THE TRIALS OF TURTLEBOY: Is Facebook A Blogger’s Best Asset Or Worst Enemy?

Printed from: http://newbostonpost.com/2017/06/19/the-trials-of-turtleboy-is-facebook-a-bloggers-best-asset-or-worst-enemy/

Turtleboy Sports, the Worcester-based blog that specializes in spotlighting instances of liberal hypocrisy, political correctness run amok, and all instances of Bay State chicanery, appears to have a Facebook problem.

The website, in which contributors submit anonymous blogs documenting and exposing everything from sham city nonprofits and city machine politics to being the first to break the news about a Boston Municipal Court judge knocking a day off a sentence to halt the deportation of a bank robber who would later murder two South Boston doctors, has surged in popularity. The site’s take-no-prisoners approach to journalism has ruffled plenty of feathers — a member of Worcester’s Citizen Advisory Council recently dumped a zoning board candidate for acknowledging he reads the blog — and now the site’s detractors appear to have discovered a sure-fire strategy for limiting the site’s reach.

Simply put, Turtleboy’s Facebook Page has become a target-rich environment for the easily offended.

A recent New Boston Post investigation has determined that the same process that led to the temporary shut-down of NBP contributor Kyle Reyes’s page has its fingerprints all over the Worcester-based blog. In Reyes’s case, all it took was a single complaint reaching a sympathetic Facebook moderator to land him a ban, which he pointed out equates to disaster for a marketing company such as his which spends thousands of dollars on the social media service daily.

A Facebook spokesman later apologized to Reyes on behalf of the company after it became clear that he had not violated any of the company’s terms-of-service.

The Turtleboy Saga

In Turtleboy’s case, an investigation has determined that a similar tactic is being used to silence the site’s reach on Facebook. Earlier this month, the blog’s founder connected with the New Boston Post. He agreed to speak, on condition of anonymity, and said that after several months of stability, he discovered restrictions had now been placed on Turtleboy’s Facebook page. Specifically, a post linking to a Turtleboy podcast was removed. The reason provided? “Nudity” and “sexual acts.”

 

 

“We would have protested or appealed this decision, but there is no one at Facebook to appeal it to, and the form we can fill out — we have hundreds of times — are never returned with any feedback,” the founder claimed. “There is no customer support phone number.”

Turtleboy’s owner, like Reyes, said he sees Facebook as a promotional tool — if it wasn’t, he noted, then why would the service advertise cost-inducing features such as “post boosting”?

The problem, according to Turtleboy, is he has no one at the company he can turn to. Turtleboy proceeded to share with New Boston Post — again, on condition of anonymity — several screen shots documenting some of the mass-reporting tactics he’s alleged.

(Edited by NBP for language)

According to Turtleboy, Facebook alerts users whenever a post is removed. After two warnings from the social media company, a third instance of removal can result in a 24-hour suspension. Subsequent reports result in a 3-day, then a 7-day, and, lastly, a 30-day suspension.

When Turtleboy responded to New Boston Post, he said he was in the midst of his third 30-day suspension.

Turtleboy said he has resorted to creating additional Facebook Turtleboy pages — dubbed “Turtleboy Safe Space,” then “Turtleboy Refugees,” and finally “Turtleboy Smiles and Sunshine” — all of which were subsequently removed by Facebook. The “Turtleboy Smiles and Sunshine” page, according to Turtleboy, had been backed with cash in order to categorize it as ‘sponsored content,’ with the hope that “paying customers would be less likely to have pages arbitrarily shut down.”

Turtleboy said Facebook deleted the page “within days.”

“I called my bank to dispute the charges, but they have yet to hear back from Facebook,” Turtleboy said. “Essentially they stole my money, didn’t provide a service, and then shut down my account without cause or due process.”

Turtleboy later shared screenshots of Turtleboy posts that Facebook had flagged as “spam” — posts which were made ahead of his latest 30-day suspension — in addition to posts flagged as “activities from your page that don’t comply with Facebook’s policies.”

A Quick, Brief Reversal

With Turtleboy’s report in hand, a New Boston Post reporter reached out to the same Facebook spokesman who had assisted in resolving Reyes’s situation. Within days of the inquiry, the spokesman, who per company policy declined to be identified, reported back.

“I looked into the page you flagged and learned that it was removed in error,” the spokesman wrote. “It has since been restored.”

Turtleboy’s ban was lifted on June 10. Next week, however, Turtleboy discovered his posts were again being flagged as spam — in this instance, it was a post linking to a Turtleboy story regarding an area dog kennel that has been the subject of “puppy mill” allegations made by the Humane Society, partly as a result of Turtleboy’s investigations:

A follow-up inquiry made by a New Boston Post reporter to Facebook resulted in a generic response from the spokesman, who said he cannot comment on specific cases but noted that the company uses automation filters in order to “identify spam and clickbait.”

Fluffy Bunnies and a BATCAVE

What is clear is that the process that affected Reyes has affected sites such as Turtleboy. In each case a Facebook user reports a post and happens to land upon the sympathetic ear of one of Facebook’s thousands of so-called gatekeepers — moderators who have recently been proven to be working in locales as far away as the Philippines, earning meager pay and serving under a quota system to identify problem posts.

Earlier this month, Facebook deleted a major fan page created by supporters of President Donald Trump. The group page, “Donald J. Trump President Of The United States,” went dark inexplicably earlier this month, according to a report by BigLeaguePolitics.com, a news site founded by former Washington Free Beacon and Daily Caller reporter Patrick Howley.

