those terrible things listed above happen. And maybe that doesn’t matter to you because it’s not happening to you or to anyone you care about. But if it does matter, then now is the time to act.

I don’t suggest trying to convince all the folks you know to leave Facebook all at once and right away. That’s not going to work. That’s never how this has worked. Abandoning Facebook is going to have to happen in stages. And in the process of phasing it out of your life and replacing it with better things, there are still ways you can engage with people on Facebook while not supporting the company.

I have a plan. A suggested plan. It involves several steps. It may also involve having to do a bit extra, put in some effort, and change up the paradigm. I believe it will be worth it. Once I’ve laid it all out, you can tell me what you think.

I’m publishing a multi-part series called How To Ditch Facebook: A Guide here on Medium. If you’re interested in learning the gradual steps you can take to leave Facebook behind or, at least, impact them enough to make them pay attention to these big problems, you can follow me or follow this publication, Anti-Social.



K. Tempest Bradford is a tech journalist, podcaster, media critic, and professional harsher of squee.