A Great Big City Will No Longer Publish to Facebook

Photo via Austin Chan on Unsplash

Content warning: This post will acknowledge the existence of cruel and vile acts by humans, but will not describe the details of those acts.

Hi, I'm Trace Gilton, founder of A Great Big City. Last month, content moderators came forward to describe the conditions they faced while reviewing graphic photos and videos posted to Facebook, breaking their non-disclosure agreements. As a result of this insight into the content that Facebook allows to remain on their site, A Great Big City has shut down its Facebook presence and will never post there again.

The article by Casey Newton at The Verge details the horrors both of the moderation job and the working conditions at Cognizant, an outside group hired by Facebook to review content, but it was an appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter that led to this blog post.

In the video below, content moderator Shawn Speagle goes into further detail on some of the graphic violence against animals that he was expected to moderate. Shawn and another moderator going by the name Marcus described images and videos posted to Facebook that showed unthinkable acts of depravity and violence directed at animals, which they were instructed either did not violate Facebook's terms of service and were allowed to remain on the site or were left up with the promise that law enforcement would use them to track down the perpetrators. Instead, the same videos kept reappearing in the moderation queue, despite the vague explanations from higher-ups that the moderation and efforts to properly classify those videos would result in those responsible being charged.

Although he saw the job as a way to make a difference by intercepting the vile things people attempted to share on Facebook, Shawn revealed in the CNN interview that these videos were not being copied and shared, but were being specifically produced and auctioned off within private Facebook groups. This content and this behavior was allowed to continue since the content was not being posted publicly, out of view of law enforcement and, according to the instructions the moderators received, outside the reach of the Facebook terms of service.

A Great Big City will play no part in enabling Facebook to continue.

Shawn Speagle and Casey Newton interviewed by Brian Stelter on CNN

If you are able, please consider a donation to the ASPCA, an organization founded in New York City and the oldest oldest animal welfare organization in the United States. They give a voice to vulnerable animals, and in addition to their rescue efforts, they also promote legal protections for animals, provide spay and neuter services, run animal hospitals, and find homes for rescued animals through adoption centers.

AGBC was built as a Twitter presence and never really caught on with the Facebook crowd, so understand that this is a fairly low-risk decision for me to make. In the CNN video, Shawn mentions some other online sites from the fringes of the internet that have been known to host similar depraved, hate-filled videos, and now Facebook has chosen to dump themselves into that same cesspool. The thought of A Great Big City's name being associated with a site that is complicit in hosting animal cruelty videos is sickening, and continuing to associate with Facebook is as absurd as if I chose to look the other way and promote AGBC on any other fringe site alongside videos of the darkest acts carried out by degenerate humans.

Thankfully, my lackadaisical approach to promoting our Facebook presence in the past means that AGBC never paid Facebook for advertising, but any view of a Facebook page will likely contain ads that benefit Facebook, and continuing even that small relationship is unacceptable.

From a realistic technical standpoint, there will likely continue to be a blank placeholder page on Facebook simply to make sure our name isn't hijacked by a fake page. If I can figure out a way to wipe all previous entries, all the better, but putting an end to publishing new Facebook posts was the first priority (and actually ended 10 days ago on June 25, since it was easy to rip out the part of our workflow behind the scenes that was responsible for cross-posting to Facebook).

Oh, and Instagram… AGBC used to be very active on Instagram, not-so-coincidentally mostly before it was bought by Facebook. It's currently only used to promote clips from the AGBC Podcast, which likely has never led anyone to actually subscribe to the podcast, so I'll probably decommission it as well.

If you've followed AGBC via Facebook, you can continue to follow our newsfeed via @agreatbigcity on Twitter, the AGBC Podcast, or sign up for occasional mobile push alerts on AGBC Alerts.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or send in a message via the Contact Page ✌️


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