In April 2021, Dunedin Fine Art Center communications director Ken Hannon tried to post something to the center’s Facebook page: images and award announcements from its Student and Member exhibitions. One of the award-winning pieces was a photograph containing nudity.
Shortly after, the center’s Facebook page was disabled.
The 47-year-old cultural institution that offers classes to children and adults remained in “Facebook jail” for a year. The page was only recently reinstated, but no one from the center’s staff is able to post to it.
“It’s been hugely frustrating,” Hannon said.
When Hannon set out to make that 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 process of reviewing the post so it could be published.
The center’s staff decided to continue the process, as they were very aware of Facebook’s Community Standards, especially Part III, Section 14, which states in part: “We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.”
The next minute, Hannon saw a notification that the Dunedin Fine Art Center’s page was disabled — and so was Hannon’s personal page because he had set up the center’s account.
Attempts to contact Facebook only resulted in messages saying a review of the post had already been requested.
A subsequent message from Facebook stated that “we usually offer a chance to request a review and follow up if we got decisions wrong. We have fewer reviewers available right now because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.”
The center was never notified by Facebook which image was in question.
When staff attempted to start a new page for the art center, that page was unpublished by Facebook because it was too similar to the first page that had been disabled. The center attempted to appeal, to no avail.
On June 1, 2021, the center received a message from Facebook saying that because it had been more than 30 days since the account had initially been disabled, the decision couldn’t be reviewed.
Meanwhile, a Facebook page for the Dunedin Fine Art Center that was created in 2012 by an unknown user isn’t affiliated with the art center, and no one who works there can post to it.
An email from the Tampa Bay Times to Facebook about the incident went unanswered.
In a news release chronicling the events, Hannon wrote in the headline “A Tale of Artificial Intelligence Gone Awry,” and talks of the center “running into the buzz-saw of a social media giant’s algorithm-driven artificial-intelligence assassin.”
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“(The notification) happened within seconds of me posting,” he said. “I can’t imagine that there was any human interaction that would have happened that fast.”
The news release caught the attention of 10 Tampa Bay WTSP, which wrote about the ordeal last month. According to the story, the organization reached out to Facebook’s press team.
“The company did not provide a statement or interview,” the story said. “But, an insider acknowledged the arts center page was incorrectly removed.”
The Dunedin Fine Art Center’s page was restored on April 24 of this year with more than 12,000 followers — and it contained the post Hannon had tried to make a year ago. But the photograph containing nudity had been removed.
“It’s kind of like, hey, well, they put it back up, and they said that that image was OK, but they didn’t put that image back up,” Hannon said. “So what does that mean?”
Hannon had tried to restore the page by reporting the issue to the Better Business Bureau and the National Coalition Against Censorship, and asked members of the community for help reaching a person at Facebook. But nothing ever came of it until now.
Hannon has still not talked to anyone from Facebook directly.
Hannon had started a new personal Facebook page using an alternate email address when his page was banned last year. But because his former email is attached to the center’s page, he can’t post on it even though it’s been restored — and neither can any of the staff that have administrative access to the page.
The center heavily relies on Facebook to spread word about its classes and exhibitions, Hannon said, with less success on other social media platforms.
“We skew older in our demographic for sure,” he said. “Our average age is somewhere north of 63 for our students, so unfortunately, Facebook is smack dab in that demographic. That’s the tool that we want, that’s the tool that we need, and that’s the one that 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.”