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Enough Is Enough with Facebook Policies

  
ALBUQUERQUE, NM USA, NOVEMBER 24, 2018, 7:30 P.M. MDT
A
When questionable business practices go too far, and all attempts by a merchant, trying to reason with the offender and even giving fair warning of the looming consequences, are met with silence and relentless hostile actions, the merchant is faced with two unpleasant options: backing down and by doing so telling the huge, tyrannical multi-national corporation that it can continue to do as it pleases with neither opposition nor repercussion, or honoring his word and pursuing the remedies at law available to him.

My ongoing battles with Facebook, at which so far I have only hinted in a couple of angry posts, have now reached an unbearable level I can only interpret as an act of war.  I have decided to meet the enemy on the legal battlefield, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, proper venue and on my home field, the exact theater I promised in my last few good faith efforts at peace that have been and are certain to continue being spurned.  I choose this course of action as the only way I can achieve a sense of honor with my own conscience and so I can face, in the virtual sense, my peers in this massive social networking arena that reaches every corner of the globe.  My greatest weapons are the Law of the Land, the Congressional Federal Register and certain fatal mistakes FB has already made, not the least of which is underestimating my resolve.  Nobody wins every civil action to which he finds himself a party, but I have had enough experiences to emerge victorious in most.  At least I am going to fight.

FB has become too big for its britches, its directors and executives now suffering from over-inflated egos that make them believe they are above the law.  The huge corporation is destructive of every pipe and cigar merchant’s right to free trade, to advertise products within the bounds of law, and to be accorded equal treatment under its so-called Community Guidelines (“Statutes”)[1] and Terms of Service (“Rules of Civil and Criminal Procedure”)[2] based on a capricious corporate code of conduct.  FB’s standard operating procedures have escalated in the nature of their executions to arbitrary, harmful and just plain absurd.

To be clear, all professional websites have such published pages, but they are supposed to be accessible in an easy way and not in opposition to applicable laws.  For example, my own official business site as opposed to FB, https://www.roadrunnerpipes2k.com/, has an obvious and simple mechanism for finding the page with my TOS and Privacy Policies located in the menu at the top of every page.  Failure to read these notices is no defense in the event of a dispute.  But this begs the question, where are FB’s Guidelines and Policies?

The first I heard of them was in a somewhat nasty response to my appeal of yet another recent blocking of one of my business posts.  That last word is emphasized, by the way, for a very important reason that will soon become clear, to FB’s chagrin and my anticipated ultimate victory in the lawsuit that must now ensue.  At any rate, I did some digging and found them, first by Googling and then, in a moment of inspiration, going directly to the source: FB’s own home page at https://investor.fb.com/home/default.aspx.  Have a look.  Really, it’s quite lovely and all about making money.  Scrolling all the way to the bottom of the rather long page, I discovered, in a small box with tiny links, words including Terms and Privacy.  My favorite part of the FB Home Page, though, is just above that box, where FB breaks down a few key profit-making aspects of the “Community,” each in billions of dollars.  That’s what it’s all about, after all.

The most interesting, truly telling point about these legally-mandated links is that they appear nowhere on anyone’s personal or business page.  Now that’s a conundrum!  I for one cannot imagine the reason for such a lapse in open business practice.

MY DISPUTE
The unjustified and illegal practices of FB about which I now complain include but are not limited to the following acts.  Everything in italics, bold and/or underline is my emphases of the wording.

Since I first established my business page, and in particular after beginning to participate in the Gentlemen’s Pipe Smoking Society and other groups for pipe-minded folks, FB has engaged in restraint of trade against my tobacco pipe restoration and sales business.  As defined by the Sherman Act (1890, still the foundation of U.S. anti-trust law), Section 1,

Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal.  Every person who shall make any contract or engage in any combination or conspiracy hereby declared to be illegal shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding $10,000,000 if a corporation...or by imprisonment not exceeding three years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.

FB has, at best, enforced its Guidelines and Policies in an inconsistent fashion, or at worst, with deceitful bias.  Every day, I see other pipe artisans and merchants offering their legal products for sale in posts rather than ads.  At the same time, my efforts to do the same, as so many others seem not to be thwarted from doing, are being shot down at every opportunity and have only survived the assaults due to my strong responses to the messages I now frequently receive from the “Ad Review Board.”  My now educated conclusion and sincere hope is the inconsistent enforcement scenario is FB’s practice.
Although by no means do I imagine there exists a conspiracy against me, the only alternative is that I am not the sole victim of FB’s illegal and morally wrong policy of enforcing Puritanical and dystopian policies against anyone, specifically, it seems, peaceful, law-abiding tobacco pipe connoisseurs whose only goal is to conduct lawful interstate commerce.  Despite my certainty of not being the object of a conspiracy, I cannot avoid the equal sureness that my account has been “flagged” because of my repeated violations, as FB insists on viewing them.  And then there is the fact, as reported in a Washington Post article last August that FB has developed an undisclosed system for rating its users’ trustworthiness from 0-1 based on the reliability and likelihood of their snitching, in effect.[3]  Of course, FB refuses to release the ratings to users.  As one of those “users,” I find the news disquieting.
The imminent threat I face from FB’s perception that I am becoming a “constant offender,” and also a potential unlikely snitcher, is closure of my business page at least, if not also my personal page that is connected to it, under FB’s TOS 4-2, Additional Services-Account Suspension or Termination, which reads in pertinent part: “We want Facebook to be a place where people feel welcome and safe to express themselves and share their thoughts and ideas.  If we determine that you have violated our terms or policies, we may take action against your account to protect our community and services, including by suspending access to your account or disabling it.  We may also suspend or disable your account if you create risk or legal exposure for us or when we are permitted or required to do so by law.  Where appropriate, we will notify you about your account the next time you try to access it.  You can learn more about what you can do if your account has been disabled.”

