Showing posts with label LGBT Ban. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LGBT Ban. Show all posts

October 5, 2018

FaceBook Blocked Many Gay Theme Ads As Part of Their new Ad Policy

The advertisements all seemed innocuous at a glance.
A ribald sendup of fairy tales hosted by a comedian in Los Angeles. A Spanish-language social group for Latino men, sponsored by a community center in Las Vegas. And a list of senior-friendly housing options distributed by a nonprofit group in Texas.
But they were all blocked by Facebook. The company’s system, which uses automated and human monitors, determined that the advertisements were “political,” though they did not involve advocacy or any explicitly political views.
The common thread between them all? LGBT themes.
The Washington Post found dozens of advertisements mentioning LGBT themes and words that the company blocked for supposedly being political, according to a public database Facebook keeps.
The rejections, the majority of which Facebook told The Post were in error, underscore the company’s challenges in regulating the massive amount of information flowing through its service, an issue that burst into the fore after the disclosure that Russian-state actors used advertisements on Facebook to sow discord during the 2016 U.S. election. But they also touch on a deeper tension as the company seeks to better regulate political uses of its platform. Though Facebook has taken pains to appear neutral, the censorship of LGBT ads, however inadvertent, points to the company’s difficulty in finding a middle ground in a tense national climate where policy increasingly hinges on fundamental questions about race and identity. 
Many LGBT advertisers told The Post that they were upset by the way their ads had been targeted by the company.
David Kilmnick, the chief executive of the LGBT Network, a Long Island-based nonprofit, said his organization has seen about 15 advertisements blocked as political since the spring or early summer, around the time that Facebook officially changed its policy. That was when the majority of the dozen or so organizations and people interviewed by The Post said that they began to experience issues with LGBT content.
Kilmnick said he was at first confused about why the group’s advertisements — for events such as the Long Island Pride Parade, a beach concert, a pride-themed night at a New York Mets baseball game and a LGBT youth prom it puts on — were blocked. But as the rejections began to pile up, so did Kilmnick’s suspicions. 
“We were completely targeted simply because we were LGBT,” he said, “for what we’re advertising — ads that promote our programs that help support the community and celebrate pride. There’s nothing political about that."
Marsha Bonner, a motivational LGBT speaker, described a similar experience when an ad of hers for an NAACP-sponsored conference about the state of LGBTQ people of color was blocked in July, a first in years of advertising on the social media platform.
Other ads The Post found that were blocked for political reasons included a clothing company for survivors of sexual assault that advertised that its clothing “empowers men, women, gender-neutral”; a promotion for the ride-hailing company Lyft to raise money with the San Diego LGBT Community Center in advance of Pride Week; an LGBTQ night at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in California; and an LGBT-themed tourist expedition to Antarctica. 
Facebook declined to explain how the filtering process works and how much of the filtering was driven by algorithms rather than human monitors.
Facebook’s new policies require those seeking to promote posts on political topics and candidates to register with the company and mandate that the ads include information about their funding, or the advertisements will be blocked. If these companies had taken the steps to register as political entities with Facebook, a process that requires a driver’s license or passport, a personal home address and the last four digits of a Social Security number, then the ads would have been permitted.
But many people The Post spoke to said they didn’t know they had the option to register. Others said that they felt registering as political would be dishonest to their organization’s mission. And most questioned the meaning inherent in requiring an LGBT group to register as political on the basis of such an existential question about identity. 
Some of the groups said they were wary of providing their or other employees’ personal information to register with Facebook.
Overall, confusion about the social media network’s process made the problem more unsettling. Facebook’s policies spell out some of the reasons it flags ads on hot-button political issues, but the list — which includes subjects such as abortion, civil rights, guns, Social Security, the military, terrorism and taxes — says nothing about LGBT culture.

