Facebook, meet Kafka

This was my mission: Help the Internet Archive promote a book talk about my new book that they’ve been so kind to organize at the Archive on Tuesday, December 17. The ticket prices are a sliding scale — from zero on up. The more they raise, the better the world will be.

So I created a Facebook Event, linking to the EventBrite invite.

Image of the Facebook event
Image of the Facebook event

I tried to “boost” the event, so that more beyond my dwindled circle of SF friends might hear about the event, and so more might come.

The boost was — as you can see above—rejected (“rejected” — so harsh!).

I wanted to understand why. I clicked the rejection and was informed as follows:

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Ok, so first, the idea that a book event about a book about democracy requires a “disclaimer” is bizarre. I’m not running for anything. I’m not promoting any candidate. Did the Russians promote democracy books in 2016 to elect Donald Trump? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

But whatever. I clicked the “create a disclaimer for this Page” link, thinking that, Amazon-one-click like, in a couple clicks, this speech regulation would be complied with.

I was first hit with this page:

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Note, it confirms that I’ve confirmed my identity. (I had done that because in 2018, I had wanted to run ads promoting a local representative, and had encountered the Facebook speech regulators then first.) But it says nothing about how to setup a disclaimer.

So I asked for help from Facebook. Their first reply didn’t explain anything in any terms I could understand. I followed up The second reply was more, let’s say, more complete:

page 1
page 2
page 3
page 5

So obviously, the (British) Facebook rep had mastered copy/paste. Determined, I persisted. (She is my Senator.) I followed the steps in page 2 of the above. I went to my Facebook page, lessig.org, and clicked through to the authorizations settings. I selected the option to create a new disclaimer. My options were these:

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Notice, to make a disclaimer, you need to be an organization, with an email linked to a URL for that organization’s web page. Think about that for a second. In real space, we complain that corporations are people, and have the free speech rights of people. On Facebook, only organizations — with URLs matching email domains—have commercial speech rights.

But ok, I’m a special case. I’ve had a URL (lessig.org) since I ran for some Internet related org in 1996 or so. And luckily, the email for my Facebook identity was linked to that domain. I clicked through as an “Other,” the category for mere citizens. And again I was asked:

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Assuming it’s not a Facebook crime to represent my “organization” as “A Citizen,” I did. I completed the balance of the information. Facebook initiated a call to verify the telephone number, and sent an email to verify the email. Then, countless cycles late, my right to promote my book at an event in SF was being “reviewed” by a Facebook employee. And that right would depend upon whether that employee would forgive me trying to pass as an organization, so that I might exercise the freedom of citizens to speak in a way that (in the ad-driven context of Facebook) other people might hear.

I’m optimistic.

About the ad, at least.

Written by

law professor, activist.

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