After the fifth time Facebook classified his sardonic jokes as hate speech and shut down his account, a gadfly Bay Area lawyer tries to zing Zuckerberg’s algorithm.
Social media giant Facebook has plenty of genuine legal problems with high-powered adversaries, not the least of which is the President of the United States threatening legal action if they censor his posts. (In fact, Facebook did remove the doctored, so-called “racist baby” video post from Trump last week, albeit on copyright violation grounds.) A clever Bay Area lawyer is playing some sillier legal games with Facebook — and it may be working — as KPIX reports that after the fifth time attorney Dan Balsam had his account suspended, Balsam is now suing Facebook because their algorithm keeps flagging his jokes mocking conservatives as hate speech.
An example? Per KPIX, “One of Balsam’s posts that got Facebook’s attention says ‘I don’t know why conservatives are making such a big deal about wearing a mask in public. It’s not like it bothered them before’ above a picture of hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan.”
Balsam argues the Facebook algorithms are inconsistently applied and lacking in human oversight. “What it really comes down to is political speech. There’s a right to political speech and Facebook is censoring it,” he told KPIX. “If this is happening to me, it’s probably happening to other people. I want them to fix their algorithms. I’m looking for big, systemic change on how Facebook operates right now.”
Dan Balsam is sort of a legend (or legendary pain in the ass, depending on whom you ask) who had made his name suing tech companies for email spam. His website Dan Hates Spam chronicles these exploits, and a 2010 Associated Press report Man quits job, makes a million suing spammers details how he’s sued various targets ranging from the Stockton Asparagus Festival to AdultFriendFinder.com for their spamming habits. He won a $4,000 settlement against the latter for sending him four different catfishing emails with the subject “Hello my name is Rebecca, I love you.”
He tells KPIX he’s not looking for monetary damages and just wants his account back, and in that sense, he may already have won. As of this afternoon, an account with his name and likeness is back on Facebook, along with the “spam buster” photo seen on his website.
Image: 20th Century Fox Television