Facebook Removes “Our Porn, Ourselves” Community Page

My letter to Facebook about removing the Our Porn, Ourselves page #proporn

I just got an email from Facebook telling me that the Our Porn, Ourselves page was removed for a terms of use violation. They did not say what the alleged violation was. Take this as a win for the anti-porn trolls that had been harassing members, reporting photos that were not in violation, and were likely reporting the page for non-existent violations. (Some may remember a few weeks ago when I asked on Twitter how I could stop these people from harassing us). I was very careful to police the page nearly hourly to keep the content strictly within Facebook’s terms, as I knew the page was under scrutiny from anti-porn zealots (and I had been witnessing their underhanded tactics on the page to harass users since its inception). I immediately blocked anyone who tried to post pornographic content. I believe the page was an example of exemplary conduct in order to have a safe place in which women (and men) could talk about pornography in a socio-cultural context. I purposely wanted a work-safe, non-offensive destination for these discussions and to build women’s community. This is our porn for women manifesto, and was in the Facebook “info” box.

I had built an intelligent community of over 3,000 members, mostly women. They have deleted a giant community. All talking about what it means for women to “take back the right to look” at explicit imagery.

Facebook has given me no options for recourse: no evidence, no trial, just judgment and sentence. Like when they ‘accidentally’ removed the Ban BP Oil page (800,000 members) and then restored it, removed the gay author page for ‘Band Fags’ which had been up for two years, or when they removed Robert Scoble completely.

As I wait for Facebook’s response, here is the letter I just sent them:

Hello,

I’m Violet Blue: bestselling and award-winning author, and educator who speaks from UCSF and UC Berkley (Boalt) to Google Inc. Tech Talks on my field of expertise — exactly what this Facebook group page was about.

My page did not violate any of the reasons stated for deletion. It was under constant attack by people who disagreed with our point of view, and constantly reported our posts and images, even though we were very careful not to violate your Terms. May I find out why the page was removed? It is my utmost priority to follow and uphold Facebook community rules and standards. With national media attention to the page, questions will be raised and I hope to be able to furnish answers. Especially with a higher minded page of over 3000 members seeking community and discussion around a topic that did not target any group, threaten anyone, or link/depict/suggest inappropriate content. In fact, I policed the posts hourly for spam and attacks on our members, of which there were many. We never posted obscenity in links or images, though innocent user photos seemed to be increasingly mysteriously removed.

I feel that our page was targeted, and that we did nothing to violate the community standards of Facebook, which we sought to uphold. Any help to find out why this has happened would be deeply appreciated. I do not want to be talking to press about this in the next few days and be left guessing. We sought a safe place to discuss sex culture in media, and that is all.

I sincerely hope we can resolve this. Salon and Examiner wrote about our page as a signifier of community organization around women’s empowerment, calling it a new movement for women’s rights. I could tell we were under attack by those who violently opposed our discussions and representation as a community intersection for enriched discussions about important women’s rights issues. This development is confusing and saddening.

This fostering of group community around female empowerment and the page topic stems from my work as a talkshow guest (Oprah), international conference speaker, and columnist for various national and international magazines and publications (Oprah Magazine, Forbes.com, MacLife, etc) and media pundit (Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, Esquire, Redbook, Wired, etc).

Please help me understand what I can tell media outlets asking about this, and the over 3K member we had in the page group.

Sincere thanks,
Violet Blue

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  • Mike A.

    Kurt,

    Yes, Facebook is a private company. Yes, they have the legal right to remove whatever content they wish.

    That’s not the point.

    The point is whether it was ethical of them to do so. We live in a world filled with mega-corporations with the economic power to make decisions which affect us all… including decisions which attempt to shape or restrict what we experience, or what we can express. Their actions can have serious consequences for our society and our country. Shouldn’t we be at least interested enough to be aware of their actions, and call them on their unethical behavior?

    Yes, we can “vote with our feet”… but at the risk of having our silence be interpreted as tacit approval.

  • Hi Violet.

    Any word from Facebook on this ?

    I’ve written about it on my tumblr and am ready to pull the plug on facebook

    Let’s all vote with our feet.

