Rolling Stone: Facebook Sexy Food Emoji Ban Is Free Speech Threat

When the social blogging site Tumblr, long a haven for frankly sexual content and discussion, banned porn back in December, it left mainstream social media nearly barren of adult content. But last week, the most powerful social media platform of them all, Facebook—or as it now officially called, FACEBOOK—has taken the crackdown on sexually oriented material to a new level.

Facebook has long banned porn or any sexually explicit posts, but what could initially be seen as a supremely silly policy modification, the social media giant banned the use of certain food emojis deemed to be sexually suggestive, such as eggplant and peach icons

But as ridiculous as the Facebook policy appears at first glance, a new essay published by Rolling Stone magazine calls the sexy food emoji ban a “canary in the coal mine” for a coming crackdown on the right to free speech online. 

Facebook quickly walked back the ban, without actually lifting it—but saying that it applies only to sexy food emojis “used alongside an implicit or indirect ask for nude imagery, sex or sexual partners, or sex chat conversations.” 

But according to Rolling Stone writer Siouxsie Q, coming after last year’s FOSTA/SESTA law, the sexy emoji ban, even in its scaled-back form, is just one indicator of “a massive chilling of online speech related to all forms of sex, sexuality, and sexual health, along with a culture of community policing, that has resulted in bodies and stories that are already at the margins being further excluded, harassed, and silenced.”

As has reported, the FOSTA/SESTA law which holds online platforms responsible for potentially illegal, sexual content posted by users, has created a devastating fallout, including an “epidemic of violence,” against sex workers, especially trans women of color.

By creating a massive incentive for sites such as Facebook to crack down on sexual content, FOSTA/SESTA pushed sex workers offline and back onto the hazardous streets in search of customers.

The sexy emoji ban, according to the Rolling Stone essay, reveals the consequences of allowing and even encouraging private corporations—to whom the First Amendment does not apply—to regulate and even censor speech.

“Online speech may soon only exist on platforms owned by private companies who have the power to silence whomever they wish,” Siouxsie Q writes. “We may be entering an era where the Internet is no longer an interconnected web of information, but rather a landscape of private fiefdoms empowered to exclude those they deem unworthy, or worse, a law enforcement mechanism used to deter and punish—definitely not the 1996-vision of the internet’s potential.”

Photo By Google / Wikimedia Commons


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