Sunday, April 3, 2016

Facebook Doesn't Care About Marginalized Voices

So, for the second time, I am in Facebook jail.  The first time I was blocked by Facebook for 24 hours was when someone left a string of racist comments on AWN's facebook page on a post about the intersections of autism, disability and race and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.   Acting as the page, I asked the person to stop and when they repeatedly ignored me, I banned them from commenting on our page.   Naturally, they reported me to Facebook and Facebook decided that it was more embarrassing for that person to have me tell them to stop being a racist than it was for the racist to actually say and do racist things.  

Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence that I see in groups and spaces that are dedicated to radical activism or social justice.  Those who troll the page are able to claim that being held to standards of human decency is "oppressive" and being called out on their problematic and shitty behavior is somehow a worse offense than it is to actually be a raging asshole.  

And I do understand that I cannot prevent people from being human shit stains.  However, in the intentional communities that I help to run, I do not have to allow these comments.  Creating safe, inclusive spaces for marginalized people is somehow seen as some sort of SJW oppression even though that is not how oppression works.   Generally, in the communities that I run that are dedicated to disability justice and autistic rights, this is how it goes:

Person leaves ableist/racist/transphobic/bigoted comment

Page (me) asks them to stop and refers them to community guidelines.

Person complains about how I am violating their First Amendment Right to be a flaming shitlord.  

Page (me) explains that I gave them a chance, that free speech does not free you from the consequences of your speech and goodbye.

Person reports me to Facebook for their damaged hurtfeels.

Facebook bans me.

This time, when I was blocked from Facebook for three days, it was due to an incident on the Boycott Autism Speaks Facebook page, which I moderate. I had reposted our community guidelines and the intentions of our community from our website, as we do from time to time to remind people what the Boycott Movement is about.

An Autistic person came to the page to say they wanted a cure. Okay, that is their business but that is
1. Off topic, and
2. Our page embraces the neurodiversity paradigm and we are clear about that.  

Another BAS moderator simply reminded them that this was an intentional community and not to go there.

Instead of listening, the commenter just kept going and this resulted in other people joining in the conversation.  We asked them to stop.  MOST of the commenters respected this.   The original commenter did not, and was removed.  Then a parent decided to put her two cents in.  Because as you all know, disability and autism are not a part of us, but just a terrible thing we do to our families by existing.  (Sorry, I am using sarcasm).

The parent went into great detail about her child, including talking about his toileting issues, his meltdowns, his self injurious behaviors, and generally saying terrible things that completely violated his privacy and dignity.  I will not copy her comments here because SOMEBODY has to give a damn about her kid.

As the page, I commented with this:  

MODERATOR NOTE: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE WE ALLOWING COMMENTS THAT VIOLATE THE PRIVACY AND DIGNITY OF AUTISTIC CHILDREN! This is an intentional community and is not a space to vent about your hard time parenting. If you want parenting advice, please go to our friends at Parenting Autistic Children with Love & Acceptance or Respectfully Connected !!!!!

To which the parent responded:

My sons "toileting issues" are a direct symptom of his autism. If, especially today April 2nd, I am not to speak of these, on a site directed at autism discussion, because it makes you uncomfortable? Then please, do not pretend to be about either awareness or acceptance. You can choose to ignore that part of autism but you don't get to dictate what I discuss. I work fiercely everyday so that autism alone does not define my son, but the hours and energy I exert to do so, means it defines ME. I have earned my right to speak on the subject, the ENTIRE subject, without censorship or judgement from you.

Okay, first of all, toileting issues are not a symptom of autism.  Secondly, BAS is not about "autism awareness".  In fact, we explicitly say that we find "awareness" to be harmful and disrespectful to actually autistic people.   Thirdly, in an intentional community that I maintain, I certainly do get to dictate what is discussed.    We value the civil rights, dignity and humanity of autistic people, including autistic children. Violating their privacy is in direct opposition to those goals.  Fourth, autism does not define you as a parent.  You are co-opting your child's diagnosis at the same time that you are saying it can't define him and that is gross and shitty.  You absolutely have the right to speak about your experience parenting as long as it does not violate the privacy, humanity and dignity of your child.  If speaking your truth involves throwing your own child under the bus for sympathy, that is never okay.  Lastly, I have the right to judge.  Judging is what makes me human and allows me to know the difference between right and wrong.  I also have the right to censor your ableist comments in a space that was created to be a safe haven for autistic people.  

After this comment, I informed the person that they had been removed for repeatedly violating our guidelines and the dignity of their child.  My mistake was in not double checking to make sure that her name was not “tagged” with a link to her profile.  As soon as I realized that it had, I removed the tag, but left my comment.   And that right there was what got me banned from Facebook.   

This is what I said to Facebook when they informed me of the ban:

The comment that you blocked me for was after repeated attempts to stop that person from posting things that were humiliating and abusive about her disabled child. Is it okay for a parent to post about their child's toileting habits as long as the kid is disabled?  I understand the person was embarrassed about what I wrote, I know because she continues to harass me via e-mail.  Well, how did her child feel?  And I did not intend to tag her in the comment but you guys are the ones who made it so that tags start auto completing when you type a name.  As soon as she asked that the tag be removed, and I realized that I had done that I removed it and I am still banned.  Meanwhile, it's okay for her to post about her child's private moments and bathroom habits in a public forum because embarrassing disabled kids is okay?  But asking someone to STOP doing that in a community that I moderate that is set up on the principles of disability rights is NOT okay?  
The last time I was blocked from Facebook was when I asked someone to stop saying racist things in another community that I moderate.  That person reported me but her racist comments stood.  
It seems to me that Facebook is saying that being a racist or an ableist is okay, but someone asking you to stop is not.  I understand that people are free to be racists and ableist bigots.  And I can't stop anyone from publicly humiliating their children on their own timelines....but these comments were in intentional communities that we try to run as safe spaces for marginalized people.  Should I allow every bigot to come in there and say what they want?  That is not making these spaces safe for those of us who are not white, straight, cis, neurotypical or nondisabled.    

So, I want to remind you all that it is perfectly fine to humiliate your disabled children on Facebook, but it is not okay for someone to tell you that it’s wrong.    And based on my previous Facebook ban, it is completely acceptable to do and say racist things but if you ask someone to not, you will be banned.   

The person who reported me to Facebook because she was embarrassed that I said her name in a comment continued to e-mail me until I blocked her.   I may have mentioned that she has no right to claim embarrassment when she is posting hugely embarrassing things about her own son in public forums.   I wonder if anyone has thought to ask him how he feels about having private, humiliating details about his struggles and medical history put on Facebook for the entire world to see.

Holy Hypocrite, Batman!  

But these things are fine to post on Facebook.  Because children don’t deserve rights, disabled people don’t deserve dignity and marginalized people should not expect to be able to stand up for their own humanity.