BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | After first banning one of his books, Facebook has now banned a leading gay author and a longtime activist from the social media site.
“They gave me no warning and I have received nothing from them to explain what they have done,” Perry Brass told Gay City News.
Brass’ book, “The Manly Art of Seduction,” was banned four years ago, with the company telling him that the word “seduction” was not allowed on Facebook. A search on that word on Facebook produces many pages for books, nightclubs, magazine articles, and other content that use “seduction” in their names or titles.
Titles of longtime activist, author’s books snare him in social media platform’s arbitrary policing
“I was told that because ‘The Manly Art of Seduction’ uses the word seduction, it cannot be advertised on Facebook,” Brass said. “I really think they felt that as a gay book, they were just not going to allow it.”
Last month, he traveled to Cuba for 10 days where he was unable to access his account though he received the usual notices via email when Facebook friends posted content. He returned to New York City on February 19 and logged on roughly five or six days later. He noticed pornography on his page.
“I did notice that suddenly there was also porn on my page,” Brass said. “Some of this was frontal nudity… I’ve never posted anything like that on Facebook.”
He was banned from the site entirely after that. As anyone who has ever sought an explanation from Facebook concerning its policies on bans or selling ads can attest, the company is terrible at telling users what is and what is not barred.
Brass, who has written 19 books, is a former member of the Gay Liberation Front, an early LGBT rights group, a founder in 1972 of the Gay Men’s Health Project, now the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, and a founding coordinator of the Rainbow Book Fair, which will take place on April 9 at John Jay College in Manhattan.
Two pages that advertise other books by Brass –– “King of Angels” and “The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love” –– remain active on the site though Brass was barred from buying an ad for the second book because, he was told, it used the word “desire” in its title.
In an email to Brass from Facebook concerning “The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love,” the company wrote, “Ads are not allowed to promote the sale or use of adult products or services, including toys, videos, publications, live shows or sexual enhancement products.”
“Desire, you cannot use the word desire,” Brass told Gay City News. “They did block me because of the word desire.”
A search on Facebook using “desire” returns results for books, music, magazine articles, and other content that use the word “desire.” Facebook did not respond to an email asking about Brass’ ban. He has concluded that the company is banning gay content.
“I would frankly like not to believe that, but there’s just too much evidence to the contrary,” Brass said.
Facebook can ban Brass or anyone else with little reason or for no reason at all, though the company undoubtedly wants to maximize the number of people using the site.
“The First Amendment applies to the government,” said Erica T. Dubno, a partner at Fahringer & Dubno, a First Amendment Law firm in New York City. “The government can’t restrict speech, Facebook is not the government… It’s whatever the market will bear. The bottom line is, unfortunately, they have a little more leeway and they can be more selective in the types of speech they allow on their site.”