Facebook said that this ad, for a LGBTQ+ night at a county fair in Northern California, had been wrongly blocked for being "political." (Facebook image) (Rosenberg, Eli)
The experience of Thomas Garguilo, a retiree in New York who operates a page dedicated to the history of the Stonewall Inn, a national landmark, reflects the company’s confusing treatment of LGBT-themed ads. Garguilo said that so many of his ads have gotten blocked by Facebook that he has stopped using the words “LGBT” or “gay” in his language on the service. 
“It’s ludicrous. And Orwellian,” he said.
His frustration turned to anger after he wrote the company about an ad that he wanted to run, a post about a panel discussion with an LGBT radio station in Washington, on the history of Stonewall. Without the audience that would have come from paying Facebook to boost the ad, the post had been shown to only 156 out of his Stonewall Revival page’s 3,000 followers.
A Facebook employee in the company’s Global Marketing Solutions division wrote him back to explain why the company viewed the ad as political.
“Thanks for the email now after reviewing the screenshots you have provided, it mentions LGBT which would fall under the category of civil rights which is a political topic,” the Facebook employee wrote back, according to copies of the correspondence provided to The Post. “You would need to be authorized to run ads with this content.”
Another employee confirmed Facebook’s decision in a follow-up email, also telling Garguilo that the company considered “LGBT content” to be political.

Two Facebook employees told Thomas Garguilo that advertisements that mentioned "LGBT" were considered political, according to emails he shared with The Post. (Thomas Garguilo) (Screen shot by Thomas Garguilo)
In an email response to an inquiry from The Post, Facebook said that the majority of the advertisements cited in this story had been wrongfully blocked, but it declined to explain why they had been filtered in the first place. It said that it was not intentionally blocking LGBT advertisements. 
“The ones that were incorrectly labeled have been removed from the archive and we apologize for the error,” the company said in a statement distributed by spokeswoman Devon Kearns. “We do not consider all ads that relate to LGBT under this policy, but rather only those that advocate for various policies or political positions, which several of these ads do."
Kearns also offered an apology to Garguilo but did not explain why the company had sent him the same response twice. “We apologize for the confusion we caused this person by incorrectly telling them their ad was political,” she said.

The ad, for a screening of "Selena" from the Los Angeles LGBT Center, was also determined to be "political." (Facebook image) (Rosenberg, Eli)
There are signs that Facebook’s political filtering has spread to other ads that refer to identity groups. These include an advertisement for a trash pickup at a riverbed in California that noted: “Maybe you are Caucasian, African American, Native American, Latino, Asian, Two-spirit. Maybe you are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or atheist.” (Facebook told The Post that it filtered the ad because it briefly mentioned a 50-year-old piece of environmental legislation, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.) Other ads apparently hit by the filters include a celebration of Nigerian Independence Day in Houston, a “Taco Tuesday” at a Mexican restaurant in Florida, a street fair in Chicago with “Mexican and Latin” street food and a post with facts about Holocaust diarist Anne Frank. 
Other groups have also complained that they have been unjustly targeted by Facebook’s political-advertising restrictions, including nonpartisan veterans groups and news media companies, many of which may write about and cover political issues but are not politically affiliated with any group or cause. And some clearly political ads — including those for senators and advocacy groups — have made it through without being flagged.

Facebook initially determined that this ad, for a "Taco Tuesday" at a Mexican food restaurant, was political. (Facebook image) (Rosenberg, Eli)
Theresa Lucero, a coordinator at the Community Counseling Center of Southern Nevada, a Las Vegas-based nonprofit that offers services such as HIV testing and counseling, said that the group has been having particular trouble getting ads approved, for things such as a gay social group it organizes, if the advertisements are in Spanish. When it has posted the same ads in English, they’ve gone through, Lucero said.
Kelly Freter, the director of marketing and communications at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, said the organization had seen seven to 10 ads for events and awareness campaigns blocked since mid-June. 
“We can’t get a clear answer about why things are being blocked or someone to follow up with us about how we register as an organization,” Freter said. One of the center’s blocked ads that was reviewed by The Post was an invitation to celebrate the life of singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez with a screening of the movie starring Jennifer Lopez.
“The bigger concern from us is that we’re unable to reach people in the community,” Freter said.

Another ad, a list of LGBT-friendly housing for seniors, was also deemed to be political by Facebook. (Facebook image) (Rosenberg, Eli)
Kearns pointed to the company’s work with the LGBT community, noting that about 8 percent of Facebook employees have identified as LGBTQ in a survey. The company has given users the option to select genders beyond male and female since 2014, and it joined amicus briefs filed with the Supreme Court in 2015 to support the legalization of same-sex marriage. Facebook also works with advocacy organizations to address issues such as anti-LGBT bullying.
Many of the groups' administrators said their experience had given them a sour impression of the company, though most said there were few alternatives for getting their message out to wide groups of people.
“Why is this community considered a political community?” Bonner, the motivational speaker, said in an interview with The Post. “Immigrants are political. LGBT is now political. African Americans are political. Asian Americans are political. Where does this stop when all we’re trying to do is live our lives?” 

