July 25th, 2016
I recently posted on Facebook:
“I do not like Donald Trump. If you do, we can be friends. But I don’t have to let you campaign for Trump on my Facebook page. He is reprehensible and a real threat to our nation’s future.
I don’t care if you disagree with my position. Please don’t post pro-Trump comments on my page. I will delete them.
I wasn’t looking for support or bashing Trump. I was trying to let people know ahead of time I would delete their pro-Trump comments. I wanted them to understand my reasoning and not be too offended.
One response in particular was so provocative there wasn’t enough room to respond on Facebook, so I am responding here. Here’s what someone posted as a comment:
“I’m always a bit surprised that anyone on social thinks they “own their feed”. Not true on Facebook. Not true on twitter. Generally just not true.
You can help curate a feed through your preferences and who you “friend” – but you don’t own any feeds. Even if your name is on it, you do not own it (think – through what transaction did you purchase it?).
The platform owns the feeds. And because they do, you don’t pay a dime for the platform. But if you seriously think you “own” your feed, well. I hate to break it to you. Ya just kinda don’t.”
I can’t begin to articulate all the reasons I completely disagree with this, but here are a couple.
It’s overly simplistic to classify everything we come into contact with online as “a feed.” The whole idea of a feed can even be sinister and Orwellian, implying information that is fed to us, and which we receive passively and compliantly. This is not one of my primary objections to these claims, but I do find this notion greatly disconcerting.
In more practical terms, if we follow someone on Twitter, you could call that subscribing to their feed (and people commonly do). We see static tweets in a timeline and if we dislike them we can reply, retweet with a comment, block the person, unfollow them, or simply look away.
There are other places, however, where the metaphor is not so passive and the idea of a simple feed doesn’t work. I’ve been blogging for over 10 years. I’ve also managed corporate blogs and Facebook pages for some of the world’s largest companies. A blog or Facebook page absolutely is owned — editorially and morally — by the person or company who created it and maintains it. Whether you pay for the use of the platform is completely irrelevant to your responsibility for the content on it.
Nearly every commercial Facebook page, community, and blog on the planet moderates and deletes content that is offensive, uses copyrighted material for which no rights have been secured, harasses, or advocates illegal activity. And if you went to one of Microsoft’s Facebook pages would you expect to see racist comments or ads for sunglasses? No. Because Microsoft has an obligation to create a safe environment, and to protect people from these kinds of things. So they delete these comments freely. Even though Facebook “owns” the site.
I’m not Microsoft. I have a little more than 1000 friends on Facebook. They consist of family, friends, people I admire, students of the courses I’ve taught, people who have bought my book or attended one of my talks, colleagues, people I have connected with through the years, some people I don’t know at all, and even a couple of people who I friended or who friended me by accident. It’s an extended family and a kind of community.
What you post on your Facebook page is your business. If I’m bothered by it, I can ignore it, hide your posts or unfriend you. But my Facebook page is just that. Mine. Not by financial agreement but morally and ethically. I owe it to myself and my friends to keep it safe and civil. So yes, I do own it and I’ll continue to act like I do.