Our 27th year of publishing
Published October 6, 2020
Facebook’s little surprise
By John Toth / The Bulletin
I posted a link to The Bulletin’s Facebook page the other day. It was a link of a graphic map from a Houston TV station showing that a weather system was approaching the Gulf of Mexico.
An innocent but informative post. We have done it thousands of times before.
A few minutes later, I tried to post a congratulatory message about the Astros sweeping the Twins, and I got the following result:
“Your Page has been unpublished.
“It looks like recent activity on your Page doesn’t follow the Facebook Page Policies regarding impersonation and pretending to be an individual or business.”
Really? The Bulletin has been around since July 1994, 10 years longer than Facebook. We were publishing when the Internet was still in its infancy.
We posted on our website the election results for local races in 1996 on the night of the election. We would have posted it on Facebook also, but Mark Zuckerberg was still in grade school.
So, we’re not just pretending to be a business, having been incorporated for 27 years. And, I am a real person - have been all my life.
So, dear Facebook computer, we are more real than the AI that generated that message after it took us out of digital circulation without giving us a chance to respond and correct its mistake.
It remains a mystery, as I’m writing this, why Facebook shut down our harmless page while its AIs allow all kinds of trash to be posted on some other pages.
Our page is non-controversial by design - we are not looking for things that divide us, but for the common denominator that allows our readers to get away from the convoluted current events and escape into our world of stories and columns for a short while.
What is really frustrating is that there is no phone number to call, and Facebook does not offer a method, like a drop-down box, to explain anything. It did provide one button to push if we disagreed with its decision.
So, I pushed it.
Maybe the computers will talk to each other, take a vote and republish our Facebook site. At this point, I don’t have a clue about what will happen. But I consider myself lucky that a long time ago I made Facebook just an add-on.
This rude awakening also made me realize the value of print. The paper you are holding in your hands right now and enjoy reading was made with the latest technical gadgets that this geek publisher gets to play with daily. But once it is printed, delivered, picked up and being read, there is no chance that anything or anyone can shut it down. There is no AI that can change its content or take it away from you. It’s just ink on paper, designed by yours truly each week.
That’s part of the magic of print. Plus, after you finish reading it, the paper can be used for a lot of purposes, such as cushioning items in a box or package, cleaning windows and the grill, serving as a drop cloth, and many other functions.
Try that with your iPod while surfing Facebook.
So, dear Facebook AI, or Mark, or whatever your name is, take your time deciding whether to reintroduce The Bulletin’s page to the world. It would have been nice to get some notice before you pulled the plug.
Anyway, please take that plug and stick it up your ventilation fan.
To be continued.
(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)