Facebook as Goliath

In which David attempts to strike a meaningful blow against a monstrous giant…

My band name was The D**** N******* Thing, where D**** N******* stands for my name. A bit long, unwieldy, maybe, for a band name. Last year I decided to use the acronym TDNTav, the av for audiovisual signalling an emphasis on video and recorded music going forward as opposed to a live music experience.

The truth is, I don’t feel comfortable using my real name online right now. In my private life I have a separate career in a different field, and there is no advantage allowing one to bleed into the other. There is also the concern that technology is growing ever more invasive, and if I do not view my privacy as a resource to be protected then I will wake one day to find I have none. With the recent resurgence of unpleasant authoritarian ideologies around the world, any kind of artistic statement, or any statement at all, could make you the enemy of some omniscient belligerent state, body, or entity, now or in the near future. Maybe the time to be concerned about privacy has already passed.

If somebody is curious about TDNTav, it would not take long to link it to my name. The name change does not provide complete obscurity, I only want the thin veil of anonymity that removing my name from the banner will provide. I am still inextricably linked, but I am not advertising it using my personal name anymore. That was basically my motivation for the name change. Also, the fact that it’s not a great name, too long, too many syllables. It was never right – which is why I was already using an acronym over 6 years ago.

The acronym TDNT had in fact appeared on the Facebook page since 2013 and TDNT audio/visual or TDNT a/v had appeared since 2016. I used these acronyms in posts on the page, but the page name remained The D**** N******* Thing until I tried to change it to TDNTav last year, to match this website and all the other places online I had claimed the handle TDNTav.

Bands change their names all the time. I didn’t think it was a big deal at all. In April of last year, when I tried to change the name of the Facebook page from The D**** N******* Thing to TDNTav, I was shocked and stunned that Facebook refused my ‘request’. Whoa, hold on a second. This wasn’t a request, this was me exercising autonomy over my creative identity.

There was a bit of a spiel from Facebook (see below) and a link to the guidelines (I read them), with an option to ‘Appeal’ the decision. So I did, laying out my case, creative identity yada yada, not misleading or confusing, used the acronym before, not violating guidelines yada yada. My appeal was refused (incredibly quickly – within seconds, if memory serves). I replied to this appeal, which reopened my ‘case’, and again I got the same response, this time signed Jay, Pages Team.

You let me down, Jay

You know what, Jay? You broke my fucking heart.

Since April of last year, I have been at an impasse with regards to releasing new material. It was nowhere near ready anyway. Work has been slow but consistent. Music videos now exist. Final mixes are coalescing. Now I’m at the stage where I could finish my album in one big push, it would only take a few weeks work, couple of months, maybe. The Facebook situation is pissing on my bonfire a little bit. It’s hard to get motivated when a giant evil corporation is controlling your name and how you are allowed to use it. I could just delete the page and be done with it. There are two complicating factors: first and foremost – the people I connected with there. The page has some history, and some followers (not that many, but good ones). I just don’t feel like it should be deleted. The other complicating factor is the handle. Yes, the handle is already TDNTav. I somehow implemented that without a problem. If I delete the page, I have no assurance that the handle itself wouldn’t be blacklisted or otherwise unusable. Bad result.

A few days ago I revisited my ’support inbox’ at Facebook and re-appealed after more than a year, re-opening the old appeals, writing again to justify my position. Every time they closed one of my ‘cases’ I added a reply which reopened it. And every time I opened a new appeal, it automatically closed one of my other open cases. I got the distinct feeling the entire system was automated and no human had yet seen anything I had written – I had received three instances of the same word-for-word response. So I decided to try and bombard the system, opening new appeals for a few hours, writing more replies to demand a fair hearing, getting a little bit silly with it since the whole situation was downright ridiculous. Here’s (some of) what I wrote, after the initial arguments I already covered:

—————

Appeal reason
Please review cases:
#10158537716390278
#10157210875710278
#10157215264610278
#10157220736210278
#10158537602105278
#10158537641040278
#10158537843790278
#10158537868010278
#10158537857710278
#10158537955565278

I will keep re-opening all these cases with a new reply until I receive a satisfactory response written by a human that addresses all the points I raised and explains how my name change violates any guidelines. This is incredible! No human could come to that conclusion after reviewing my case.

—————

A Reply (Reopening a Case)
Was the issue closed automatically or did a human being have to glance at it and make a snap decision? I can’t know for sure, so as far as I’m concerned, no reply = no human. I must reopen the issue until I get a real response.

—————

Appeal reason
My request was denied within seconds. I must be on some kind of blacklist. This is ridiculous. I read your guidelines -bear in mind I have routinely used the acronym form of the bandname since 2013. I am not violating any guidelines. I will continue to appeal until a person responds. And not just any person, a nice person. A sane person.

—————
Appeal reason

Hi Mark Zuckerberg,

I am trapped in support inbox hell.
Can you please have someone you trust examine this situation before I respond publicly.

I have a page that represents my musical/creative output.
I want to have the freedom of an artist to adopt a new moniker, as artists have always been free to exercise their preferences in this regard.

My name-change request was refused by Facebook, though it does not violate guidelines.
I have already implemented this name change across every other platform, so forcing my page to carry the old name on Facebook is causing misalignment and consternation.

Please review cases
#10157210875710278
#10157215264610278
#10157220736210278
#10158537602105278
#10158537641040278
#10158537716390278
#10158537843790278
#10158537857710278
#10158537868010278
#10158537955565278
#10158537992150278
#10158538011285278
#10158538077080278
#10158540385650278
#10158540415340278

Regards,
TDNTav

—————

Appeal reason

I am requesting an update. I still have not received a response on 16 open cases. My only response was three instances of the same canned reply, two last year before I gave up feeling completely dejected, and another one when I reopened this saga a few days ago.