Here are just a few choice quotes from FB’s outlandish, Big Brother Policies I doubt many if any other members have ever read.  Study them with care and ask yourselves if they represent your values.  More to the point (hint-hint to FB), remember they mostly apply to paid FB services such as ads, and none of my “crimes” or “violations” involved paid “services.”  All I’ve ever done is peacefully exercise a right guaranteed by a little thing called the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, or free speech, and it was never even controversial much less provocative.  This, to slam the point home, is where FB has been screwing up by messing with me.  I kept every misguided and threatening communication ever sent to me, and they all cite the paid services policies as the reasons for my free posts being blocked as well as let me know how these posts are performing better than 95% of the others in given groups, which is why they keep suggesting robotically that I pay to “Boost” these terribly harmful posts!

TOS 1-1: “We use the data we have – for example, about the connections you make, the choices and settings you select, and what you share and do on and off our Products – to personalize your experience.”

TOS 1-2: “Stronger ties make for better communities, and we believe our services are most useful when people are connected to people, groups, and organizations they care about.”

[But clearly “people” are not equal, such as pipe enjoyers.]

TOS 1-4: “We show you ads, offers, and other sponsored content to help you discover content, products, and services that are offered by the many businesses and organizations that use Facebook and other Facebook Products. Our partners pay us to show their content to you, and we design our services so that the sponsored content you see is as relevant and useful to you as everything else you see on our Products.”

[What about the considerable tobacco-related products including pipes?  If you’re a pipe merchant or maker, try to place an ad for your product, as FB incessantly and idiotically tries to make us do – to make money, because that’s the only purpose of FB – and you will be denied.  It’s called a double standard, discrimination and selective restraint of trade.]

TOS 1-5: “People will only build community on Facebook if they feel safe. We employ dedicated teams around the world and develop advanced technical systems to detect misuse of our Products, harmful conduct towards others, and situations where we may be able to help support or protect our community. If we learn of content or conduct like this, we will take appropriate action – for example, offering help, removing content, blocking access to certain features, disabling an account, or contacting law enforcement. We share data with other Facebook Companies when we detect misuse or harmful conduct by someone using one of our Products.” 

[“Dedicated teams” using “advanced technical systems” around the world to “protect our community.”  My God, the CIA, NSA and NIA should take seminars from Facebook!]

TOS 3-1:“ Who can use Facebook.  When people stand behind their opinions and actions, our community is safer and more accountable...We try to make Facebook broadly available to everyone, but you cannot use Facebook if: You are under 13 years old.  You are a convicted sex offender.  We previously disabled your account for violations of our terms or policies.  You are prohibited from receiving our products, services, or software under applicable laws.”

[Standing behind our opinions and actions: what a noble idea.  I’m going to put that one to the test when I take FB’s advice by posting this on FB.  Fair warning again: Part of me hopes the powers that be at FB really are myopic enough to shut me down so I can watch them crash and burn even harder in the federal courthouse.]

TOS 3-2: “We can remove content you share in violation of these provisions and, if applicable, we may take action against your account, for the reasons described below…To help support our community, we encourage you to report content or conduct that you believe violates your rights (including intellectual property rights) or our terms and policies “

[Do these words recall to anyone else’s mind George Orwell’s 1984, Nazi Germany and the old USSR?]

TOS 4-4:. Disputes.  We try to provide clear rules so that we can limit or hopefully avoid disputes between you and us. If a dispute does arise, however, it's useful to know up front where it can be resolved and what laws will apply.  For any claim, cause of action, or dispute you have against us that arises out of or relates to these Terms or the Facebook Products ("claim"), you agree that it will be resolved exclusively in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California or a state court located in San Mateo County. You also agree to submit to the personal jurisdiction of either of these courts for the purpose of litigating any such claim, and that the laws of the State of California will govern these Terms and any claim, without regard to conflict of law provisions.
[LOUD BUZZER SOUND!  See 28 U.S. Code § 1391 - Venue generally.  (b)Venue in General.—A civil action may be brought in—
(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated; or
(3) if there is no (b)Venue in General.—A civil action may be brought in—
(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated; or
(3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.
Therefore, (b) (2) is the appropriate venue for this action, being where I live and the damages occurred, not the Defendant’s stomping grounds.]
Good morning, good afternoon, good evening and good luck – and watch your backs!  Should this prove to be my last post for a while at the People’s Republic of Facebook, remember Schwarzennegger’s famous line from the Terminator movies.

[1] https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/
[2] https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms
[3] Dwoskin, Elizabeth, “Facebook is rating the trustworthiness of its users on a scale from zero to 1,” The Washington Post, August 21, 2018, at https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/08/21/facebook-is-rating-trustworthiness-its-users-scale-zero-one/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0e7332bb31b0