Oh, wait. That’s Kafka. Wrong literary reference. While this story is slightly Kafkaesque, I’m really going for something more authoritarian, with a side of dystopian censorship. I’m talking Orwell.
And OK, I realize that Orwellian has also become one of those numbed-out terms, like Fascist or Nazi, that has been rendered meaningless from overuse. But in this case, I’d like to think that even George himself might be amused.
So, going back to that morning. I got on Facebook via my phone, and while I could see my page, and all the private messages and comments on it, I could not respond to any of them.
It was a bit like being Tom Sawyer at his own funeral, updated for the 21st century. People were talking about me, wondering where I was, and all I could do was watch and scream from my soundproof booth. The horror! Wait, I’m getting mixed up again. Isn’t it the Grim Reaper, not Big Brother, who wears a hoodie?
Still, I thought the problem might be with my iPhone, so I tried my laptop. No dice. Then I got this message: You recently posted something that violates Facebook policies, so you’re been temporarily blocked from using this feature. For more information, visit the Help Center.
The Help Center was, like most things, euphemistically named, and of no help at all, of course. I sent several emails. No response. Since I’m not in the habit of posting pictures of women breastfeeding (the biggest FB no-no I know of) or even worse, famous paintings of primal lady parts, I couldn’t imagine what I had done to provoke the banishment. (And we know that Facebook was recently taken to task for its liberal news bias, so it couldn’t have been anything I posted about Trump.)
It turns out that the censored post was something I had put up a full two weeks before (which is a lifetime in my Facebook use.) It had to do with the first formal response to the Erin Johnson vs. JWT, WPP and Gustavo Martinez suit, from the WPP attorneys.
In their motion to dismiss the case, the WPP lawyers stated that after their own internal review, "virtually nothing supporting a hostile work environment claim” could be substantiated.
In my Facebook post, I listed some of the more outrageous phrases that Martinez was alleged to have said, like “fucking Jews” and “black monkeys” and “Come here I want to rape you.” Then I wondered how such statements could NOT make for a “hostile work environment,” as his lawyers’ response claimed.
So here’s the rub: While WPP's legal team was arguing that the language of JWT's former CEO was just business as usual for the office, merely Martinez’s way of making everyone feel comfortable, those same words were deemed a violation of FB's community standards.
So the Bot Police broke down my door at 2 a.m. to arrest me for even quoting those words. No one knows you're a dog on the Internet, and evidently bots have no sense of context in the middle of the night.
Certainly, the Erin Johnson case is a profoundly serious one, and the WPP response -- to prosecute Johnson, dismiss her claims, and say she did it only to make a "media splash" -- has its own Orwellian and Kafkaesque aspects.
As for me, there are 8 billion stories about Internet censorship, and mine is just a teeny tiny little one, which hardly required Joan-of-Arc-like fortitude, since it lasted all of 24 hours. So that by the time my friends floated memes like “Je suis Barbara” and “Attica!” the solidarity was just a tiny bit overblown.
My biggest concern previously was about who could see my financial data and steal my identity. But surely, Edward Snowden showed just how much of the Web is a giant surveillance network, run by a couple of search engines and Facebook.
Now I have to worry about whether this little incident goes on my permanent record. And if so, if I am unfairly censored again, will I get the permanent boot?
Apparently, there is no appeal permitted.
Perhaps a wrongful incarceration lawsuit? I have no answer. I might not have turned into a bug, but certainly some creepy crawlers got to me while I slept. But I’m so glad I can now summon up that tear-faced emoji. Thank you, Zuckerberg!