Social media censorship has always had horrible ramifications, but none like this specific case. Facebook sunk to a new level of putridness in late August when it banned an Irish girl from its platform, saying her very name was racist, and a terms of service violation.
“Gypsy Robinson, from Co. Longford, has had her Facebook account deactivated because the social media site believes her first-name is a racial slur,” according to the Irish Times.
Apparently, “gypsy” is now a racially-charged term, and is not allowed to be used on the social media giant. Robinson’s mother, Hazel, was particularly perturbed, and begged Facebook to let her daughter back on the site so she could recover family photos saved only there, which she described as being “lost in cyberspace.”
“17-year-old Gypsy says that she’s followed Facebook protocol by providing her birth certificate and uploading other forms of identification to prove that her name is genuine, but her account remains deactivated,” according to the report. “She’s been told that if she wants to set-up another account, she must use her middle name, Anne.”
In other words, Facebook has the power to tell you that you cannot use your legal name on its platform if that name is somehow offensive to a certain group. Whether or not there is a large gypsy community on Facebook that was offended by young Ms. Robinson’s legal name is still unknown.
As it turns out, there’s a sentimental meaning behind Gypsy’s name, and her mother Hazel didn’t simply name her that because she thought it might trip the Facebook censors.
“She explained that her daughter had been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at birth, and before she was named, she was forced to travel to a variety of different hospitals for treatment and checkup immediately,” according to the report. “Hazel said she heard the name Gypsy on television, and after realising that it meant ‘wanderer’, she thought it was an apt name to give to her daughter.”
Her mother lambasted the Big Tech titan in an interview with The Irish Times:
“My daughter’s name is Gypsy Robinson. Everybody knows her as Gypsy. It’s on her passport, it’s on her birth cert, it’s her actual name.Why is she getting singled out? I don’t understand, I really don’t understand. And why is her name against their community policies? What is wrong with the name being used as a name? Is it political correctness? Is that what it’s boiling down to? Because a small few people on social media have replied that they view it as a racial slur. She’s really annoyed over it. None of her friend’s know Gypsy as Ann Robinson. She’s Gypsy, that’s her name. So, what they have done with my daughter is that they have said, ‘we have the documentation that your name is Gypsy but it goes against our community standards.’”
She then explained that no one at Facebook could even be bothered to contact her – that the process of banning her daughter over her legal name was completely automated. This hits home to many of us who have been censored on social media. When my Twitter account was briefly banned, I had to drop into Twitter’s office in Washington, D.C. in order to speak to a live person about the ban.
“Her old account is gone for nearly two years now and we can’t get a response from Facebook. We can’t even get a human to talk to us. It’s all automated. And because it’s such a huge company, you would think there’d be some sort of steps to take to get talking to someone. What gives Facebook the right to tell a teenager that their name isn’t right? It’s an example of political correctness going crazy. What is it coming to? It’s political correctness gone too far. What’s next? Will she have to legally change her name? If Gypsy is good enough for her passport, her bank account and everything else, why isn’t it good enough for Facebook?”
There have been many egregious bans from social media based on political affiliation (but disguised as “terms of service” violations), but Gypsy Robinson’s deplatforming might just be the most shocking yet.