I’m the founding editor of Elephant Journal, a site with 25 million page views a month that’s been around for 14 years. We share quality mindful content, not spam. I got banned from Facebook for one week for hosting this article on elephant.
And this isn’t the first time Facebook has done this to elephant—it’s the 30th. Remember when they took down images of women going through breast cancer?
That time, they eventually reversed their decision to ban such images—but only after constructive public outcry. Sadly, it appears elephant needs your help, if so inspired…again. Please share this article and support our right and duty to host thoughtful conversations about important issues.
And this isn’t the first time. I get a warning every few days, like clockwork. After the warning, which temporarily bans me from Facebook, I’m asked to review my posts for spam. I’ve never posted anything spammy in my life. Elephant focuses on green living, bicycling, equal rights, relationships, meditation, family, social action, right livelihood. I employ 23 editors, and 6 other folks, to share the kind of quality content to Facebook that Facebook claims they want on their site (so that Facebook clients [you know, users] will keep coming back for news and good reads, videos, art and other content). Every time, I’m then prompted by Facebook to leave feedback. I say something like this, every time:
I’ve just been blocked for days from using Facebook. I run a major web site, elephantjournal.com, and don’t share spam. We have 10 million readers a month, uniques, and get flagged once in awhile by readers on Facebook, where we have 3 million plus fans on 60 pages. Can you all help keep me from getting blocked off FB every few days? It’s affecting my ability to devote time to sharing on Facebook.
But once in awhile, I get banned from Facebook completely. It just happened this morning, for our site posting this.
(I didn’t even post it, an editor did, but I’m an admin on the page). It’s an equal rights story by a thoughtful African-American author, as you can see. Apparently a Facebook fan or five, perhaps Cruz or Trump or other such fans, flagged it as something they disagree with. That’s fine. But I shouldn’t get banned for hosting a conversation about race, or feminism, and sharing that to Facebook.
When our editors get blocked, they can’t message their children to meet up after school. Folks use Facebook to help run their life. It’s one thing for me to get blocked, but my staff does, too. And it’s arbitrary. Some get blocked for three days, some for a week. Some just get warnings. And all for the same “offense”—in this case an article about equality by an African-American author that, understandably, riled up some readers.
But getting riled up is a right. Facebook allowing a few individuals to flag and take down a site for hosting an important, thoughtful discussion is not.
I don’t think Arianna gets banned from Facebook every time Huffington Post shares a pro-Hillary or pro-Bernie or, for that matter, pro-Trump or pro-Rubio story. I don’t think Buzzfeed gets banned from Facebook every time they post something making fun of veganism. Five angry vegans shouldn’t be able to flag a reputable site and take it off of Facebook (which, in case you don’t know, is the bookstore or grocery checkout aisle of 2016–it’s where we media invest as much of our time and money as we can, since 50 – 75% of our readers come through FB). Without Facebook, media can not reach you. Facebook is the medium—and, in this case, arbiter, of what articles you’re allowed to see in America, today.
If this continues, elephant will continue to bleed. We’ll have to lay off editors. We’ll have to move our resources and focus from Facebook to…something—our newsletter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter (where we’ve won two national awards for green coverage and—unlike on FB—have looong been verified) our own ecosystem (a la Reddit).
We’ve already dropped from our peak because Facebook arbitrarily changes how many folks see our posts on our various main pages. Our Yoga page used to be huge–then, overnight, it collapsed. Same with five other pages. And yes, we keep persevering. We’re mission-driven. That’s what makes us a big site, today—our perseverance, and our loyal following.
Look: I don’t have anything against Facebook. Rather, without Facebook, and my devoted 12 hours a day of my time to it, and now my staff’s time, for 8 years, Elephant would not be the success story that it is. Facebook, if they verified or protected us from getting flagged, could be a wonderful partner.
We happily follow Facebook’s guidelines–it’s in our interest to do so, so we don’t get banned. The problem arises when Facebook’s lack of caring whether sites get flagged, and banned, every three or so days, tramples over the kind of quality content Facebook wants to cultivate.
But if our readers can’t see us, they won’t read us. And Elephant will either leave, or die.
Or, likely, both.
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