Sex, Facebook, Instagram, and the Banning Epidemic

05/Dec/2019

How Facebook has changed the rules of Instagram and how to stay inside the lines.

What is this post about?

This post is trying to answer a series of questions that I have been asked whilst talking about privacy and security at various sex positive events around Europe. This post discusses the following aspects in detail, which together provides a full overview of the situation.

  • Who is “The Facebook Group”, I thought you were talking about Instagram?
  • I have been banned, how did this happen?
  • What does “Shadow Ban” mean, how do they happen?
  • What are the “Community Standards”?
  • Could you make a summary of what’s relevant to me?
  • Could I have an example of what’s forbidden?
  • Why is this happening?
  • What does Facebook know about me?
  • How do we change Facebook and Instagram?

A lot of people are having their accounts banned and are asking me firstly “How do I get my account back” and “Why did this happen?”. Hopefully this will help clear up some misconceptions about what is happening with “The Facebook Group”, (see next).

Who is ``The Facebook Group``, I thought you were talking about Instagram?

I am, The Facebook Group is Instagram. Well, they actually consist of a number of companies including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, PORTAL, Onavo, Masquerade and CrowdTangle.

There is now news that Instagram and WhatsApp will both cease to exist at some point as Facebook is planning on merging everything into their platform.

They have already combined their terms and conditions which is where a lot of the new rules are coming from. Everything that applies to Facebook, applies to the whole group, including WhatsApp and Instagram.

For the remainder of this blog post I will refer to the parent company “Facebook”, but you can be assured, everything applies to Instagram and WhatsApp. They say so themselves, right here.

Remember, Facebook and all services provided by The Facebook Group does NOT constitute a public service. “The Facebook Group” is a private company that makes money by using your data to sell adverts.

I have been banned, how did this happen?

The process normally works like this, you’re flagged and then investigated. There are numerous ways you can be flagged, most of them are intrinsic to Facebook and confidential however, there are some that are more transparent and well known. Namely:

  1. You have been reported, and someone has written a very detailed description into why you should be flagged and investigated.
  2. You have received multiple reports that you’re in violation of “Community Standards”.
  3. A bot (a program which comes and reads your profile, links, and images. Yes, Facebook can check images now, on all platforms.) has checked your profile and detected a potential violation of the “Community Standards”.
  4. Your behaviour has triggered an algorithm into thinking you are the kind of person who posts content which is in violation of the “Community Standards”.

Once you have been flagged, depending on the severity of the case you are either banned, shadow banned (see below) or investigated.

If the investigation transpires that you’ve breached the community standards, then you will be banned.

In some cases when you are flagged and banned by an algorithm (a computer program), you can object and be investigated.

Generally, if you are banned by a human investigator, or for repeat offenses, you’re not getting your account back.

Remember: Instagram and WhatsApp will both cease to exist as Facebook is planning to merge all of its services together.

What does ``SHADOW BAN`` mean, how do they happen?

Firstly, the term “Shadow Ban” is not an official term, and it is vehemently denied by Facebook. Everything that Follows is extrapolated from evidence and accounts to define the procedure. Everything has been denied by Facebook even though there is evidence that it happens.

A “Shadow Ban” is a temporary restriction of services that is used to restrict the influence that somebody has, whilst their account is investigated. The impacts vary from report to report, but generally any action that can have influence over another is restricted, such as posting links, using hashtags or appearing in search results.

Shadow bans can be temporary, however if you are investigated and seen to be in breach of the community guidelines, then you can be permanently banned, without question.

What are the ``Community Standards``?

The Facebook Group community standards are a series of rules that govern the use and access to the services provided by The Facebook Group (Including all platforms listed above). They are long, complex and change all the time. In a lot of cases they can be opaque and difficult to understand. I’m going to explain more in detail of how they impact people working in and around the sex industry.

Could you summarise the relevant bits?

Okay, there are two main sections that affect the sex industry in the CS (Community Standards). I’m going to summarise and explain them now, however I’ll leave the links below if anybody wants to read in more detail.

Firstly, let’s cover the most transparent of what is forbidden by Facebook according to the CS:

  • Visible Female Nipples, unless:
    • the image is health* or giving birth related.
    • the image is shown as part of proprotesting.
  • Visible genitalia, unless health* or birth related.
  • Visible anus or buttocks.
  • Explicit sexual intercourse
  • Erections
  • By-products of sex (Semen, Liquids, etc.)
  • Sex Toys (even if under clothing)
  • Squeezing female breasts.

*Health related means: Breastfeeding, breast cancer awareness, post mastectomy or gender confirmation surgery.

