18 April 2011

The Niallist embroiled in Facebook gay kiss controversy

Crossposted from Niallism.com

So I spend one day away from the computer, and when I get back in I find I have been embroiled in a homophobic Facebook scandal. Wow!

The story is this: last week a young gay couple were ejected from the John Snow pub in London for kissing. Expressing their anger via Twitter the story caught on and a same sex "Kiss-In" demo was organised via Facebook at the John Snow pub for Saturday. The pub shut its doors but the demo continued outside anyway - UK readers will probably know about this as it ended up being on the national news.

This is where I come in: I wrote a very short blog about the demo for Dangerous Minds on Friday, and used a picture of a gay kiss from Eastenders (above)to illustrate it. Richard Metzger then posted the story to his Facebok wall (as he does with practically all DM entries) only for some homophobic jerk to leave insulting comments. Thankfully this idiot was outnumbered about 20 to 1 by people telling him to shut up and/or fuck off. I thought nothing more of it.

I came in from a day out on Saturday to find an unusually large email chain from the DM staff in my inbox. Turns out Richard received an email from Facebook warning him not post indecent material in the future. As the Facebook wall is one of DM's main channels for sharing stories, he was understandably concerned, and forwarded it to all contriibutors to be careful what we post. Richard had assumed the offending story was one of Marc Campbell's fairly frequent go-go compilation videos that feature nudity, but as the mail chain progressed I was shocked to find out (as were all the writers) that it was the post on the kiss-in that was removed.

We were all shocked and appalled that this picture could have been deemed offensive enough to warrant the removal of the entire post. It is really very mild, and Eastenders is a mainstream, pre-watershed television show in the UK. Richard wasted no time in writing another blog post detailing what happened to the original post and publishing it on Dangerous Minds. He then published the second post, using the same picture as the first, on the Dangerous Minds Facebook wall.

This story and the associated picture has spread like wild fire, having been re-shared now close to 60,000 times, and been retweeted almost a thousand times. Dangerous Minds has now crashed twice due to traffic volume, and we have been getting almost unanimously positive support. Hundreds of people are changing their profile pictures to images of same sex kissing (which, if it is between two women seems perfectly acceptable on Facebook). The post on Dangerous Minds about the Facebook scandal has now almost four hundred comments, more than twice the highest number of comments for a previous entry (which may have been my own piece in defence of hipsters - end smugness).

All this and the story hasn't reached the mainstream press yet, or been retweeted by a major figure like Stephen Fry. Facebook have yet to make a statement as to why exactly the pic and the story were pulled. This is at the discretion of Facebook of course, but I would hope that with the amount of stink being kicked up they will be forced to say something. If they don't, the cries of homophobia and anti-same-sex bias just gain credibility. As it stands, our post was pulled witihin the space of 24 hours, yet the Feacbook group claiming to have raped Lara Logan (and enjoyed it) took four days and dozens of complaints before it was removed. This to me is ample proof of hetero-normative and masculinist bias on the part of Facebook moderators (not to mention a subtle endorsement of rape culture).

The most heartening aspect of this whole affair for me though is the overwhelmingly positive feedback from the public. I have grown used to homophobia on the internet, especially on megasites like YouTube, so to see lots of people (especially straight folks) taking a stand is great. I had almost given up on this being the case - a depressing state of affairs I guess, but how does one combat something so vast, so subtle and so ingrained? I guess this is a start.

I will update with any more news, but for now here is the original kiss in post, here is the second post about the scandal, and here is the Facebook profile of Dangerous Minds.

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