I’m in Facebook jail for stating a scientific fact

Megaphone inside metal cage 3D

Far be it from me to bewail the power of social media and tech.

It is social media and tech — first the platform Blogger, then my own website, as well Facebook and Twitter — that has brought my concerns about the dangers of homebirth, natural childbirth, breastfeeding and anti-vax to such a wide audience. I have become so well known that those who feel threatened have gathered 6000 signatures on a Change.org petition to have me censored from Facebook.

The petition claims:

Facebook has recently started removing the pages and groups of people they claim to be spreading “fake news” or “false science,” yet somehow, the page run by Amy Tuteur (which she titled “The Skeptical OB”) stays up. Amy regularly spreads false information (proven time and time again by science). She has been quoted as saying “rape is natural” and a “successful evolutionary strategy.”

Birth and breastfeeding professionals — who are too cowardly to face me in any debate and too unsure of themselves to rebut my claims in any setting — are hoping to prevent me from offering comfort and support to the many women they harm in their pursuit of profit. If they think that will that will stop me, they don’t know me very well.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Ironically, natural childbirth advocates and lactivists are proving my point: they have become blind to the real meaning of the word “natural.” [/pullquote]

But the petition has nothing to do with why I am in Facebook jail. I have been temporarily banned for pointing out that just while unmedicated vaginal birth and breastfeeding are natural, so is rape.

Entire books have been devoted to this issue, including A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion.

As I explained in a recent post:

If we define rape as forced copulation, it isn’t merely natural among humans, it is natural throughout the animal kingdom…

In species where females pick or accede to males based on fitness, rape represents an important evolutionary strategy for less fit males. Instead of leaving the choice of mate to the female, the male who forces copulation on a female who wouldn’t otherwise choose him is given a chance to spread his genes that he wouldn’t otherwise get. If he is a successful rapist, he will father many offspring. Rape offers this male an extra opportunity to be an evolutionary winner. So rape isn’t merely natural in such settings, it is a winning strategy.

Predictably, some people were upset, reasoning — wrongly — that if rape is natural, it must follow that rape is excusable. Ironically, they were demonstrating the point I had set out to prove: that natural childbirth advocates and lactivists have become blind to the real meaning of the word “natural.”

Natural is NOT equivalent to “good.” Just because something is natural does NOT make it best nor something we can or should wish to emulate. Rape is always wrong. Even if rape occurred in the past in nature, and occurs to this day in the animal kingdom, it is still always wrong and SHOULD be punished harshly and prevented by the best means we have at our disposal. And just because unmedicated vaginal birth and breastfeeding occur naturally does not make them best or even good.

So how did I end up in Facebook jail? The same people who are organizing and supporting the petition to censor me, reported my posts for using the word rape. Facebook did not elaborate on why I was temporarily banned for using the word “rape,” but under its Community Standards I found:

We remove content that displays, advocates for, or coordinates sexual acts with non-consenting parties …

Of course I did none of those things, so why was I banned anyway?

Sadly, the same social media and tech that have empowered me have inadvertently also empowered the mob. How? By automating decisions about speech.

Facebook has over 2.2 billion users and has been struggling to monitor and address outrages that occur on or are promoted by its platform. There probably aren’t enough people in the world to put eyes on all the content posted to Facebook each day so Facebook relies on complaints from individuals, subjecting the purportedly offensive content to tech that autonomatically screens it, probably using key words. The word rape is almost certainly a key word and if someone uses it in a way that makes someone else complain, the user is banned.

There is an appeals process, and I have engaged it, but it’s the weekend and the ban will be over before Facebook ever addresses it.

I did not violate Facebook’s Community Standards because I was not promoting rape; I was discussing a scientific theory about rape. Once someone complains about the use of the word rape, the automated technology wrongly concludes that rape is being promoted and bans accordingly.

Facebook made a mistake that they never intended to make. But such mistakes are inevitable when you automatically act on complaints without determining whether or not those who are complaining have a legitimate reason to do so.

As for the petition, I am considering my options in consultation with my lawyers since it is defamatory. Facebook certainly hasn’t acted upon it and I suspect they never will.

No petition will ever keep me from speaking out in support of women bullied by natural childbirth advocates and lactivists and against the harmful effects of pernicious ideologies that subvert science. The fact that 6000 birth and breastfeeding advocates are so afraid of me that they want to censor me only confirms my effectiveness.