Things start to get more opaque here. There is another list which covers practices which can be inferred. This can be summarised as implied sex and nudity.

  • Implied sexual intercourse, defined as “mouth or genitals, entering or in contact with another person’s genitals or anus, even when contact is not directly visible.
  • Implied genital/anal stimulation, defined as “mouth or genitals, entering or in contact with another person’s genitals or anus, even when contact is not directly visible.

In summary, if they think you’re having sex in the picture, even if they can’t see it, it’s against the community standards.

If FACEBOOK thinks you’re having sex in the picture, even if they can’t see it, it’s against the community standards.

Right, the second part. After the introduction of SESTA & FOSTA, there are new laws governing sex on the web. This is covered under a separate section of the CS, referred to as “Sexual Solicitation”. This is available directly from Facebook, and you can read about  it here: https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/sexual_solicitation

I’ll cover the simple things first, so some basic violations are:

  • Attempting to recruit sex performers, strip performers, erotic dancers, tantra professionals, erotic masseuse or erotic dancers. Remember this includes your DMs
  • Attempting to coordinate or organise a pornographic shoot (ambiguous but assume stills or movie), organising an orgy, organising a stripping event, organising a live sex show, any kind of erotica or tittilation or, any kind of massage associated with sex (including Tantra). Remember this includes your DMs
  • Any form of offering (or asking for) sex, sexual partners, sex chat, sexy conversations, nude photos, videos or images. Remember this includes your DMs
  • Sharing links to websites offering pornographic content (Bio, Post or DMs)
  • Posting images containing links to pornographic brands or with URLs contained within images. (Also DMs)
  • Posting text (comments/bio/DMs) that go into any more detail than simply: “A state of sexual arousal” or “An act of sexual intercourse” (Facebook’s words, not mine)

RIGHT! Now onto the more complex stuff.

If Facebook see you trying to organise a sex party, or a filming, or anything sexually oriented involving 1 or more people, it’s against their terms.

There is one area which has been particularly confusing to a lot of people which I’m going to try and explain here.

Basically, you need to be offering implicitly or indirectly (giving an email or phone number is one way of indirectly offering, there are more) offer or ask for (this is not a finite list):

  • Sex
  • Sex workers
  • Sex performers
  • Escorts, Phone sex operator (text or chat)
  • Cam performers
  • Nude imagery
  • Nude models – The context of this has changed, if you’re market yourself as a nude model. Stop, immediately.

To expand on this, the following when associated with your Bio, Posts or DMs can qualify as “Suggestive”, and against the terms:

  • Sexualised emoji 🍆🍑
  • Regionalised sexualised slang: “SHAG” for all you fellow Brits.
  • Mentions or depictions of Sexual Activity (including real art, digital paintings and hand drawn pictures) such as:
    • Sexual roles (e.g. “I’m a TOP”, “I’m a BOTTOM”, “I’m a MISTRESS”)
    • Sex positions (“Doggy”, “Jellyfish“, lol, kills the thighs anyway)
    • Fetish Scenarios (“Come to my dungeon”, “Suspension”)
    • State of arousal (“So wet”, “So hard”)
    • Acts of sexual intercourse (e.g. “Head”, “Lick”)
    • Acts of sexual activity (e.g. “Stick it in”, “I’m touching myself”)
  • Long shots of fully nude bottoms
  • Images of real individuals covered by:
    • Human parts (Hands, Arms, somebody else’s legs)
    • Objects (Tables, Chairs, Boards)
    • Digital Images (Emoji, Stars, Blurring)

Remember, most of these criteria are specific, which gives Facebook the ability to pick and choose who they ban and who they don’t. So, unless you’re super famous or filthy rich (my next post is going to be about “banning bias” and building on the backs of sex workers), expect to get banned.

Could I have an example of what's forbidden?

Sure, check out the following, these will get your account either flagged or banned. Unless you’re a Kardashian, of course.

What does Facebook know about me?

A lot.

You can download a copy of almost everything Facebook stores on you here:
https://www.facebook.com/dyi/
You can see the activity history here:
https://www.facebook.com/me/allactivity

You can do the same for Google here:
https://takeout.google.com/

Why is this happening?

Several reasons, but the main contributing factors are:
The Facebook group is part owned by Peter Thiel, if you don’t know who he is, this should give you some insight into his views: Peter Thiel Women & Democracy
SESTA & FOSTA, two laws that were passed under the pretence of preventing human trafficking but mainly are being used to target sex workers and the sex industry as a whole.

How do we change Facebook and Instagram?

Short answer, you don’t.

Long answer, you boycott their services and hope it makes enough of an impact on their bottom line that they start listening.

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