back to article Facebook gardening group triumphs over slapdash Zuck censorbots

A Facebook group dedicated to gardening in western New York state is celebrating a victory over the company's algorithms after having been repeatedly threatened with censure and deletion due to use of the word "hoe". According to Elizabeth Licata, a moderator for the 7,700-member WNY Gardeners group, posts which referred to …

  1. Jan 0 Silver badge


    Well played sir, well played.

    1. Captain Hogwash

      >"usually spelled without the "e" at the end"

      So hoemophone but not hoemonym. Good gag though.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The Mark Zuckerberg-led social panopticon is renowned for its bafflingly inconsistent application of first amendment free speech rights..."

    The first 5 words of the first amendment are "Congress shall make no law". While I wouldn't be surprised if there were Americans foolish enough to elect Zuckerberg and his drones to Congress, Faecebook is not in fact Congress nor any government body of any kind. Just as Faecebook and Twatter aren't obligated to host centre-right political commentary (their decision not to do so seems very popular here), neither are they prohibited from censoring discussions about gardening or anything else they want, for any reason or none at all. You have also confused free speech with press freedom: Faecebook is a publisher. Publishers are free, under the first amendment, from government censorship. Again, it is not the government doing the censoring, it is the publisher. And nothing in the first amendment, or anywhere else in the US constitution, obligates publishers to publish third-party content (think: letters to the editor) if they don't want to.

    Yes, this is annoying. Yes, Faecebook are obnoxious. Yes, the total lack of support is infuriating. But what do you expect? You aren't the customer, you haven't paid for this service. If you don't like their policies or their support, don't use the service. It's a private corporation, not the government: you have that choice. The first amendment exists to protect us from the government, not our own poor life choices.

    1. JWLong

      Faecebook is a publisher.


      FARCEFACE is considered a service provider like an ISP. By law.

      They are not responsible for the shit people post on their servers.

      TV stations. RADIO stations, NEWSPAPERS are publishers. So are printers of books. They all tread a fine line.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Faecebook is a publisher.

        Ronald Reagan famously said that ketchup is a vegetable, and obscure bits of US ag law claim that tomatoes are vegetables. But passing a law that says a fruit is a vegetable doesn't make it so, any more than passing a law that says a publisher of third-party content and seller of ads that provides no Internet service is an ISP makes it an ISP. The constitution supersedes laws passed by Congress, so if you want to talk about the rights of a publisher, Congress doesn't matter. I mean, OP even said it: "Congress shall make no law...".

        1. Allan George Dyer

          Re: Faecebook is a publisher.

          @fredblogggs - "But passing a law that says a fruit is a vegetable doesn't make it so"

          It doesn't need to, a vegetable is a part of a plant that is consumed by humans or other animals as food, and a tomato is a fruit (the seed-bearing structure in flowering plants that is formed from the ovary after flowering) that is eaten by people, so a tomato is a fruit and a vegetable.

          And Facebook? Well, they provide a service to advertisers by publishing ads on the internet, so I think language and laws have some catching up to do.

          P.S.: Do try my Fruit Salad, it's bitter melon, vanilla and chilli.

      2. DS999 Silver badge

        Wishing doesn't make it true

        FARCEFACE is considered a service provider like an ISP. By law.

        No. They are not. You might wish that, hoping you can force them to once again show the insurrectionist musings of your orange faced god, but there is such no law!

        If you get rid of Section 230 like many conservatives want that still won't force them to bring back Trump. It will in fact require them to censor with a much heavier hand, or close down entirely, since they would bear liability for anything anyone posted on their platform.

        For instance, if the Register was a US site without Section 230 they'd probably decide these forums were too big of a liability and not worth the risk of keeping around - if they wanted to keep them around every post would have to be approved by a moderator before being seen by others, and that moderator would be told to err strongly on the side of caution.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wishing doesn't make it true

          I think forums would generally fall under section 230, even on a publishers news site.

          From a "Verge" opinion piece about section 230 -

          > Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA) crafted Section 230 so website owners could moderate sites without worrying about legal liability. The law is particularly vital for social media networks, but it covers many sites and services, including news outlets with comment sections — like The Verge. The Electronic Frontier Foundation calls it “the most important law protecting internet speech.”

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Faecebook is a publisher.

        You make a correct technical distinction between "own" content (not covered by section 230) and internet publishing of others content (covered by section 230).

        However, when Backpage was taken down and its prosecuted that created precedence setting limits on section 230.

        And what were Backpage's crimes? Conspiring to sell hoes. So obviously Facebook had no choice (/s).

    2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Regardless of the misapprehensions of the article writer, the right to free speech is not merely some lines on an American republic's constitutional document, but a philosophical concept that predates the formation of the united states by several centuries.

