Over the past week the internet has spun into a whirl of outrage, shock, and think pieces the kinds of which is usually only seen every few months or so. After the lenient sentencing of Brock Turner, a former Stanford University swimmer now convicted of a horrific rape on campus, his victim read a long and emotionally resonant letter out loud in court. In the aftermath, the case gained a larger platform on social media and in mainstream journalism. Letters from Brock’s father as well as another reference that both used questionable (at best) phrasing and some curiously chosen details to attest to Brock’s character spurred another round of disgust about the entire ordeal. No matter your opinion about the case or the aftermath of the sentencing, there is a strong chance you have spent at least part of the past few days hashing things out with friends or family that occupy the opposite point of view.
Now, Facebook is coming under fire for removing a meme about Turner, which used his student-athlete headshot (as opposed to the only recently released mugshot) to make a larger point about how rapists can come from any walk of life and should not be stereotyped. It is unclear under what standards Facebook removed the post in the first place, but only one post that was repeatedly shared around the site was taken down, therefore removing all of the shared posts as well. Without an official comment from Facebook about why action was taken it’s left to speculation, and current guesses point to the fact that Facebook does not allow disparagement of private individuals (AKA bullying) to occur on its network. However, now that Turner has been convicted in a widely discussed and publicized rape case, that same bylaw does not necessarily apply to his reputation. Facebook’s only comment, according to Gizmodo, is the following.
“This content was removed in error, and we are currently working to restore it. Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake,”
That might not be very comforting to those who are accusing Facebook of limiting the voices of sexual assault awareness advocates or survivors, but the good news for that camp is that the original post has since been replaced. It is no surprise that Facebook declined to give a real reason for the incident besides that it was some sort of internal “mistake” as they keep their methods and motivations incredibly close to the vest on a good day. But without a straightforward answer, those angry about the removal are not likely to have their anger salved by this half-explanation. In any case, the news cycle surrounding the case promises to churn on for the foreseeable future, so another outrage will just swallow this one by the day after tomorrow.