  • Violet,

    Facebook is a private network free to ban or allow whomever they want. Furthermore, Facebook is about as cool as an aol.com e-mail address and should be avoided as such. I’m sure you can find another solution.

    Kurt

  • Abby Tallmer

    As a survivor of the so-called feminist sex wars of the 80s and 90s and a published author of pro-porn feminist manifestos during that time (specifically the collection “Caught Looking,” which I was one of the contributing editors of) it saddens and enrages me no end that women in this country are still fighting for their/our basic rights to sexual freedom and expression some two decades later. Facebook and its actions are appalling. Please know that you have many supporters out in the world, more perhaps than you know. (I for one regret that I didn’t even get to your site while it was up, as I have always loathed F/B and am on it as little as possible). Keep strong! Abby

  • Kevin Hyland

    I came upon you in O Magazine and very much enjoyed you thoughtful article on porn. I love the idea of porn but find precious little that I find erotic so I thought I would share this site with you. It’s very different. http://www.vanitytoss.com

  • Danskat

    Facebook is slow to respond to anyone. A friend’s page was taken down after it was taken over by some scam artists (all her friends got emails claiming she was stuck in London, having been robbed of all her cash). It took FB a week to give her back her (cleansed) page.
    That said, it is pretty sad that they will take down a page run by someone who is carefully playing by their rules. Grr!

  • Teresa

    I was wondering if you got a reply yet. I cannot imagine how they would TOS you without a normal reply.

  • Sad to hear that:-(

  • Remember, too, that FB banned breast-feeding. First it was just photos, then it was group discussion… They had to lock down the group to be permitted. Breast feeding. Seriously.

  • BearGriz72

    The worst part of this situation is that the ‘Our Porn, Ourselves’ page on FaceBook was a bastion of free speech, and open to the public, while the ‘PornHarms’ page restricts commentary, apparently to “members” (I wouldn’t know) so nobody can voice a dissenting opinion. On their page we find the quote “We are dedicated to providing the most accurate peer-reviewed research on the harm from pornography, along with relevant news and opinion.”, but evidently the only opinion that counts is their own. Regarding their supposed “accurate peer-reviewed research on the harm from pornography”, I have to wonder about the research (equally accurate and peer-reviewed) that shows no harm, or even a benefit. On the face of it it seems that thy are deliberately blind to the other side of the picture.

    Stifling of dissent is the suppression of democracy, the toleration of opposing viewpoints is a key pillar of the foundation of The United States of America and it’s Constitution. I don’t make you watch pornography, do not try to suppress my right to a healthy sexuality, and the way I choose to express it!

    {/Rant}

  • Hi Violet,

    I just read about this on Ms Naughty’s blog (http://www.msnaughty.com/blog/2010/07/29/facebook-deletes-the-our-porn-ourselves-page/) and posted a comment there. I would like to cross post here though in support, echoing the sentiments already posted in comments above:

    Sigh. I don’t expect that you are going to get any joy from Facebook – not even a rational explanation (since, if you haven’t broken the terms of service of Facebook, then it’s just an arbitrary decision to remove the page).

    The sad thing is that so much of our culture (communication, expression etc) is held hostage by very large public companies who are obliged to maximise profit for shareholders. If that means pandering to people and groups who are terrified of even the discussion of pornography, then there is little hope that these sorts of conversations can take place as part of mainstream culture (like Facebook).

    Thank you though, for trying. The effort that you are putting into making this discussion possible is appreciated and I am glad to have discovered your sites.

    John.

  • It’s extremely unfortunate, but with the type of work you’re doing, I expect you to have continued problems with Facebook and other similar companies. They run enforcement around complaints, and your work, although within the rules, generates a lot of them. This isn’t because of anything you’re doing wrong, it’s a direct outgrowth of the same attitudes that make your work so necessary. I think, overall, that you and others in your position will have to either self-host your material or host with a provider that shares your attitudes.

    I don’t know that there’s enough demand, but one long term possibility is for someone to set up a Facebook-like site with different values, and better support for our community. This would be a lot of work, but might be worth it if there’s enough call.

