In April 2021, the Dunedin Fine Art Centre’s Director of Communications, Ken Hannon, attempted to post something to the centre’s Facebook page: images and prize announcements from its student and member exhibits. One of the winning pieces was a photograph containing nudity.
Shortly after, the center’s Facebook page was deactivated.
The 47-year-old cultural institution, which offers courses for children and adults, remained in “Facebook prison” for a year. The page was only recently revived, but no center staff are able to post to it.
“It’s been extremely frustrating,” Hannon said.
When Hannon decided to post this post in April 2021, he immediately received a notice from Facebook that some of the content appeared to violate the social network’s Community Standards. The message asked if the center wanted to go through Facebook’s review process for the post so it could be published.
Center staff decided to continue with the process, as they were very familiar with Facebook’s Community Standards, specifically Part III, Section 14, which states in part: “We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures and other works of art depicting nude figures.”
The next minute Hanno saw a notification that the Dunedin Fine Art Center page was deactivated – as was Hannon’s personal page because he had created the centre’s account.
Attempts to contact Facebook only resulted in messages indicating a review of the post had already been requested.
A subsequent message from Facebook said that “we generally provide the ability to request a review and follow-up if we make wrong decisions. We have fewer reviewers available at this time due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The center was never informed by Facebook of the image in question.
When Staff attempted to start a new page for the art center, this page was unpublished by Facebook because it looked too much like the first page that had been taken down. The center tried to appeal, to no avail.
On June 1, 2021, the center received a message from Facebook saying that because it had been over 30 days since the account was initially deactivated, the decision could not be reviewed.
Meanwhile, a Facebook page for the Dunedin Fine Art Center that was created in 2012 by an unknown user is not affiliated with the art center, and no one who works there can post there.
An email from Tampa Bay Weather to Facebook about the incident remained unanswered.
In a press release chronicling the events, Hannon wrote in the headline “A Tale of Artificial Intelligence Gone Awry” and talks about the center “running into the buzz-saw of the algorithm-driven artificial intelligence assassin of a giant social media”.
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“(The notification) happened seconds after I posted,” he said. “I can’t imagine there was any human interaction that would have happened so quickly.”
The press release caught the attention of 10 Tampa Bay WTSP, who wrote about the ordeal last month. According to the story, the organization contacted Facebook’s press team.
“The company did not provide a statement or an interview,” the article said. “But, an insider has acknowledged that the arts center page was mistakenly deleted.”
The Dunedin Fine Art Center page was restored on April 24 this year with over 12,000 subscribers – and it contained the message Hannon had attempted to make a year ago. But the photograph containing the nudity had been removed.
“It’s kind of like, hey, well, they put it back, and they said that picture was OK, but they didn’t put it back,” Hannon said. “So what does that mean?”
Hanno had tried to restore the page by reporting the issue to the Better Business Bureau and the National Coalition Against Censorship, and asked community members for help reaching out to someone on Facebook. But nothing has ever come of it so far.
Hannon has yet to speak directly to anyone about Facebook.
Hannon had launched a new personal Facebook page using an alternate email address when his page was banned last year. But because his old email is attached to the hub page, he can’t post to it. even if it has been restored – and neither can any staff member with administrative access to the page.
The center relies heavily on Facebook to publicize its classes and exhibits, Hannon said, with less success on other social media platforms.
“We are definitely older in our demographics,” he said. “Our average age is somewhere north of 63 for our students, so unfortunately Facebook is right in that demographic. It’s the tool we want, it’s the tool we have need and it’s the one we don’t have.
Still, Hannon said, he’s cautiously optimistic.
“After a year of trying so many things, to be at least this far feels good.”