      Facebook is a private entity, yes, but by how far it has inserted itself into the every day lives and communications of individuals around the world, it has become a quasi-state; a government in all but name of a vast and diverse demos, to which it provides services across borders, and over which it exercises incredible power in ways that traditional states could only dream of. Facebook can, at the flick of an SQL command, completely destroy the lives and livelihoods of thousands by removing their business pages, through which they - at facebook's own encouragement - conducted the majority of the economic activity, or by cutting them off from friends and family, who may have no other means of communication than through facebook's service, again because of the way facebook has encouraged and manipulated it's way into being the sole form of communication for many.

      At this point, facebook is no longer merely "a private corporation". It has, by dint of its invasion of the private and public lives of so many people, a responsibility to enforce and uphold the rights of the people it claims to serve. Instead it acts as the arbiter of "acceptable" speech and behaviour, to a standard far more restrictive than any free society would otherwise tolerate, censoring almost at random, according to the whims of an unknown, unaccountable minority within the corporation.

      The same standard can be applied to google, amazon, and a few other world-spanning communications and tech corporations. They have moved beyond mere "private" entities. The argument of "private property" can no longer apply, any more than it could apply to a company town enforcing private scrip and the company store on its denizens.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        I hate Facebook quite intensely. I feel I should state that right at the beginning so I won't give any misconceptions here.

        They are neither "a quasi-state" nor "a government", nor are they particularly special. Reasonable arguments can be made that they are abusing a position of power, but they do not have the kind of power you think they do. Specific allegations include that they could close the pages used by businesses, which is true, but the businesses have the choice to operate their own business site or to use one of many other networks happy to host it for them. The fact that many businesses choose to only use Facebook does not mean that there isn't an alternative, and in this case the alternatives are cheap and better. Similarly, Facebook may be someone's only communication mechanism, but only if that person really hasn't bothered to get a phone number or email address from their contacts, which is not that hard.

        Facebook has committed many violations of their users and those who try to avoid them, but you can't just declare them to be states without evidence. The large number of alternative superior ways to communicate and publish indicate that they aren't preventing those activities. It doesn't approach the restrictiveness of a company town, given that it can be avoided without significant cost. Its deplorable actions should be countered, but without elevating it to a position it does not and must never be allowed to inhabit.

      2. Stoneshop

        Instead it acts as the arbiter of "acceptable" speech and behaviour, to a standard far more restrictive than any free society would otherwise tolerate, censoring almost at random, according to the whims of an unknown, unaccountable minority within the corporation.

        Also, those standards are to a very large extent the norms and values of white, male, well-to-do US company executives who have no fscking idea of how those norms and values apply, or rather not apply, to the rest of the world. From which stems the mishandling of such matters as the article refers to.

        Their absolute unwillingness to address these matters, and the near-impossible task of getting them to correct even a single one makes them a poisonous boil on the arse of the world that must not just be lanced, but surgically removed, then treated as hazardous chemical waste..

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Come on, tell us how you really feel :)

          (joking aside, I agree - even with the phrasing)

      3. DS999 Silver badge

        Just because a lot of people use Facebook

        Doesn't mean Facebook should live by different rules. No one is required to use Facebook, and there are infinitely many ways to connect with other people outside of Facebook. So many more options than existed 50 years ago.

        People are butthurt that they can't say whatever they want and force others to amplify their speech. Too bad, build your own Facebook and convince people to come there instead if you don't like it.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Just because a lot of people use Facebook

          "No one is required to use Facebook,"

          No, but it's heading that way in some case. Sometimes it's the only feasible way to contact a company or some parts or services of the local Council. You can, of course, still phone them and wait for hours in a queue before having the call dropped, or go really old school and write them a letter, crossing your fingers that it's a) delivered at all, b) gets to the correct department and c) they don't just chuck it in the bin and pretend they never even got it.

          Having said that, I don't have any social meeja accounts and never have. My wife does use Facebook and has used Twitter in the past and haven;t, as yet, reached in impasse with organisations insisting we use Facebook to contact them.

          1. mark4155

            Re: Just because a lot of people use Facebook

            I find the best way to get local authorities and large customers (you know who you are) is to email their press department with a copy of your own "Media/Press release" and tell them that you intend to release to the media in say 24 hours, adding, would they care to comment or dispute the content?

            On the Beach Holidays (who by the way I still like) owed me £320 for a covid cancelled flight they booked on my behalf with Ryanair. Despite several emails over a 4 month period I got nowhere.

            I sent my press release to their press department entitled "Pensioner's dream holiday in ruins after On The Beach refused to refund" (Feel free to make up your own strap line) - also attach pic of poor pensioner all dressed up with battered suitcase and nowhere to go.

