In our war against the injustices we face, there are some battlegrounds that we choose not to face or even address. Yes, fighting lawmakers and their Draconian restrictions are and should be our main priority. They affect not only our daily lives but the very lives of our relatives and friends. We must continue to put most of whatever resources we can muster in getting laws and “regulations” overturned. Yet there are other battle arenas that, on the surface may seem innocuous, but if allowed to continue on, ignored and unexamined, will only serve to undermine our efforts.
Earlier this year, I went to sign onto my Facebook account only to discover it had been “disabled”. No specific reason had been provided so I followed the links offered which lead me to their “terms and conditions” section. Scrolling through their lengthy list, I did locate a sentence stating that Registered Sex Offenders were prohibited from using Facebook services. (Murderers and convicted financial predators as are gang members who use it to recruit new members are apparently all welcome to use FB.) Since I had to assume that this was the reason for my banishment, I followed the protocol described by FB to ascertain the official reason my account had been disabled. I filed no less than 3 inquiries via their “official” process and, needless to say, they did not have the courtesy (nor courage) to provide a reply.
What’s the big deal you may ask? It’s just a social networking site where people share the mundane events in their lives. Well, for some of us, it is more than that. It’s a way to keep connected with distant friends and relatives and even helps some of us feel less isolated. However, more importantly, this kind of policy-making behavior only serves to re-inforce the societal perception that we are a class of people who do not deserve to play in society’s “reindeer games”. It is discrimination, pure and simple. It is just a little little less obvious than the Jim Crow laws that allowed private companies to deny access to their businesses to the people that they considered undesirable. Who’s to say that other sites (LinkedIn, CareerBuilder) might not follow suit and adopt this exclusion as their policy?
The other major argument against FaceBook removing any member’s account if they are registrants is that more and more politicians and government agencies now have FaceBook pages and thus this company’s policy is preventing registrants from having the same access to our government that every other citizen has. Facebook also offers hosted comment services that is embedded on websites where one needs to have a facebook account to participate in discussions on non-Facebook related websites. Even government websites often use the Facebook hosted comments plugin, which essentially bans registrants from participating in community discussion and commenting. This policy itself should be construed as banishment.
My freedom of expression and speech is effectively suppressed by websites that encourage commenting, but use the Facebook hosted comments service. This is in direct violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Why hasn’t this been addressed?
How do we fight this battle? Back in the 1950s and 60s, sit-ins and boycotts were the preferred way to fight such blatant discrimination. It appears that in this day and age, we have evolved into using the courts and litigation. So should FB be sued? Maybe, maybe not, but I do think some consideration should be paid to this battlefront. If we become complacent then in fact, complicit is how society will teat us. Perhaps our government needs to step in and shut down all the servers owned by Facebook since they are violating an entire class of citizen’s civil rights to have access to services offered to other people. This could possibly be done on the grounds of Title 18, U.S.C., Section 241 Conspiracy Against Rights.