feminism, facebook, and the first amendment

I heard about facebook sometime in early 2005. At that time, I already hated MySpace, so I didn’t know why I needed another social network to not use. I remember trying to create an account around the time of Hurricane Katrina. This was when facebook required a school email address. My university’s server may still have been down. Or maybe the problem was that I wanted to be in two networks–my old school so I could keep in touch with my friends and make sure they were ok and my new school to meet new people. I couldn’t. I remember not being impressed with facebook.

Whenever a social media platform like facebook or a blogging service like livejournal make a change to anything, people get pissy. It’s like a reflex. “____ changed the background color! I hate it and am leaving forever.” I think some of the complaints are legitimate (Gmail’s new compose took a while to get used to, and it irks me that I can’t just send an attachment–like when I want to send an edited draft of something I’d been asked to proofread, I have to write a pointless email to have at least something in the message field. I can’t just attach it and send like I used to) but most of the time the complaints sound like people who are afraid of having to learn something new or who think the world is perfect as it is and can’t even comprehend that not everyone is like them.

Today I read facebook’s response to the backlash against the gender-based violence speech they have allowed on their site. My first reaction: it took you long enough, fuckers. And now that they finally agreed to do something about this problem, I’m glad that they are understanding that to be an open and inclusive platform, they need to not allow hate and clarifying that “free speech” for the sake of verbal diarrhea itself is not their goal.

Of course, being a change to a social network, it brought on the whining. Here are a few lessons I’d like to impart on the Men’s Rights whiners:

1. A right refers to something that the government can’t stop you from doing.

2. You don’t have a right to use facebook. You further have no obligation to use facebook. If you don’t like the policy, you can do what Zukerberg did and steal the code from a friend and make a new social network. That’s call the free market. It’s the same tool that was used to bring about this change in the first place.

3. You don’t have a right to commit violence against women. You don’t have a right to entice or encourage violence against women (I know it’s more nuanced than this).

4. Facebook is not the government. Thus while what you post on facebook is protected by the First Amendment, this means only that the government can’t punish you for what you say on facebook (the caveat being number 3 above).

5. Facebook, being a private entity (see number 4 above), has the right to tell you to shut the fuck up.

So stop complaining about your rights. If you knew what that word meant, we might not have this problem to begin with.

About emmawolf

I'm a freelance writer living in Baltimore with my husband, son, and two cats. I'm working on editing my first novel. I love reading, traveling, and the cello.
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