by Lee Down

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.

This photoshop image features troops marching in New Westminster British Columbia Canada not very far from where I currently live On the right you see the street view as what I believe is the Anvil Centre being constructed

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.

Visit Seth Tara’s blog page for Know Where You Stand and Blaze Press for a good write up about the project.

13 Replies to “Know Where You Stand with Facebook”

  1. Of course, this is absolutely ridiculous. Artwork that celebrates victory over fascism and the nazis should be publicized, not hidden. Facebook needs a more workable method for appealing their censored images.

    1. You are right. A computer canot make judgements about artistic work. The humans of FB should intervene on your behalf not penalize artistic expression. This is dangerous for freedom.

  2. Don’t ever take Facebook to seriously, as a platform they stink. Imagine its overwhelming to scan so many posts and the AI is not logical – sorry it got buried but please keep sharing – its a powerful message to remind us where we come from.

  3. If one ever posts pics with el che (no vive) or the ape zedong, they’ll prolly get money or even a chair from fb. But do not worry, the so calld woke ideology is everywhere to be found. I’ve heard in Canada most are impressed with communism, saying it was badly applied. The only thing victims could do is to report a problem. We’ll get to mass killings soon enough in my opinion, it’s just a matter of time, and there’s plenty of space and good people willing of ridiing the world of “the fascists”.
    Make no mistake, twitter is as much disgusting if not even far.

  4. I find it stupid and a simple way to make content creators swoon. It is a shame to see how they have lost visibility over the years, we will always continue to support them. Art is life.

    1. I don’t think I understand your meaning. What is a simple way to make content creators swoon? Thanks

  5. Maybe this artist needs to stop using Facebook. If you think your work cannot prosper without it you could look for a job or activity that affords you some dignity since there is no dignity in being a slave.

    1. Agree. All you do is supply content to them for free. Waste of time. Did it ever amount to any art sales? I wonder.

      1. That particular post with the Hitler image didn’t, but we’ve had numerous sales from posts we’ve published on social media. Mostly Facebook and LinkedIn posts.

  6. What’s free always comes at a price. The price is you’re at the mercy of their rules and regulations. This asks the question is it worth wasting so much time on a platform that only wants your data? On the face of it maybe it would be wiser face the reality of how few really profit from this and how many don’t.

  7. I posted a graphic (that someone else created) of Putin trying to stab a balloon which had the colors of the Ukraine flag, only to pop himself, leaving the balloon intact. FB freaked out and wouldn’t let me post it because the person who posted it claimed it was a Banksy picture when it apparently wasn’t, but it still wouldn’t let me post the image after I took the attribution off. So I doubt it was actually the attribution that they were upset about.

  8. I found that series of photos fascinating. I too saw it as history as well as a modern, contemporary “here we are now.”

  9. Everything operating on the internet is a business. These businesses are run by people to make money. Why is it that people think because it’s on the internet it is immune from the scrutiny that human’s are obsessed with.
    There is no such thing as freedom of expression absolutely. That’s a myth and anyone thinking they are entitled to that kind of freedom anywhere on the internet is not paying attention. Just sayin.

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