Facebook’s recent crackdown on propagandists and hate speakers looks to be stifling art, specifically gay art, maybe now more than ever. After 21 suspensions on the social media site in two years, revered photographer and filmmaker Rick Castro emerged from Facebook jail once again last week, but this time those who took notice and shared his plight were suspended too. Castro – who has shot the likes of Dior Men, Rick Owens and Ron Athey-was banned this time for posting an article from The Advocate about his thirty – three year career retrospective, “Rick Castro: Fetish King” at the famed Tom of Finland House. The article included several of his images of men in bondage scenarios and outfits, but “It was no more provocative than a Madonna image,” as Castro wrote on his blog.
Four days into the ban, The Advocate published a statement from Castro on Facebook censorship with an introduction by Christopher Harrity. The main photo showed a chicly clad Castro seated on a bench. Posted on his behalf and promptly taken down, Castro’s anti-censorship stand scored the photographer an additional month in exile, and when others posted Castro photos or shared the link to either the Advocate piece—including Harrity, activist/artist/curator Ruben Esparza, and S.R. Sharp at The Tom of Finland Foundation—they claim their images were removed from Instagram and Facebook and/or their accounts suspended too.
After Castro’s banishment was lifted last week and the article appeared again on his page, gallerist Lisa Derrick [who is a contributor to the L.A. Weekly] reposted it, mentioning the censorship issue on her own business page. She says Facebook prevented her from posting on both her business and personal accounts for three days. While her appeals to Facebook’s community standard review team were repeatedly rejected, the social media’s ad department sent her several suggestions to promote the banned post with payment. She declined the offer.
“Castro’s banning reinforces Facebook’s out of touch community standard teams,” says Derrick. “[They] are unfamiliar with many of the communities they police and reports they review. That the articles were from an LGBTQ news source, and shared primarily by gay men furthers the claims of other minority groups who feel they’re being discriminated and silenced on the platform.”
L.A. Weekly reached out to Facebook’s Press department via email on Friday afternoon and here is what a Facebook spokesperson told us:
“The content does not break our policies and will be restored. We apologize for any inconvenience and will work to fix our mistake with any accounts that were affected.”
Derrick received an automated apology soon after, but Castro, Harrity and others reportedly have not. Facebook also told L.A. Weekly via email, “We have policies regarding Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity. The photo in the link to The Advocate story does not break these policies and the content will be restored. We will take steps to review any profiles or pages that have been blocked or otherwise restricted as a result of this mistaken removal and will restore as appropriate.”
When asked for comment, Castro (whose work will be showcased at Derrick’s gallery as part of her next big group show “Goddesses and Gods,” opening June 22), said, “Numerous people I know, mostly GLBTQ, have had images & writings removed, and access to their own profiles placed on suspension. Surprisingly, I’m witnessing complacency of this practice. So I’m asking the community; why are you accepting this? My generation and generations before fought all our lives to achieve some equality within hetero institutions. Certain nudity and kink imagery is accepted, when it depicts heterosexuality, without anyone batting an eyelash. GLBTQ have the same rights. Do not take this lightly. We are the canaries in the coal mine. If it happens to me and my peers, it will eventually happen to you.”
DRIVING HOME THE POINT
Last week, drivers for Uber and Lyft sought to (de)mobilize workers and users in hopes of spreading awareness and sending a message to the two mega-companies concerning unfair wages and lack of transparency concerning rates. In L.A., organizers led by the Los Angeles-based group Rideshare Drivers United, planned the Uber/Lyft Strike to enforce points they made with their earlier March strike, a response to these apps’ new IPO (initial public offering) standings and Uber’s recent cutting of its reimbursement rates from 80 cents to 60 cents per mile. The strike also helped spread word about legislation hoping to classify “gig workers” and other independent contractors as regular employees, affording them more possible benefits. So now what? The truth is, scheduling the strike for a weekday probably didn’t do much in terms of bottom line, but the protest did seem to permeate public perspective a bit more, which is good. The next step they’ll need to take will be inconvenient on both sides, but it just may need to happen: strike on the weekend, when we all actually use these services. Yes, this will mean -gasp!- actually driving, paying for parking and of course, not drinking before a night on the town, but it just might make us all appreciate the service a little better and do what we can to help drivers get what they deserve. Also, we have a request: bring back the campy pink car mustaches!
GLAMPING & GRIPING
From the Met Gala to the naming of the new Royal Baby, couch critics were in ravaging, not-so-rare form on social media last week, slinging the tea and tearing apart the choices of their favorite and not-so-favorite famous figures for the fun of it all over the internet. First, Meghan and Harry’s name choice is cute and dare we say it- campy (we’re using this word a lot this week)! Also it’s way better than Apple. The little guy is in pretty good company too. As for the hot Met mess, there were admittedly a lot of misses -Anna Wintour herself didn’t really appear to embody what we might expect from “camp” theme- but fashion is about perspective and interpretation. Like music and art, it’s subjective, and what’s campy to you just might not be campy to a millionaire starlet. There was a mean-spirited meta-ness to the swarms of amateur fashion critics chiming in about “bad looks” last week, especially since this year in particular was supposed to celebrate exactly that. As Wikipedia lays out: “Camp is an aesthetic style and sensibility that regards something as appealing because of its bad taste and ironic value.”
Not since the Met Gala did a “punk” theme have we seen so many people so invested in what others wore to an event, which, after some spirited debate on Facebook (uncensored thankfully) we decided to have fun with fighting about; it’s a lot less frustrating than arguing politics online! For the record we loved Janelle Monáe, Cardi B and Katy Perry’s looks, the latter, a Jeremy Scott creation featuring collaborating details from L.A.-based designer Michael Schmidt, whom L.A. Weekly just happens to be working on an in-depth feature about, to run soon.