Facebook can make or break a comic's career in 2018. That's where the trouble begins.
Facebook can be a comedian’s best friend.
Stand-up comics lean on the social media network to share jokes, expand their fan base and publicize gigs. It’s invaluable. Best of all? Most of its services are free.
For some conservative comics all of the above isn’t so easy.
Comedian Thai Rivera says he repeatedly runs afoul of Facebook, putting his personal marketing strategy in jeopardy. The openly gay, right-leaning comic self-identifies with the word “fag.”
“It’s just how I’m comfortable,” Rivera says. Team Facebook? Not so much.
“If I use the word ‘fag’ on Facebook I’ll get blocked,” Rivera says, even while he sees other Facebook users sharing the same word sans punishment. “If you’re not pushing a particular agenda they seem to be extra strict with you.”
That isn’t the only way Facebook has curtailed his social clout. Rivera says he watched his follower count shrink from roughly 11,000 to under 5,000 in less than a week at one point.
“I don’t know what it is. During the time [in question] I wasn’t saying anything offensive or inflammatory,” he says. Nor should his opinions come as a shock to his Facebook flock. “Most of the people who follow me followed me because of my opinions.”
Those views often run counter to the progressive narrative. Rivera disagrees with modern feminism, for example. When a user accused him of “mansplaining” a subject he corrected her. The more accurate term is “fagsplaining,” he said. She reported his comment.
He got blocked. Again.
Go to Jail, Do Not Pass ‘Go’
The last time Facebook banned him from the service he cooled his heels 30 days before he could post again.
“It just seems if you’re not left-leaning you’re more likely to face [punishment],” he says. That also applies to the protection, or lack thereof, he can leverage as a Facebook user. He recalls someone attempting to post his mother’s postal address on Facebook.
“They posted it on more than one thread to try to rattle me,” he says. “I reported that to Facebook. They said there was nothing they can do about it.”
Comedian Steve McGrew has his own headaches tied to Facebook. The Denver-based comic keeps his act mostly apolitical but shares his conservative views on social media. He thinks that’s why he’s constantly getting censored by Facebook.
“I’ve almost lost count of how many times I’ve been banned or suspended.All my video character pages get it too. So it’s hard to keep track. But the suspensions keep getting longer,” McGrew says.
Facebook occasionally shares why his account is targeted for suspension. That often involves accusations that he’s spamming the service.
According to Facebook’s “spam” definition:
Spam involves contacting people with unwanted content or requests. This includes sending bulk messages, excessively posting links or images to people’s timelines and sending friend requests to people you don’t know personally.
“I get banned mostly for sharing one of my posts. They say I posted unwanted spam. Which is odd because I share to groups I’m a member of or to pages that are conservative leaning,” McGrew says. “Sometimes I’ll post a reply to a news story on a news station’s page, and that will get me marked as spam.”
BONUS: HiT interview with Steve McGrew:
McGrew’s plight is more serious than your typical Facebook user. It impacts his bottom line.
“It’s happening more and more. And it effects my business,” says McGrew, who employs Facebook to gain “fans and followers” while promoting stand-up appearances.
Ironically, the service occasionally asks him to share his material via paid promotions. Even that avenue appears to be dwindling.
“I don’t believe it goes out or has the reach they claim the promotion will have,” he says.
Hanging Tough … For Now
For now, McGrew isn’t changing his approach or posting habits.
“I feel I have to be true to my fans, followers and myself,” he says. “If people don’t want to see something then don’t follow someone or don’t go to their page to get offended … all social media show be open. Let people decide what they want to see or read!”I’ve almost lost count of how many times I’ve been banned or suspended.Click To Tweet
This is hardly the first time conservative comics have complained about inequal treatment on Facebook. Their joined by their right-leaning peers in their outrage.
A 2016 Gizmodo.com report revealed Facebook employees confession how they muted conservative news while working for the social media giant.
Among the deep-sixed or suppressed topics on the list: former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder. “I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news,” the former curator said.
Some Facebook algorithm tweaks are inadvertently impacting new media sites, which often means conservative news outlets get short shrift, according to Ben Shapiro.
Facebook’s new algorithmic change also means that stories that generate controversy are disfavored, while those that encourage positive interaction are favored. News with partisan implications is likely to suffer the most — and that’s the news people are most interested in. In fighting against the brawl that is daily politics, Facebook is defanging the new media altogether, and handing power back to institutional sources with brand value.
Facebook executives famously met with several high-profile conservatives two years ago to discuss the matter. Among those in attendance were Media Research Center President Brent Bozell and Glenn Beck, who later chastized fellow conservatives for their Facebook attacks.
Rodney Lee Conover retired from standup comedy 20 years ago. Now, he’s a televison producer and social media publisher who sees some unhealthy trends happening on Facebook.
Conover says that Facebook, a private company, has the right to discriminate as they see fit.
“I don’t have a problem with Facebook being ideologically driven,” Conover says. “I’m a great believer in liberty … a company has the right to do anything what they want with their company.”
Just don’t pretend it isn’t happening, he adds.
Why Humor Isn’t a Laughing Matter on Facebook
Conover maintains warm ties with the current comedy industry. He often engages with stand-up comics on Facebook, where the conversations can get prickly … on purpose.
“You know how comedians are … they start bagging on each other. It gets funnier and funner and more obtuse … replying to each other’s comments,” he says. One such exchange found him banned from Facebook for 30 days.
“The reason? I was bullying [a comedian]. I haven’t heard the end of it from my friends,” he says.
“This is Facebook in a nutshell.”
Rivera isn’t an avid Facebook devotee. It’s simply a necessity for a working comic to spread the news about upcoming gigs and develop a loyal following.
“i wouldn’t be on Facebook if it wasn’t for being a comic,” Rivera says. “Facebook isn’t the best place for me to fully express myself … it’s unfortunate.”