My Facebook Lockout

Today I got banned for 12 hours from Facebook. It’s not the end of the world (I think it helped my productivity) but I figured it would be worth discussing because of the context of the ban. So here goes.

Last June I made this comic:

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Definitely not the most shocking thing we’ve done at Cyanide & Happiness.

As we do with lots of our comics, I stuck this one on my Facebook page shortly after it went on our site. The response was good. Through likes and shares, it reached over a million people overall. It makes me feel really good that my silly comic was viewed by that many people.

But then four months later, this morning, I logged in to an alert that the comic had been removed for being abusive, followed by a 12 hour ban message.

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I tried to figure out why, beyond the obvious “It makes fun of Jesus!” answer. I don’t really like that answer because our culture pokes fun at religion often, and has done so for a while.

In fact, this particular comic doesn’t really make fun of Jesus or Christians. Christianity made the crucifix famous, yes, but it definitely existed historically as a thing. It is not in itself a religious device (it certainly isn’t in this comic), although the connection is obviously made by most readers. This strip is a dude innocently using a crucifix as a workout machine rather than a torture device. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but this could possibly be the most G-rated cartoon about a crucifix ever made.

So what makes the comic abusive? Is the comic insensitive to people who don’t exercise? Does it stereotype people in orange shirts? I think I have a hunch.

Like I said, this comic was viewed by a million people.  It would be fair to say most of them weren’t fans of my page, or readers of Cyanide & Happiness. They saw it on their news feeds due to others sharing it. I offended some very specific people, the kinds of people who don’t like my comics to begin with, and those people filed reports. Enough of them did so that Facebook banned the comic, and banned me.

That’s kind of a weird protocol. The largest social platform (which makes it a platform for art and ideas, too) in history blocks content and threatens creators based solely on the opinions of a minority that doesn’t even care for said content to begin with. I think you can do better, Facebook. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Curate your abuse reports better. There’s terrible, hateful stuff on Facebook, but context matters.
  2. Include a feature by which people who don’t like a thing don’t have to see it on their feed. I would gladly welcome an “I Hate This” button on my page if it means people who don’t like what I make never have to see it.
  3. Leave comic strips alone? I dunno. I feel like even the most terrible, bigoted, disgusting comic strip wouldn’t make me think twice. A disagreeable comic strip seems like it should be easy to get over, for most adults.

In closing, I decided to remake the comic with asparagus so that I could put it back up without getting banned. Because if there’s one great evil that needs to be quashed in this 21st century of ours, it’s people getting offended on the Internet.

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