May 11, 2018

Chinese Broadcaster Censors The Rainbow at Show from Eurovision

Screenshot of Switzerland's Eurovision performance with a rainbow flag in the audience blurred out and circled GO TV

The Eurovision Song Contest may be the ultimate in camp spectacle, but for viewers in China some LGBT elements of the singing competition have reportedly been censored. 
Mango TV, which broadcast the semi-final of Eurovision, and is one of China's most popular TV channels, has come under fire by some on social media for apparently blurring rainbow flags and censoring tattoos.
According to the state-owned news organisation Global Times, Mango TV also decided not to air performances by Irish or Albanian delegations during Tuesday's event for various reasons. The second semi-final is on Thursday night.
The Voice of Homosexuality, a verified account on Chinese social media platform Weibo, shared a number of still images of some of the censored performances. 

Screenshot from Weibo account of The Gay Voice IBO 
The account reflected that the broadcaster's decision to remove references to homosexuality was a "major step backwards" for a network which has previously been more liberal in its approach to the representation of LGBT characters. 

The post points out Mango TV, which was previously know as Hunan TV, broadcasts China's most popular show, Happy Camp, which has previously starred gay performers.  An account with tens of thousands of followers called Global Gay News also posted on Weibo to call the censorship "absurd" and ask "why is the rainbow flag not permitted?"

Screenshot from Weibo account of Global Gay NewsImage copyrightHUNAN TV
Presentational white space

Responding to the post, some Weibo users called for people to "boycott Mango TV," and one user said they "absolutely won't be watching Mango TV next month".
Others said they were "going to rush out and buy a rainbow umbrella". 
Weibo users also discussed Mango TV's decision not to air Ireland's entry into this year's competition. 
Ryan O'Shaughnessy will be representing Ireland at the final in Lisbon on Saturday with a song about the end of a relationship. His performance was accompanied by two male dancers.  Recently there have been moves by the Chinese authorities to restrict the posting of LGBT content on social media, and in 2016 the authorities banned depictions of gay people on television
Weibo user Mr Tito shared the full video of the Irish entry, referencing the missing performance on Mango TV.

Screenshot from Weibo account of Mr TitoImage copyrightWEIBO
Presentational white space

Mango TV also reportedly did not broadcast the pop-rock performance by Albanian singer Eugent Bushpepa.
Many Weibo commenter's suggested censors had taken issue with the exposed tattoos of Bushpepa and his band mates. 
Eugent Bushpepa and band performing Albania's entry into the 2018 Eurovision Song ContestIn January, the Chinese authorities took steps to restrict the broadcast of "subculture" elements, which included rules against displaying tattoos on TV.

Image copyright

January 6, 2018

How LGBT Chechnya-Muslims Exiles Cope

Abdul Kadr's wife found out he was gay the night his relatives came to kill him.
She hid him inside the home in Grozny, Chechnya, where they lived with their four young children, and told him she'd stand by him.
"She saved my life," says Abdul Kadr, a silver-haired former businessman in his 40s.
Being married to a woman was how he hid his eight-year relationship with another man, also a married father. It was a way to survive in Chechnya, a largely Muslim southwestern republic of Russia where gay men are reportedly sent to torture camps and even killed.
Abdul Kadr is not his real name. He chose it for himself as protection from what he calls "the long arm of the Chechen secret police," which he fears will reach him even in the Netherlands, where he sought asylum early last year. A recent Human Rights Watch report suggests Chechen authorities are able to track down gay Chechens seeking asylum in Europe.

The Netherlands is one of a handful of countries in Europe offering protection to gay Chechens.
I meet Abdul Kadr outside the Amsterdam train station. He's with Artur, another Chechen who has also chosen a new name out of fear for his safety.
Artur says the Chechen secret police force gay men into outing their friends.
"The police electrocuted my friends, beat them, denied them food and water," says Artur, a mop-haired, 25-year-old former student with bright blue eyes.
The suspected gay detainees "slept on the ground, on concrete, while the drug dealers and terrorists slept in beds," he says.
'They are still afraid'
After spending their entire lives hiding their true selves, Abdul Kadr and Artur still find it nearly impossible to talk about their sexuality, even in a country that in 2001 became the first in the world to allow same-sex marriage.
Abdul Kadr found himself giving monosyllabic answers during a crucial immigration interview.
"I couldn't overcome my fear and give them details, even if it meant my life was hanging by a thread," he says. "I was terrified."
Listening with a grimace on his face is Sandro Kortekaas, who runs LGBT Asylum Support, a volunteer organization that assists refugees in the Netherlands.