            Hey presto, 2 days later full refund in bank along with an apology from on the beach.

            Go on I dare you.

            Toodle Pip!

            Mr. V Meldrew Esq.


            Tunbridge Wells.

          2. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: Just because a lot of people use Facebook

            They might choose to use Facebook or Twitter as the way to contact them online, but you can always call.

            When I said "no one is required to use Facebook" I meant no one is required to use it as their exclusive method to communicate their viewpoints to the outside world. And whatever method(s) they use, they cannot force the outside world to listen to their opinions no matter how valuable they believe their words to be.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I have to disagree with you completely about Facebook.

        99.9% of humans born on this planet have default citizenship depending on where they were born, or the citizenship of their parents. A few unlucky have no citizenship and that can be a death sentence.

        If you don't use Facebook, you needn't suffer at all. It's all in your mind.

        Or if you only use Facebook to participate in a gardening group or a cycling club - you are opening yourself to privacy violation and targeted adverstising, but apart from that it is not an issue of human rights.

        Facebook does monetize and magnify the dopamine generated from political turmoil via their algorithms that measure "viral" post response and profile user characteristics to detect those that are likely to "like" those "viral" posts. And in doing so Facebook has slept with the dogs. Now they have become a political weapon.

        There is no way that gaining unilateral control of Facebook's algorithms to expand political power counts as "freedom of speech". And there is no shortage of ways to express political thought outside of Facebook (or Twitter, or Youtube).

        Sinclair, Newsmax, Fox, Breitbart, Reason, all have a wide reach.

        RCP accepts almost any article and as a result are packed with extremist "news"/viewpoints.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "you haven't paid for this service."

      Well, not in cold hard cash, anyway.

  3. myhandler

    "We have plans to build out better.."

    sounds disturbingly familiar...

    1. Stoneshop


      The use of that word would imply there's any of it at this moment.

  4. foxyshadis

    The only lesson here seems to be "If an internet giant screws you over, your only choice is to plead your sob story to the media." Absolutely nothing changes otherwise, and never will until regulation hits them like a sack of bricks.

  5. Mark 85

    .... and any future flags attached to the group's posts arising from hoe-related matters would be checked by a human moderator before action is taken.

    So someone whose not a native English speaker and based overseas (not in the US) will be the "human moderator"? This doesn't bode well.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      So someone whose not a native English speaker and based overseas (not in the US nor anywhere else in Northern America and neither in Europe ) will be the "human moderator"? This doesn't bode well.


  6. rskurat

    no sympathy

    no doubt the group uses Fecesbook because of it's reach & demographic. But really, this is Fecesbook: incompetence is the norm.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: no sympathy

      I'm sure Faecesbook is a good match for a gardening group. Well played sir, assuming you intended that pun.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "hoe-related matters would be checked by a human moderator"

    So Sanjay, tell me about your new job.

    Yes, I look after all the Hoes...

  8. Just Another Script Monkey

    "The hoe is an ancient device dating back at least to the Neolithic period. Facebook dates back to 2004."

    So around the same time then?

  9. Mr Dogshit

    Ho ho ho!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Is it Christmas already? Time has been a bit weird since COVID and lockdowns/furloughs etc.

  10. DS999 Silver badge

    Facebook, Google and Amazon's biggest frustration

    Is the near impossibility of getting in touch with a human to fix a problem their systems haven't accounted for. You are forced to either wade through mazes of multiple choice questions to connect with you help that inevitably ends at a wrong answer (or loops back on itself) or you are forced to formulate your issue into a simple query its AI can use to give you the wrong answer. It then helpfully asks "did this answer your question?" but if you say no it puts you back at the start of the same infuriating process!

    There's no support email, no online chat, no toll free number. They think everything should be automated, and I'm sure their ultimate goal is a company that consists of zero employees, just stockholders.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Facebook, Google and Amazon's biggest frustration

      and I'm sure their ultimate goal is a company that consists of zero employees, just stockholders.

      At which point in time it is a self-terminating process, as there will be no employee left to order the replacement of outdated hard- and software or pay the bills for those.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Facebook, Google and Amazon's biggest frustration

        They'll have their "AI" handle that, or subcontract it.

        You could almost automate bill paying today, the only reason humans are still needed in the loop is that AI is too stupid and would be victimized by tons of fraudulent invoices (though that happens with humans occasionally, too)

  11. Warm Braw

    A local Chinese restaurant...

    ... goes under the name Ho Buffet.

    According to a Yelp comment, they have a good spread.

  12. Gerlad Dreisewerd

    Facebook algos are so frustrating

    I've had great fun mocking Facebook and the various causes they support but since I write it to appear that I'm supporting the cause I've avoided Facebook jail to date. The only post that Facebook removed mentioned

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