According to British-Canadian journalist and author Cory Doctorow on Twitter, Dutch digital rights activist Hans De Zwart, who used to head up digital rights organisation Bits of freedom in Amsterdam, created the search engine thebiglebow.ski that generates fun quotes from 1998 American cult classic ‘The Big Lebowski’.
Right from the start, the site had the rug pulled out from under it, as it was blocked by Facebook (and Instagram) with the message “Your message couldn’t be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.” De Zwart wanted to complain to Facebook, but without a Facebook account, he couldn’t. As a digital rights activist, he doesn’t use social media, but he joined Facebook just to be able to file a complaint. He was also annoyed at the fact that he couldn’t spell his Dutch last name correctly, de Zwart with a lower case d. He was basically told ‘thanks for the feedback’, which is big tech speak for f*** you.
About a month later, De Zwart bought a five euro Facebook advert in order to be able to communicate with the tech giant. His advert was rejected with “This ad contains or refers to content that has been blocked by our security systems (#1885260)”. This error code means nothing to mortals, so he tried to complain. First, he had to agree to “four sets of legal terms”, after which he was told “Thanks for helping us improve!” He was down five euro and still didn’t have an answer. “It appears that Facebook will only look at problems if they realise that it might cost them too much political or media capital if they continue to ignore them”, he explained.
A few days after the author of the article below presented the case to a Facebook PR person, the problem was magically solved. Nobody had reported thebiglebow.ski for abusive material: it had simply been incorrectly labelled by Facebook’s automated tools as spam.
Now either watch the movie if you have not seen it and pour yourself a White Russian when you do, if that’s your thing.