Sandro Kortekaas runs LGBT Asylum Support, a volunteer organization that assists refugees in the Netherlands.
Joanna Kakissis/NPR
Refugees who come from countries that crack down on the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender communities have rarely spoken publicly about their lives.
"So when you have the Dutch immigration service [asking] you to tell your whole story, and if there is something that is not good, it means they can say, 'Sorry, we don't think you are gay,'" Kortekaas says. "That's horrible."
Abdul Kadr says he would be killed if he's sent back to Chechnya, where President Ramzan Kadyrov claims everyone in the country is heterosexual.
One Chechen who came out publicly as gay sought asylum in Germany but was denied and deported back to Chechnya last September. Movsar Eskarkhanov publicly retracted his claims that he was assaulted for being gay and now blames his epilepsy medicine for his coming out. After returning to Chechnya, he apologized publicly, like others who criticize Kadyrov.
The Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service does not register the sexual orientation of those who apply for asylum, so it's hard to know how many LGBT asylum-seekers have been rejected.
"It can be, for example, that people have not given credible statements regarding their identities or nationalities," says Annick Oerlemans, a Dutch asylum officer. "It's really an individual assessment in every individual case. We have interviews with LGBT asylum-seekers basically every day, I think. And we're actually trained to make people feel as comfortable as we possibly can in order to get them to speak."
An Amsterdam nonprofit, Secret Garden, tries to help LGBT asylum-seekers open up even before those immigration interviews.
Elias Karam, a project manager at Secret Garden, says he works with traumatized refugees who are often self-hating because of the abuse they faced in their home countries.
"When it comes to their homosexuality," Karam says, "they just don't know how to talk. They are still afraid."

Elias Karam (left) and Carla Pieters work with Secret Garden, an Amsterdam nonprofit that tries to help LGBT asylum-seekers open up, even before the immigration interviews.
Joanna Kakissis/NPR
Every week, scores of asylum-seekers from the Middle East, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa gather at Secret Garden's old-timey dining hall to meet newcomers and share stories over homemade spicy chicken and fattoush salad.
At one recent meeting, held largely in Arabic and English, a transgender woman from Lebanon admits that she had a panic attack walking outside in makeup and high heels for the first time.
Others talk about beatings, rejection and isolation.
Some have fled Dutch refugee camps after homophobic attacks.
"They sleep in the woods because they are afraid of men from their own countries, who attack them and pee in their beds," says Carla Pieters, a Secret Garden volunteer who hosts LGBT refugees in her Amsterdam home. "They are afraid to trust anyone."
'What we left behind'
Abdul Kadr and Artur, the two Chechens, are working out their own experiences with Kortekaas from LGBT Asylum Support, who communicates with them with the help of a translator from Kyrgyzstan.

Abdul Kadr and Artur are Muslim and say they pray daily. "I'm always fighting with myself over my sexuality," Artur says, "but I still believe God loves me."
Though he and Abdul Kadr no longer live in constant fear, they are lonely, isolated and wary of reaching out to other Russian speakers.
Abdul Kadr is still waiting for a decision on his asylum request. He wonders if the Dutch think it's strange that he wants so badly to reunite with his wife and children.
"She's my best friend, and I can't live without my children," he says. "Gay people can be parents here in Holland."
Artur has received asylum but says he often dreams about something that seems suicidal — returning to Chechnya.
"I was never looking for freedom to be openly gay," he admits, lowering his eyes. "I didn't want my family to have any problems because of me. And now they have huge problems. My mom is literally losing her mind because the police come to our house every day."
He's too afraid to contact his family directly. A friend told him about his mother's nervous breakdown.
"I want to apologize to her because I've ruined her life," Artur says, breaking into sobs.
"It's not your fault," Kortekaas says, patting his back. "Don't punish yourself."
Abdul Kadr looks away and wipes away his own tears.
"We fled Chechnya because we did not want to die," he says. "But we cannot stop thinking about what we left behind."
Rosanne Kropman contributed reporting.

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