An odd and largely meaningless occurrence this morning.

After checking my mail and reading the Pundit Roundup (Thanks, Kev!), I stopped by Facebook to see friends’ posts and drop a brief message:


The link is to a YouTube video of public domain images of poverty, accompanied by Mavis Staples’ recording of Stephen Foster’s song “Hard Times, Come Again No More.” The original YouTube poster dutifully posted the copyright information of the recording (the composition has been in the public domain for a century and a half) and the usual quit-claim language.

The video has been up for a dozen years and has gotten over half a million views, including that of at least one copyright holder, as the video has been monetized since being posted, presumably by that copyright holder.

Okay, now the odd part. A few minutes after posting the vid, I was informed that the post had violated Facebook’s standards and I would be unable to interact on the site for 24 hours, my first experience with what is commonly referred to as “FB Jail.”

Now, I understand that no human made this decision, that a line of code determined that a message encouraging consideration of the poor on Thanksgiving was improper. What I don’t understand is why. There is no inherent infringement issue, as the recording’s owner is apparently satisfied with the monetization status of the video (it hasn’t been taken down in twelve years). Moreover, had there been objections to the video, YouTube would be the party to judge those objections.

I can’t, for the life of me, find anything in my one-sentence accompanying message that any reasonable person—or algorithm—would find offensive, unless Mr. Zuckerberg and his coders just have a thing against poor people.

Again, the incident is minor and largely meaningless, but it struck me as curious.

That said, I stand by my statement, and encourage those with much for which to be thankful to reach out to those with little. Happy day to you and yours, and do enjoy Ms. Staples’ performance. It is stunning.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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