  • I’m OUTRAGED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    This kind of dictatorial behavior makes me furious and throughly disappointed at ppl in this world. I finally had a place where i could talk and read about sex in an extremely healthy environment and these zealots took it away from me, from US!
    Violet, I ♥ your site and ever since I saw your participation on Oprah’s interview of Jenna Jameson I knew I had found a kindred spirit who treated sex as it should be. A NATURAL PART OF BEING HUMAN and nothing to me embarrassed/ashamed and guilty about.
    I found my home here at your blog and you have my full support.

    Kind regards,
    Paula Cardoso

  • Mark

    You could add a forum, but as I am sure you know, that get’s into the requisite monitoring (sometimes hourly) of spam, trolls, and any number of issues surrounding forum maintenance. I’m not discouraging it, just reminding you of the time issues involved, and you strike me as being an already very busy person.

    Of course, that doesn’t preclude someone maintaining it for you.

    Part of the problem that has already been pointed out of is that any number of social networks are run and operated by individuals who’s sole concern is not social, but financial. If it seems to be within their interest to protect their bottom line, then they would kick Gandhi off facebook. Perhaps, as opposed to a forum, it would be best to research and implement a social networking site (or discover such and advertise it), that offers an alternative to the lowest common denominator crowd (i.e., the ‘Of course we care unless of course it causes controversy, and thus loss of money.) The problem with Facebook and their ilk is the individuals running the show who will drop social principle at the first sign of trouble and protect the quarterly principle at all costs. Costs that are usually borne by the people using the sites.

    Just as you have created a manifesto for the feminine viewers of porn, it may also be time for a social networking manifesto to be created. Something that affirms the right of privacy, the right of free speech, the right of association, etc., etc.,

    Lack of sleep and just blathering of the top of my head. Feel free to tell me I’m nuts.
    ;)

  • Things like this are happening all over the place, you are correct. It is sad and infuriating. Ning, a social network I am sure you are familiar with, is threatening to pull Skinbook- a “Facebook for Naturalists” and this came quite out of the blue, as I understand it. The images there are nudes, not close to porn, and they are also being pulled.

    Instead of pulling content, especially when people like you have done a lot of work to respect the guidelines of the social site, why doesn’t the social site make more privacy options or something?

    I am getting rather tired of my freedoms being taken away because companies are worried about what other people might think. Place child safe guards, of course, and then leave the rest to the idea of “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it”. I want to be able to engage in any discussion, porn-related or not, with my own discretion.

    If this post makes less sense than I intended, please accept my apologies; I just crawled out of bed. :0)

    If you need any help, signatures, etc. please do not hesitate to ask- you can contact me directly through my website- and I know you have oh-so many supporters that will fight for you and the cause.

    On another note- thank you for all that you do. Sincerely. You make my world a better, more comfortable place.

  • Thank you, this means a lot. I’m at a loss about how to solve the ongoing issue here. I play 100% by the rules with these sites (because I know I’m being scrutinized more then others), and then I basically get slapped for it. I worked so hard to build that community, make it respectful, cultivate intelligent dialogue, and establish best group practices in talking about porn. We had nothing even remotely obscene in text, photos, links or anything. I even cautioned members against homophobic comments to keep it a ‘safe space’ for everyone. just to have it destroyed by what is likely someone abusing Facebook’s own ‘report abuse’. I just expect everyone to follow the same rules I do in the spirit of fairness. I mean, I held up my side of the Facebook agreement, you know?

    I’m getting REALLY tired of watching these social media sites carelessly erase communities I care about.

    It’s got me thinking: Should I add a forum to this site?

  • Insulting, indeed.
    Besides a number of other considerations, this sad and degrading event also showcases the ethical risks of Facebook. A single provider of service, just one company, slowly “eating up” all of the Net… Under current regulations, such a company will always reserve the “right” to censure content, policy users and disregard free speech, on the grounds that people are meeting and talking “on their (virtual) piece of farmland”, where they’re boss. Those who believe the Net is a place of freedom, rather than just another mall, should rather not be too reliant on Facebook.

  • OUTRAGE! I’d love to flip them the finger…but they, no doubt, would pull that down too. It would appear we going to have to be patient and wait until the Facebook CEO transitions from puberty to adulthood before we can hope for a little mature thinking.

    Kisses VB…you are on my ‘list.’
    Jane