FACEBOOK is investigating claims flaws in its moderation system has seen innocent musicians and fans – including one of Britain’s most famous black artists – banned because they have been wrongly identified as racist.
Fans of ska music, which orginated in Jamaica, in particular appears to have fallen foul of the Facebook ban because of alleged links to skinhead culture.
It comes in the wake of the the killing of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement and Facebook’s pledge to ban support of white nationalism from their site in March of 2019.
But fans and musicians say ska made famous by the Two Tone label and The Specials had nothing to do with the far right.
Hundreds of social media users – including The Specials legend Neville Staple – say they have been hit in the supposed crackdown.
Staple, who has had his account taken down, decried the development and urged Facebook to rethink its moderation policies saying: “Please look into things before doing a general cull. Unity runs through the veins of me and @SugaryStaple [his wife Christine Staple] plus all our 2Tone Ska community’s veins.”
It appears bans have been received for liking music pages linked to ska music. Even fans with skinhead-style hair were known to have come a cropper.
Rasha Swais, 30, a fashion designer with Jordanian heritage based in North London who creates skinhead inspired garments had both her personal page and her clothing page taken down.
She said: “Now I feel really uneasy because as a small business I could have lost a lot of business because of this.”
The skinhead subculture was born in the 1960s, and like many identities of the era it was identifiable by a set sound, look and ethos.
It became associated with street fighting, trouble on the football terraces and violent racism in the public consciousness, both in Britain and around the world.
Skinheads were often identified by there namesake of a shaven head, doc marten boots, braces, straight jeans and a button-down shirt.
But director, DJ and BBC Radio 6 Music presenter Don Letts in a 2016 documentary reveals that its origins actually lie in a cultural coming-together that could not be further from its tarnished image.
His Story of Skinheads, depicts the the roots of the skinhead and how there is a “brilliant cultural collision between the young white working-class kids and their Jamaican counterparts in British inner cities, a moment of racial harmony”.
He said: “When I tell people my first point of entry into youth subculture was via skinheads they look somewhat confused not understanding I’m talking about the fashion version, not the fascist version.
“I hope my film goes some way to clarifying what was the UK’s first real multi-cultural movement.”
The ‘ban’ came after Facebook staff continued to mount on founder Mark Zuckerberg over his policies towards posts by Donald Trump, with moderators joining those criticising their boss for his stance.
The moderators penned an open letter to their colleagues in support of virtual walkouts that have broken out at the company, after Mr Zuckerberg refused to take down posts by Mr Trump that many believed breached the site’s policies on incitement of violence.
According to a recent report by NYU Stern, Facebook content moderators review posts, pictures, and videos that have been flagged by AI or reported by users about 3 million times a day.
And as Mr Zuckerberg admitted in a white paper that moderators “make the wrong call in more than one out of every 10 cases,” that means 300,000 times a day, mistakes happen.
A Facebook spokesman said: “We apologise to those affected by this issue. These accounts were removed in error and have been reinstated. We are reviewing what happened in this case and are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”