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“Facebook jail”: what is it and how do you avoid it?

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Posted: Friday, July 30, 2021. 12:31 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: For many Belizeans, Facebook is the one thing they can’t do without. In an era of social distancing, safe spaces and constant accountability, “FB” as it is often called is an area where you can sound off, be yourself and speak your mind with not many consequences.

But this week, as seen in a post by attorney Audrey Matura Shepherd, there are consequences for violations of the community policies and standards of Facebook, that have landed, in the past, even world leaders like former U.S. President Donald Trump in mostly temporary but occasionally permanent timeout.

Asked by Matura-Shepherd how many had recently been in what is known as “Facebook jail” – unable to post, add friends, send messages and so on – a score of Belizeans listed their various experiences, ranging from one to thirty days without the social media platform. Interestingly, for many this seeming surge of banned accounts, in several instances could not be readily explained or a reason for the ban identified.

While some are repentant and others confused, quite a few insist their right to “free speech” had been violated. (Full disclosure: several members of the BBN team have also recently been put in FB jail for unintentional violations, some of which have impacted our services to you, our readers).

But with free speech comes responsibility for your words and actions. With the help of Ron Stefanski, author of “How to Avoid Facebook Jail,” we have a few tips for you.

First, understand that following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Facebook and other content platforms came under fierce scrutiny for not doing more to police harmful content, which some believe led to the election of Trump. As a result, Facebook has been cracking down on its already established guidelines.

You have been “FB jailed”, according to Stefanski, if you: lost your account’s ability to post on your timeline or on any pages or groups; not able to like anyone else’s posts or pictures; cannot comment anywhere on the social platform and are blocked from accessing your page or account.

The reasons may be myriad and occasionally unusual: too quick posts and tags, inappropriate or spam content, using accounts improperly (personal for business and so on), even adding too many friends.

Because of the heightened control, there are few ways to get out of FB jail other than to serve your sentence, just like real jail, or appeal. Also try to avoid what looks to be scams and content that will get you in trouble.

But perhaps the most critical thing to know is this: Facebook is not the real world. Sure, it may have real-world people saying real world things, but there’s a lot more to see out there so take a break on occasion and maybe actually do your job or spend time with your family. The good thing about “social” media is it’s always there for you, but it’s a tool, not a crutch. So use it, but don’t abuse it.

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