ONTD Political

Facebook restores wedding photo of gay couple; man decries harassment

4:16 pm - 01/25/2013
By Miranda Leitsinger, Staff Writer, NBC News

A gay man whose wedding photo was pulled from Facebook after an anonymous complaint believes the social network’s reporting policy allows for a "subversive" type of harassment.

The photo of Pastor Kelsey Swope-Wise, 37, and his husband, Bishop Erik Swope-Wise, 49, of Elgin, Ill., was taken down from the Gay Marriage USA Facebook page on Monday after someone lodged a complaint with Facebook. The administrator of the page, Murray Lipp, said Facebook informed him on Monday that the image of the biracial couple standing together at their April 28, 2012, wedding "violates policies and community standards."

"It’s subversive, the type of harassment, meaning that you can do it anonymously," Erik Swope-Wise, who founded a local chapter of The Affirming Pentecostal Church International, told NBC News on Tuesday. “So you can throw the rock and hide your hand. There’s no accountability for somebody’s actions. So somebody could make that accusation, ‘Well this picture’s offensive.’ Well we don’t know who said that, so how can we even go back to them and say, ‘Why is this offensive? Tell me why it’s offensive.’”

Facebook restored the photo on Tuesday and apologized to Lipp, who told NBC News that the social networking site had initially blocked his ability to post for one week in addition to taking down the photo. This wasn’t the first time he has had problems with posts being reported.

“Sadly, Facebook's reporting system is so flawed that it allows people against equality to attack & target pages like mine and Facebook almost ALWAYS sides with those who complain. I was given no opportunity to respond or say anything … ,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Erik Swope-Wise said Lipp asked to post the image last weekend. He initially was pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of support in comments and likes, but then the messages turned “hateful” and “condescending.” Some who made comments were upset because the men are Pentacostal, which traditionally rejects same-sex marriage, though their church does not.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes told NBC News in an email that the photo did not violate their “policies or community standards and was removed in error. The image has been restored and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused." A team reviews hundreds of thousands of reports every week, and occasionally mistakes are made, he said.

“I accept that … we’re all subject to human error,” Erik Swope-Wise said. “However the process by which Facebook uses to make those determinations is probably a little too mechanical. When a person puts an opposition to a post … it’s a list of choices that you choose to describe why this is offensive or inappropriate but there gives no validation, you know, as to what that really is.”

What might be offensive to one group may not be to another, and the term “offensive” was also “too general,” he added. “I think the scrutiny of it needs to be a little more clear before they take such harsh action.”

Rich Ferraro, a spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), said he has seen this happen before but that Facebook has always taken quick action.

“More often than not reporting tools on sites like Facebook are used positively to report anti-LGBT bullying or hate speech. Unfortunately, anti-LGBT users have also used these tools to target LGBT community members -- but when GLAAD has brought incidents like this to Facebook, they have always immediately restored the content,” he wrote to NBC News in an email.

Issues can arise when social networking sites wade into heated debates.

"This is involving a lot of judgment calls right, like what is hate speech and what is a political statement. It's extraordinary difficult some times," said Rebecca Jeschke, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for the public’s digital rights.

She said best practices would be to have a “really clear procedure for contesting any kind of take down and for that to be followed consistently.”

"Lots of activists use these forums for their activism and so if you censor their activity through Facebook then you're functionally censoring their speech activity on the Internet,” she said. “Facebook isn’t like a state government. It can restrict speech in any way it wants, but sometimes the ramifications are the same."

source has the picture since photobucket is being an ass and not letting me resize the image
tabaqui 25th-Jan-2013 10:06 pm (UTC)
Facebooks's 'policies' on this stuff is incredibly hypocritical and confused. They won't take down pages that glorify hate or assault, but they jump all over a wedding picture? Who looks at that image and goes 'yeah, okay', and nixes it?