The group, at the time of its deletion, boasted more than 132,000 members. After Howley managed to reach a spokesman, however, Facebook restored the page.

In another strange incident that took place last month, Facebook temporarily suspended a California Catholic priest’s account over a post he wrote concerning the Muslim faith. The incident, and the apparently offending post, was documented by the religious-centered site ChurchPop.com.

Father John Higgins of St. Raymond Parish in Downey, California apparently posted the comment on the Facebook page of his Democratic congresswoman, U.S. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard.

Higgins told ChurchPop he tried in vain to reach someone at Facebook, noting that he wrote the company “several times” but “received no response.”

What is less clear are the identities of various “secret” groups that operate on Facebook, groups whose apparent sole purpose is to identify posts they disagree with and bombard Facebook with flagged complaints of the posts in an effort to silence other users.

A screenshot of a post made to Turtleboy’s Facebook wall shed some light on the practice. In this particular post, the user issued a cryptic warning which also linked back to one of the “secret” groups — in this case, an outfit oddly named “People who love fluffy bunnies.” A search for the group yielded no hits.

(Edited by NBP for language)

According to Facebook, there are three privacy settings for groups — public, closed, and secret. For groups listed as public and closed, their locations are easily identified, although the content shared inside a closed group is only available to members.

So-called “secret” groups, however, remain invisible.

According to Facebook, access to secret groups is only possible when a user is invited by another member. Most importantly, the existence of said secret groups is only known to members.

Secret groups simply do not show up in searches.

One such secret group goes by the name “BATCAVE.”

A Facebook spokesman declined to confirm or deny the existence of the group.

An entry on Quora.com, a question-and-answer site where a community of users assists others in answering various Internet-related questions, describes “BATCAVE” as “a secret group whose sole purpose is malicious harassment and mass-reporting of those who they don’t like or disagree with politically.”

A source with knowledge of the “BATCAVE” group, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, described the group as a “band of social justice warriors dedicated to a daily game of Facebook whack-a-mole.”

Turtleboy’s Take

Turtleboy acknowledged that Facebook’s status as a private company entitles company officials to “take down any content they deem offensive,” but he added that their status does not entitle them to break with their own terms and conditions.

He also defended his anonymous status, in addition to the anonymous status of his bloggers.

“Our bloggers are anonymous because we are living in a society where you get attacked for having an opinion that runs contrary to PC norms that are being shoved down our throat by social justice warriors,” he explained. “If you step out of line you get attacked. For years they controlled the narrative by using these tactics. When your writers are anonymous it takes that power away from them. Everything they believe in is bullshit. They can’t defend it, so they attack the person saying it. But if they don’t know who that person is then they have nothing left to fall back on.” 

Turtleboy continued:

“We’ve also established the blog as a place where people can report critical information without having their names attached to it. For instance last year when Officer (Ronald) Tarentino was killed we knew the name of the suspect and the car he was driving before anyone else because an anonymous source in the police contacted us. This happens a lot. Without the veil of anonymity we wouldn’t be able to get this really important news out there like we do.”

Turtleboy’s founder, while he has been identified in previous news reports, again refused to speak to New Boston Post unless he was granted anonymity. 

“The bottom line is that our bloggers are mostly a bunch of moms who want to say what everyone is really thinking but can’t because they don’t want a pack of SJW (social justice warriors) vultures to attack their families, call them racist, and harass them at work,” Turtleboy added.

As for Facebook’s set of rules, Turtleboy noted that his page “agreed not to post certain content when we signed up for an account and thus far we have met those conditions.”  “Facebook has not lived up to their end of the contract because the posts they have removed have proven to not violate their standards,” Turtleboy added, pointing to the findings of the spokesman contacted by New Boston Post as proof.

It was only a little more than a year ago, however, that then-New Boston Post Editor-In-Chief Jennifer Braceras accepted an invitation, along with several other prominent conservatives, to attend a private meeting with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook officials.

The meeting came about as a result of a report produced by the tech blog Gizmodo confirming that Facebook workers “routinely suppress news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential ‘trending’ news section.”

“Not surprisingly, the Gizmodo report set off a firestorm of protest from conservatives who have long complained of liberal media bias,” Braceras wrote in her recap of the meeting. “Others slammed Facebook for ‘censoring’ speech.”

Zuckerberg, according to Braceras, promised a full investigation into the practices surrounding Facebook’s “trending” news operation.

This operation, however, clearly has nothing to do with the practice of users making a cottage industry out of flagging other users’ content in the hopes that the content will either be removed or that said user will be banned.

According to Braceras, Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives confirmed during the meeting in May 2016 that the human element is at play when it comes to the policy of flagging.

“With respect to the question of posts that are pulled for violations of ‘community standards,’ Facebook representatives explained that they only review posts or pages where there are complaints,” Braceras recalled. “It does not matter if they receive one complaint or a hundred about a post or page.

“One is sufficient to trigger review and the number of complaints in no way affects the outcome. These reviews are all done by human beings who sometimes make mistakes. Facebook insists it does its best to correct any such errors.”

Turtleboy said he believes that Facebook’s biggest problem is its “lack of infrastructure and personnel for their reporting system.”

“The fact that it’s so easy for trolls to shut down any page they choose, and a legitimate business like mine has no way to address these grievances, is problematic,” Turtleboy said.

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