Know Where You Stand is an evocative photoshop art project created by American artist Seth Tara for the History Channel. You’d never expect something like this would face penalties from Facebook for violating their Community Standards. But that’s exactly what happened to us.
Approximately two-and-a-half years ago, in 2019, we shared a set of images featuring Seth Tara’s work for the History Channel knowing it was a valuable contribution to our community to see and experience. We didn’t encounter any problems with it when it was published nor after it was online for those two-and-a-half years.
Here is a sample of some of those images.
As you can see, these images are powerful in their representation of then and now, reminding us of our history and the turmoil and losses experienced in the world in some of our favorite places where we enjoy time with our family and friends. How can history be a violation of a community standard?
Well, here is the fateful image that Facebook flagged as violating their Community Standards from that set we featured on Arts, Artists, Artwork’s Facebook page.
The historical photo of Hitler standing with the Eiffel Tower behind him, photoshopped with tourists relaxing in the same place in a more recent photo.
How Did It Get Flagged for Violating Community Standards
In March, 2021, Facebook released an artificial intelligence program that was scouring content on their platform and flagging and penalizing people for photos, words and phrases that they deemed violated Community Standards. When this happened to me with the above image, I reached out to an Ad Account Rep on Facebook to discuss the penalty that had suddenly been applied to my account and our business page. The Ad Account Rep said there was nothing they could do, that the issue was with my personal account, not the fan page, in spite of the fact that the image and post with the set of images was published on the business fan page, not on my personal account.
The only recourse available to users on Facebook is to submit a There’s a Problem report, to which no one ever replies. I submitted my report a few times explaining the art project Know Where You Stand. This is history, not a violation of Community Standards on Facebook. This is an art project, not a call for the rise of Nazism. This was done for the History Channel, not a terrorist organization. So, why doesn’t Facebook recognize or distinguish between contextual situations like this? Because it’s artificial intelligence, is the most likely answer.
What was the Penalty for Violating Community Standards
When the alert notification was received on Facebook that fateful day, Facebook informed me that I would not be allowed to run any ads for 30 days, do any live broadcasts for 30 days, and that they’d stop suggesting my fan page to users of Facebook, that my post distribution would be limited, thus reducing my organic reach even further, and that when I did boost a post and create an ad, that I’d have to pay more for the same reach others would get for a similar ad. And the impact we’ve felt as a result has been extremely noticeable as the months have gone by. All my protestations have been ignored and again, we see how little Facebook cares about the user experience or providing real customer service.
I lost a lot of sleep over this and experienced a stress response that was completely unexpected. This has not been healthy for me. We’re an artist collective and I’ve run without profiting for the sake of the artists I’ve sought to help for 13 years now. One persistent question that continues to haunt me, that I would like Facebook to answer is, how do you justify a life-long sentence for such a menial transgression (when it isn’t even a transgression)? I didn’t murder anyone. I didn’t incite a riot or uprising. I educated and informed people. We shared that post on Remembrance Day, as it rightly should have been.
Even if they can justify it, punishments/penalties should have an end date. But I believe Facebook in their greed for Newsfeed space is thinking how convenient it is for them when they can restrict Newsfeed distribution so they can shove more sponsored advertising content into the Newsfeed by limiting popular pages on Facebook. Any page owner on Facebook has experienced this gradual and persistent decline in visibility over the years.
Shame on you, Facebook.