Ridiculous. Anyone flagging an image like that should be banned from FB for a week themselves, and told to keep their bigotry to themselves.
wikilobbying 25th-Jan-2013 10:49 pm (UTC)
soleiltropiques 25th-Jan-2013 11:22 pm (UTC)

Another example is a page I heard about, called 'Idle No More Resistance' on Facebook. People have been complaining that it is racist, and yet it is STILL up there and they HAVE NOT REMOVED IT.

(This page is incredibly racist: for those who are not Canadian, Idle No More is a movement whereby aboriginal peoples in this country have been protesting the shoddy treatment they have always received here. The page in question has people expounding on all the traditional racist bullshit stereotypes regarding aboriginal peoples, yet Facebook has done NOTHING.)

Yeah, you stay classy, Facebook.


(Edited for clarity)

Edited at 2013-01-25 11:23 pm (UTC)
tabaqui 25th-Jan-2013 11:47 pm (UTC)
Wow, that is fucked up. I've been reading a lot about Idle No More on FB via LastRealIndians. I think i'll find this anti-Idle site and report it.

More the merrier, and it can't hurt.
tabaqui 25th-Jan-2013 11:49 pm (UTC)
Huh - can't seem to find it at all, even the cache on google seems to be gone. YAY.
openpick 26th-Jan-2013 01:12 am (UTC)
Yep, I reported an image that likened a black baby to a monkey, and they messaged me back saying it did not violate anything. Ugh.
tabaqui 26th-Jan-2013 01:21 am (UTC)
Seriously, that is FUCKED UP.
mirandagirll 26th-Jan-2013 04:12 am (UTC)
Basically this
kishmet 26th-Jan-2013 09:31 pm (UTC)
mte. I got so exasperated when I first read about this because really? Facebook leaves up pages that use slurs or post underage photos without permission and they take down a wedding photo? Ohhhkay then
blackjedii 25th-Jan-2013 10:36 pm (UTC)
I kept flagging Mitt Romneyi ads as "Offensive material."

wrestlingdog 25th-Jan-2013 11:20 pm (UTC)
Well done.
rainbow_fish 26th-Jan-2013 01:20 am (UTC)
Lol same.
piratebar 26th-Jan-2013 12:03 am (UTC)
One of the best decisions I've made in the past few months was deleting my facebook.
lainiest 26th-Jan-2013 12:14 am (UTC)
“Sadly, Facebook's reporting system is so flawed that it allows people against equality to attack & target pages like mine and Facebook almost ALWAYS sides with those who complain. I was given no opportunity to respond or say anything … ,” he wrote in an e-mail.

No, they seem to always side with the bigot. A while back (I don't remember if I saw this here or on another comm) there was a group with a title in Czech, I think, that translated to 'Kill the F*g' that got dozens of reports that all were answered with 'Sorry lol no problem here, move along!' before it finally got removed. With that being okay and same-sex wedding pictures NOT being okay I'm kind of hard-pressed not to think that whoever handles the report system on FB's side has some serious issues.
nicosian 26th-Jan-2013 02:42 am (UTC)
my husband has the nogod fb page and its pretty militant atheists no bullshit stuff but these kids get on, alll fired up on bible, spam it, flag it, and then delete all their posts to his page, and he gets a 3 day ban for copying and pasting before they delete, because........

he didn't block their names. Its such cowardice. No one asked the bible thumpers to come in, but they abuse the "report" function like fuck.

funny thing is, they ban him from his PERSONAL page, not the nogod page. He blocks names now, but grudgingly.
theloudcafe 26th-Jan-2013 05:44 am (UTC)
They look like a super cute couple.
encircleme 26th-Jan-2013 06:44 am (UTC)
"and Facebook almost ALWAYS sides with those who complain."

That has not been my experience AT ALL.
keestone 26th-Jan-2013 03:05 pm (UTC)
How is this type of harassment "subversive"?

It's a pretty shitty way to anonymously support an unjust status quo, but I don't see how it's subverting anything.
kishmet 26th-Jan-2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
A team reviews hundreds of thousands of reports every week, and occasionally mistakes are made

Yeah no. They just have racist, homophobic, transphobic, MRA assholes on the team because this is always the kind of thing that gets pulled
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