I love the Internet. I’ve practically lived online since about 1993, when I got my first account in a college computer lab. I met my partner about 13 years ago through an online dating site. As you can see, I make at least part of my living by writing stuff for the web. Me and the Internet are old friends.
But really, sometimes it shows me things that I’d rather not see. Sometimes it makes the ugliest most vile parts of human nature so visible that I’d like to just pop open my skull and start scrubbing my cerebellum with steel wool.
Case in point: the Facebook page Your Dog Sucks, which is devoted to celebrating animal cruelty including the torture and killing of dogs. Yes, there’s a link there, but don’t click unless you’re really sure.
As of this writing, the timeline of Your Dog Sucks includes a photo of two dead dogs in plastic bags with the caption “hooray trash day tomorrow,” a “hero alert” for an article about a woman who’s being tried for killing a dog because it pooped on her floor, and a video of U.S. soldiers throwing a dog off a cliff in Iraq. That’s just the top few entries. There’s much more.
According to WPBF in West Palm Beach, Florida, a Facebook user named Michael Budukiewicz has campaigned to have the page removed. Since he discovered it last week, Budukiewicz has reported the page to Facebook every day, asking that the company take it down.
“I was outraged that something like this should be on there,” he said. “That page should be completely removed and that person that posted it should be banned from Facebook.”
Every time, though, Facebook has responded that “Your Dog Sucks” is not in violation of community standards.
“Your Dog Sucks” isn’t an anomaly, either. While it has existed only since July 2 and has 204 followers, there are also pages such as Dogs Are Scum, which is equally vicious and has accumulated 859 followers since its debut on April 15.
A woman named Jennifer Burton has launched a petition on Change.org asking Facebook to remove Your Dog Sucks and similar pages. Unfortunately, the petition is poorly phrased and argued. When you sign on, the default email sent to Facebook says simply:
To: Facebook, Facebook
Remove a page.
Not very compelling, to tell the truth. Burton’s text summarizing the petition’s case is earnest but awkward:
Despite hundreds of people reporting the page and showing their disgust on the page itself. Facebook refuses to remove it as it states there is no violation of their terms. This page is actively encouraging people to burn, hurt and kill dogs. If that isn’t a threat of violence I dread to think what it would take for Facebook to consider this. If it were a page about abusing children, they would remove it. Why should it be allowed because it is a dog.
Awkward or not, I’m not entirely comfortable with Burton and Budukiewicz’s solution to the problem. I understand their revulsion and their passion. My guts squirm when I look at pages like this, and the fact that someone would put so much energy into something so petty, so sadistic, makes me despair for the human race.
But despite all the time that I spend on Facebook, I don’t trust it. As an online resource, it’s huge, and it has a lot of power to regulate who gets heard and who doesn’t. I don’t feel comfortable asking it to delete pages by fiat unless it’s absolutely necessary. The case of Jeanna Hoch is still fresh in my mind. Just this past week, Hoch had her Facebook account deleted because she posted topless photos of herself breastfeeding. Her account was restored and Facebook apologized, but the incident shows just how arbitrary and devastating the social network’s control of content can be. I prefer to encourage it to be as hands-off as possible.
I think it’s far better for dog lovers to look for bottom-up solutions than to call for Facebook to exercise power from the top down. For instance, if you notice that one of your Facebook friends has liked or followed one of those pages, call them out on it. Make them tell you why they’d support something like Your Dog Sucks, and remind them that such pages depict far more than mer abstract, cartoon violence no one would do in real life. The fact that people act on this kind of violence is exactly why groups such as the SPCA or the Humane Society exist, and it’s why their work is valuable. The fact that people such as the ones behind Your Dog Sucks exist is why we need more people to rescue dogs from shelters and educate themselves on how to care for the animals. In that sense, these pages can serve a purpose: They remind us of just how bad people can be, and that the rest of us have to be just that much better because of them.
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