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Home / Commentary / Commentary: Don’t Call it a Comeback. Please.

Commentary: Don’t Call it a Comeback. Please.

2020 Too came in with a loud gurgling rumble. While I was proud to stay up until 10:30, my poor wife was awakened by my snoring in the wee hours of New Year ’s Day. The CPAP machine which helps me sleep quietly was recalled and the company still hasn’t fixed the problem that was detected in 2021. 

My bride could have used my Bluetooth earbuds to dampen the noise, but those were also sent back to their maker due to a defect. As a lawyer who has tried products liability cases, I would expect a little more respect. Or at least better luck than two product fails in one year. 

I know it is early, but luck hasn’t been on my side this year. In one day, a water pipe burst in our office building and the back door lock came off on an employee’s key, making merely getting in to work a bit tough. Finding a plumber during a midwestern cold snap and a global pandemic is tougher than it sounds as well. 

2020.2 is shaping up to be a real stinker. So far, it hasn’t come in like a lion or a lamb but more like a gopher in a garden, or maybe a wolverine. Rather than make life changing and difficult resolutions this year, I am keeping it simple- get fatter, get older, and make regrettable decisions. I don’t want to seem overconfident, but I feel pretty good about my chances for success. 

Social media has always been important to those of us with personalities that are better suited to remote interactions, but the pandemic has made even normal people see the benefits of a virtual world. The platforms will surely grow this year as the pandemic sticks around. 

Facebook’s hunger for growth is unsated and the company changed its name to Meta, short for Metaverse. Never one for understatement, the new name literally means that the company is its own universe. Humans are the power supply again as we were in the original Matrix ™. So far, MetaFace hasn’t hooked any of us up to actual cables. 

Fortunately, social media companies have started to police users more than in the past. It only took several years after the platforms were harnessed for political gain, but late progress is still progress. Social media punishments— bans, shadow bans, and jail — have become prevalent.

I barely know anyone who hasn’t been in Facebook jail. For social media abstainers, Facebook jail is a purgatory-like state where users are not allowed to post content or send messages. Inmates can still view content (and advertisements) as the good book of Faces doesn’t want subjects to abandon the religion and give up the platform. Truth is one thing, but revenue is THE thing. Advertisers are charged based upon potential views of ads. Declining users would mean declining revenue as there would be fewer eyes for which to charge.

Conversely, some users attempting to get out of Facebook jail early create new profiles to carry on their deviant ways. Facebook gets a side benefit from punishing users because these new profiles add to the number of potential viewers for advertisements. I know, Gentle Reader, it is too early in the year for such cynicism. Perhaps I should resolve to be less cynical.  

Instead, I have resolved to explore a new specialty this year — social media defense barrister.  Twitter has shadow banned or actually banned some politicians recently for spreading lies. Because facts can be proven, I won’t take any Twitter cases. I also don’t want to get zapped by a space laser.

Facebook is not like Twitter in that its reasons for punishing a user are less clear. Post a joke or meme that It deems offensive, into the virtual pokey you go. Repeat offenders get longer sentences. Tell a verifiable lie, and a faceless fact checker issues a warning, but doesn’t necessarily remove the post. Fact checkers literally lack faces because they are artificially intelligent, meaning non-human rather than dumb human. I think. 

To its credit, the not so good Book allows an appeal to kick an offensive post decision up to a higher power for review. That reviewer is presumably human but no one really knows. Due Process has little meaning in the virtual world. (My pet peeve, due diligence, has no meaning in the real world. That is a rant for a different day.)

I propose a virtual court for crimes against Facebook, and that is where I will now practice. Since most everyone on the platform is a legal expert, judges could be selected at random from the user base. There is no way or need to select a layperson jury when the entire virtual world has a law degree from the University of Google. Since even a Google lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, a social media barrister is needed. 

A chief justice would be selected by completing a Captcha on the first try, preferably one where you have to identify street lights or something in blurry pictures. Presenting the BookVerse’s case would be a simple matter of reading the warnings and notifications into the record. The accused would then rebut the charges with proof of actual fact or in the case of offensive jokes or memes, expert witness statements as to why the material was funny. If the judges decide that the humor outweighs the crime charged, case dismissed. If not, the user serves their time.  

As the funniest (only) lawyer in my office, my qualifications to represent the accused look pretty good, at least on pixels. My list of LOL and ROFLs is long. I have never posted a meal picture. Most of all, I am affordable and the only lawyer in this practice area for now. I have a sliding fee scale that goes way up if I disagree with a potential client’s politics, hunting attire, or support for a particular sports ball team and I offer deep discounts for original memeworks. 

Ethically, I am advertising for clients and am obligated to add this disclaimer: The choice of a virtual lawyer is an important decision, albeit more like choosing a wine to pair with meatloaf than hiring a real-world lawyer or even a locksmith. The Supreme Court of Facebook does not encourage the hiring of lawyers but if you must, it is probably best to rely on advertisements like the ones next to this post to make your decision. After all, if they can afford an ad, they must be doing something right. 

©2022 With All Due Respect. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St. Louis, Missouri. I wished you happy new year in 2021 and some of you blew it. Have the year you want to have in 202X. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to me via email at [email protected]