Please think carefully about how you respond. Any sensible person weighing what I have written against your guidelines would see that my name change isn’t a scam to bamboozle anybody, I simply feel uncomfortable using my given name at the present time. Artists and bands often adopt different pseudonyms, that is an accepted part of art. It is not impersonation or misdirection, it is a thin veil of anonymity that I have every right to claim at any time.

Though Facebook always refers to my page as a business page, I have never really viewed music-making as a commercial enterprise. Please recognise the distinction between commerce and art and stop imposing your preferences over mine. This is an incredible over-reach, very distressing, and quite unbelievable. If not resolved soon, I will be exploring every solution available to me. Legal advice, publicity, whatever. I don’t care. This is so wrong.

—————

A Reply (Reopening a Case)

Having demonstrated that this actually matters to me, it is a callous act to shut me out of the decision about my own creative identity. You can’t close this issue without a reply, an actual reply that justifies the decision with relation to the relevant guidelines – which I have read and which are not violated by this name change.

—————

A Reply (Reopening a Case)

Wow, that was quick. As far as I can tell, a human has not yet taken the time to reply to me.

—————

A Reply (Reopening a Case)

Look at all these great precedents!
Under Facebook’s no-name-changing regime…

Fecal Matter couldn’t have become Nirvana.
The Quarrymen couldn’t have become The Beatles.
The Pendeltons couldn’t have become The Beach Boys.
The New Yardbirds couldn’t have become Led Zeppelin.
Composition of Sound couldn’t have become Depeche Mode.
The Salty Peppers couldn’t have become Earth, Wind & Fire
Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem couldn’t have become Red Hot Chili Peppers
Jefferson Airplane couldn’t have become Jefferson Starship.
Marathon couldn’t have become Snickers.

Please implement my preferred name for the page: TDNTav
It’s a simple enough thing to do, and there’s no good reason not to. Those are all solid precedents. More appeals to follow.
—————

Appeal reason

I made multiple appeals, trying to say the same thing in different ways. From here on out, it doesn’t make sense to waste my time saying anything, except…

Please review cases:
#10158537716390278
#10157210875710278
#10157215264610278
#10157220736210278
#10158537602105278
#10158537641040278
#10158537843790278
#10158537868010278
#10158537857710278

…and keep adding to the list. A human has not yet replied.

—————

Maybe I was going a bit mad there. Sorry about that, Ted.

Here’s a thought… if I am violating the guidelines, so what? The word ‘guidelines’, to me at least, implies a certain flexibility. Facebook seem to think guidelines are synonymous with rules. Looking very closely and anally at the guidelines (imagining how someone without a soul might view it), maybe they’ve got me on the punctuation and capitalisation rule…? Maybe TDNTav is too revolutionary, with the uppercase and lowercase next to each other and whatnot. So disorienting! But did they impose their preference on famous singer and capitalisation eschewer k.d. lang? Nope! Do they stop big budget brands NESCAFÉ, ZARA or ASUS from using all-caps? Of course not! Do they insist H&M show some respect and put some spaces around their ampersands? Not at all! Making stylistic decisions about how to present textual information is part of naming things in the modern world.

All I ever wanted out of my Facebook page was a place to share my silly music and videos with the lovely silly people who showed me they were interested, people who saw me playing a gig, or heard me on the radio, or heard my music from a friend (or a friend of a friend). If they don’t like the new name or the new videos, they can unfollow the page. So simple. People should be free to do that in the artistic arena, to tune in or tune out and call themselves whatever they like. I am not seeking anonymity to engage in hate speech, I just have a massive and growing discomfort with the malevolent all-seeing eye.

Facebook’s freedom to impose their draconian preferences on everyone in every arena and every unseen support inbox makes the world less free. This is just my pathetic little corner of the hell they are creating (thanks for stopping by). If you think I’m being melodramatic, well spotted. It’s for effect. I didn’t have to write this. The issues at stake: how I choose to use my name, and how I choose to engage in creative expression. This is my own personal problem, with no greater political significance. On a scale of one to boiling point, the water is still cold. But I am a frog in a pot. And that metaphor only ever heats up.

Since I’m so hyper-critical of Facebook, you might reasonably ask why I don’t just leave, delete it, forget about it. What really gets me is how Facebook inserted itself into every relationship and every level of society before revealing its corporate ideology to be so aggressively manipulative, expansionist, and thoroughly untrustworthy. They built the platform, we built the social utility, then they monetised everything about our sociability in the most pernicious and unethical ways you can imagine. The wealth they extract and hoard is parasitic, the damage they have done to society and political discourse is immense. But the corruptness of the medium does not completely extinguish my desire to stay a part of the largest virtual social space on Earth. That’s what’s upsetting, they have exploited our sociability, our good-naturedness, our friendships and relationships. These are still valuable things, difficult to let go of. We shouldn’t have to let go, Facebook should not be at liberty to so ruthlessly exploit our social fabric.

My friends on Facebook are still my friends. But when Facebook makes trailers for your friendships and shows them to you – a transparent attempt to boost engagement, based on your previous habits and their profiling of you – don’t you find that more than a little bit creepy? The AI shouldn’t be chiming in to add to the conversation we’re having, trying to pass itself off as one of your friends, telling you what friends to value today (the ones who keep you on Facebook longest), or what shit to buy on Amazon (they know what you envy), or what band to listen to (it will only ever recommend the band that pays for advertising). My point, if I ever had one… Facebook is bad but people generally aren’t when they’re paying attention. I was hoping to reach a human. Maybe I still can.

David and Goliath - still from a future video