|The beautiful and completely|
non-nude Brooke Taylor
For years cyberpunk authors like William Gibson, Rudy Rucker, and Bruce Sterling have written of dystopian cyberpunk futures in books like like Neuromancer and Mirrorshades. And an oft-seen element of these dystopias is the domination of huge megacorporations, answerable to no government which use people and toss them aside like used tissues - an element so common in cyberpunk that it forms one of the core components of the GURPS: Cyberpunk campaign source book. One might wonder how such unfeeling and powerful corporations come about. I think I have found one way: they get people to willingly sign up for their service in droves and become so indispensable that they can do whatever the hell they want to. In other words, they act like Facebook.
|Another non-nude photo of Brooke|
So why is this relevant, and why are those pictures of the lovely Brooke Taylor stuck on this post? Well, because Brooke, and a couple of her coworkers have, in their dealings with Facebook, what I think is something of a cautionary tale for the rest of us. In the course of researching for my Cathouse reviews I have found and interacted with some of the women featured on the show via social media: specifically Facebook and Twitter. Many of the women who work at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch are on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or some other web service. Though they are not legally permitted to market their services over the internet, most want to be accessible to their fans, and several have more than enough admirers to max out the Facebook limit of five thousand friends. In my experience dealing with them, I have found them all to be friendly, engaging, and sweet women. They are all also pretty smart ladies, and generally know exactly what they can and cannot do under the terms of service of sites like Facebook, and adhere to those guidelines quite scrupulously.
But the problem is that even if you follow Facebook's rules to the letter, it may not matter, and if Facebook decides they don't like you, there isn't much you can do about their decisions. The reason that the pictures of Brooke Taylor are featured in this blog post is that those specific pictures were repeatedly reported by a user on Facebook for violating the Facebook terms of service because they allegedly included nudity. As I was a Facebook friend of Brooke's at the time, I watched the subsequent events play out first hand. In response to these reports, Facebook removed the pictures. Because they don't actually include any nudity (seriously, go back and look at them and try to find any nudity in those photos), Brooke reposted them, whereupon they were reported again and removed. Brooke attempted to locate contact information so she could speak with a Facebook representative and find out what about them supposedly violated the terms of service. However, Facebook has made it essentially impossible to locate any contact information by the simple expedient of not actually providing any other than a completely generic "contact technical support" e-mail system that requires the use of an extensive checklist that actually doesn't allow for asking questions about reported photos, or protesting the decision to remove photos that allegedly violate Facebook's terms of service. Facebook claims that a member of their staff reviews complaints about photos to determine if the complaints are valid before removing them, but this appears not to be the case, as one of Brooke's photos that was reported and removed for nudity was a picture of Bella, her dog. After her photos were repeatedly falsely reported for nudity, her Facebook profile was summarily deleted for violating the terms of service. The Facebook profiles of both Mika Tan and Bunny Love, two other women who have appeared on Cathouse, suffered similar fates.
So what is the point? Well, the immediate point is that Facebook treated these very nice women quite shabbily. But the larger point is that Facebook was able to do what it did, and shunt these women off of the social media center of the universe based upon false information, without giving them an opportunity to be heard or appeal the decisions that were made concerning their content. In fact, it seems that Facebook has made it impossible to contest or even get an explanation for the decisions made in matters like these. Making matters worse, Facebook's reporting system is completely anonymous, so anyone can submit a false report complaining about another user without revealing their identity, or without any fear of any possible negative consequence. In effect, we have willingly and cheerfully turned over control of our social address book, our photo albums, our home movies, and our ability to communicate with our friends, to an entity that reserves the right to snuff all of that out on, essentially, the whim of an angry anonymous jerk with an axe to grind. This is most obvious in the case of Brooke and the other bunnies, because they are polarizing figures to a certain extent, as many people have a prejudice against them because of their perfectly legal profession. But what should concern the rest of us is that everyone is susceptible to this sort of treatment. That jerk of a neighbor who is angry with you because he thinks your patio is ugly doesn't need to take any real effort now to get petty revenge. All he has to do is search for your Facebook profile and begin reporting you for posting nude photos, even if there isn't any nudity at all in them. And Facebook doesn't care that they are being used as a vehicle for personal vendettas, they just don't have to care. After all, who is going to make them care? And we have put Facebook in the position to be able to do this by flocking to them in droves. Just as fascism would come wrapped in a flag and waving a cross, the megacorporation seems set to take over our lives with a happy facade and the promise of an address book full of friends. If a cyberpunk dystopia comes about, it will be because we cheerfully made it come about by putting the megacorporations in control so we could play FarmVille and Bejeweled Blitz with our friends.
Special thanks to the beautiful and gracious Brooke Taylor for agreeing to allow me to use the disputed pictures as examples for this blog post. As a side note, both Brooke Taylor and Mika Tan have new Facebook profiles, but both have decided to limit their Facebook involvement on the grounds that their new profiles might suffer the same fate as their previous ones. As of this date, Bunny Love has not created a new Facebook profile.
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