A few years back, during the 2016 election, I came to a realization about political posts on Facebook.
First off, I hate them.
I go to Facebook to escape from the real world; I want to see what friends are up to, where they are traveling (remember that?), see cute kids and animals, and read the joke (even an occasional crude one). I don’t want to have my escape invaded by the real world. I’m sure most all of you on Social Media remember what a mess it was leading up to the last presidential election, and a lot of you, like me, wanted it to stop. I posted asking people to stop it, which was utterly and completely ineffectual.
After a few months, I had a revelation. It wasn’t right for me to tell someone what to post, or not, anymore than it would be for them to do the same to me. If I was told, I needed to be more political in my posts, I’d probably get offended and say “says who?!” Facebook is what we each want it to be, and I had no right to change someone mind. What I can do, however, is change what I post, and how.
I can, however, change what I post.
Instead of attacking others, I tried a different approach. I would post pictures of puppies. And kittens. And any sort of cute animal that caught my eye. I would dilute the political posts in Facebook with pictures of cute animals. It would be a way of taking a stand against political hate, while at the same time, not chastising friends for what I deemed was inappropriate.
It caught on.
Anytime I saw a lot of angry political posts, an image of a cute animal went up with the tag #Dilute. It was done equally — didn’t matter what party, if the hate started ratcheting up, here comes another kitten. A lot of friends loved it, even if they didn’t understand it. Sure, I was mocked by many, but that is their right to do so.
The plan was to end the #DIlutes after the 2016 election, but the aftermath was so bad, I felt it needed to be continued. Several friends were getting annoyed with all the animals, so I decided to move it to a separate page called @DiluteYourFeed. Folks could subscribe if they wanted to, or not.
#Dilute posts a few pictures a day, the only purpose of which is to brighten your day. As our “About” section explains:
#dilute is just a bunch of photos and gifs of puppies, kittens, and other cute animals. It’s a way of diluting your Facebook feed from all the political hate. There will be no political postings, solicitations, or advertisements.
It’s grown slowly. It only has 100 or so followers, but folks seem to enjoy it. It doesn’t take much work to set up or maintain, either. There is a plethora of cute animal pictures out there, and with the scheduling feature, I can get a months worth of posts up in under an hour. It is a harmless, easy way to do something nice for people out there, like me, who don’t want to get dragged into politics or hate when they are on Facebook.
Yesterday, all that changed.
My post for Saturday got flagged by one of Facebook’s partners. It took me a while to comprehend what exactly had been done by who, much less why. After scouring around, this is what I learned.
Facebook has outsourced monitoring of posts to independent fact-checkers, and one of them flagged my post. The organization, called Les Décodeurs du Monde, sited an article about Husky puppies in Le Monde. The article was in French, but using Google Translate, there is some scam involving giving away Husky Puppies, that didn’t totally make sense to me, but apparently this image has been used for these ads, so my page has been flagged.
I’ve had personal posts flagged before, usually because of a something trivial. Facebook had an appeals process, which after review, reversed their decision. I was assuming the same would happen here. I was not offering puppies; I was just posting a picture of them. Certainly that can’t be wrong, can it? The pictures we use are either in the public domain, or it is one where I have permission from the owner (friends of #Dilute like to have their puppers pics posted).
This time, however, there is no appeals process. Having gone through all the Facebook rules on this process, there is apparently no venue to appeal. Worse, Facebook has informed me that due to this flagging, my page will now be de-prioritized, showing up less than it already does.
I give Facebook credit for trying to stop the spread of fake news, but to outsource it, without the chance to appeal, seem short sited. I’m sure to the executives at Facebook, it sounds great: we outsource the work and the responsibility. However, you risk damanaging your brand and reputation by again not taking any responsibility for what is on your site. Hate speech? Someone else should have caught it. Threats of violence? That’s a problem for one of our independent monitors. Puppies? Shut it down.
I did contact the group that flagged this post, and I asked them to look at it again. I don’t offer puppies, in fact, a central part of About mission is to not engage in any commercial activities at all. All we want to do is brighten folks day. They have not replied yet, but I am hoping this will have a happier resolution. In the meantime, #Dilute