Thousands of animal rescuers have had their First Amendment rights stepped on as a result of a loophole called “spam”. Over the last week, hundreds of animal rescue pages, along with some craft, cake and music pages on the world-renowned social networking site, Facebook, have had their pages suspended for 15 days due to “spamming and irrelevant content”, with the threat of being permanently shut down looming overhead.
Who gets to qualify what spam or irrelevant content is? Is sharing a missing dog, who may have been stolen, with thousands of individuals who may be able to help, spam? Is asking to sign a petition that could save an injured animal, irrelevant?
The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Does Facebook feel it is above the law by claiming free speech is spam or irrelevant?
So what is spam? And does stopping spam trample all over the First Amendment? Spam can be defined as “unsolicited bulk emails”, “send the same message indiscriminately to large numbers of recipients on the Internet” or “irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of recipients.” And our Constitution states “Congress shall make no law.. abridging the freedom of speech”. Abridging is defined as “curtailing, reducing or restricting”. With these definitions, any law prohibiting spam is prohibiting freedom of speech.
So are the many posts or links that animal rescue pages share considered spam in the first place? Some argue they are spam due to being posted on numerous other pages but many pages that were suspended only share these posts and links on their own page. So did they spam their own page? These pages require you to “like” them in order to receive their updates. If these individuals do not want to see the postings and links, they simply need to “unlike” the page. Per the definition of spam, most of the animal rescue pages have not violated the policy Facebook has implemented.
And isn’t the policy just censorship? Censorship is the control of information and ideas circulated within a society. By Facebook claiming hundreds of pages are “spamming” and posting “irrelevant content”, isn’t it in fact placing itself above the law policing what individuals can or do say? And then censoring these pages and individuals from speaking any further?
Or does Facebook feel it can hide behind rules and regulations claiming it “has policies to stop behavior that other users may find annoying or abusive.” But who gets to determine what is annoying or abusive? Is saving animals’ lives annoying and is trying to rescue the countless number of animals off of death row abusive? To whom? Evil?
Facebook goes on to state: “you must significantly slow down or stop this behavior. Further misuse may result in more blocks or your account being permanently disabled”. So Facebook has indeed placed itself above the law, posing itself as more important than censorship and the First Amendment. Facebook is free to everyone but this entity has put control over its users. Control of information and ideas circulated within its society. Censorship. Facebook is censoring freedom of speech.
Facebook, maybe unknowingly, has taken away free speech and muzzled the thousands of animal rescuers who try to speak out for the voiceless, ironically placing these caring individuals in the same position as the animals: voiceless. If sharing animals in need is considered spam, perhaps this should be a testament to just how many animals’ lives are in danger.
“I may not agree with what you have to say but I will stand behind your right to say it.” – Voltaire
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
For more information regarding the ban on Facebook pages, please read Facebook Bans Animal Rescuers.