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(Satire? I’m not really sure anymore)

Dear Mr Zuckerberg,

I hope you don’t mind me writing to you like this. I’m no-one very important – just one of the 1.06 billion little people who actively use your website every month.

Actually I’m one of those little people who happens to like writing satire – political satire to be precise – but I think perhaps I ought to explain to you exactly what that means because you seem to have got satirists like me mixed up with those horrible spammer people who like to spam.

So please allow me to help you out with some definitions:

(noun) A canned meat product made mainly from ham.
(verb) To send the same electronic message indiscriminately to large numbers of recipients on the internet generally for financial gain.

(noun) The use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule or exaggeration to expose, denounce or deride vice, folly or wrongdoing – especially of those in positions of power.

You see – if you think about it – spam and satire are not the same thing at all. In fact, they’re not even all that similar.

Which is a bit strange really because you and your Facebook colleagues seem to think my satirical website – Pride’s Purge – is a spam site.

That’s why – if you just clicked on that link from your own website – you probably got scared off from visiting it because you were warned it might harm your computer.

But I can assure you it really is just a satirical website with no connection to spamming at all. Really.

I suppose though you’ll say that’s just a little mistake on your part. And actually, it probably is.  In fact, I even think I know how it might have happened.

When you and your Facebook colleagues were sitting around your conference table discussing how best to protect against spam – you didn’t stop to think about what might happen if someone – a government official somewhere for example – tried to misuse your anti-spam systems to silence criticism, did you?

That’s also probably why you haven’t put into place a system for anyone to appeal against your decision to censor websites accused of spamming, isn’t it? Because you didn’t even think that might happen, did you?

You see in my case – someone somewhere tried to silence me by telling you I’m a spammer. And your decision to unquestioningly accept the accusation has made it all but impossible for me to share my silly use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or exaggeration to expose, denounce or deride vice, folly, or wrongdoing of those in positions of power with anyone else. At least on Facebook.

Of course, you might well ask if it’s really all that important that a little person like me has been stopped by you from sharing my satire. After all, satire is hardly a matter of life and death, is it?

But what if I wasn’t a British satirist? What if I was an activist in Bahrain, or a blogger in Iran or a dissident in China?

Perhaps then it could well be a matter of life or death, I’m sure you would agree.

And that’s the real reason I’m writing to you.

Because if you are the owner of a system that allows millions of people around the world to communicate with each other – with all the power and influence that entails – you have to realise that along with that power and influence come responsibilities too.

Responsibilities to make sure your system cannot be used to silence any of the millions of individual little people who are using it.

Responsibilities to ensure your system cannot be used to stop criticism of those who seek to rule and govern us.

Responsibilities to ensure you can never become a tool in the hands of repressive governments to silence their critics.

So my question to you is this.

What systems are you putting into place to safeguard the rights of people who use your website to expose, denounce or deride the vices, follies and wrongdoings of those people who are in positions of power?

What systems are you putting into place to protect your users’ inalienable rights of freedom of speech, freedom to criticise, freedom to voice their opinions?

What systems are you putting into place to ensure that your website will never be used by the strong and the powerful to silence the weak?

You really need to have those systems in place, because that’s your responsibility.

The ball is firmly in your court Mr Zuckerberg.

I await your reply with interest.

Best regards,

Tom Pride

Pride’s Purge


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