Facebook criticised over ban on comedian Eleanor Tiernan's advertisement

An advertisement promoting an Irish comedian's upcoming Auckland shows has been banned by Facebook for including the word 'shit'.

Eleanor Tiernan will perform her show Success Without a Sex Tape at Q Theatre next week, but you won't hear about it on the world's biggest social media site.

Facebook's content filter flagged the video as containing offensive content, meaning she can't use it in an advertisement.

"The real reason I love the Dyson Airblade is there's a moment now, when you're drying your hands, when you get to watch your own flesh being blown around your bones, and you suddenly become aware of how fragile life actually is," she says in the clip, filmed at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in April. " You're like, 'I've got to get my shit together - I could die at any second.'"

Facebook blocked the advert, saying "this type of language can offend users, and goes against our core value of fostering a positive global community".

"They went on to advise me to edit the video to bring it in line with their policy," Tiernan told British comedy site Chortle.

"As you can imagine I think the fact that this is happening in New Zealand is particularly stupid and the height of hypocrisy."

It comes just weeks after an alleged white supremacist gunman was able to broadcast the murder of 51 people in Christchurch on Facebook.

Tiernan is fighting the decision, which was made by the site's artificial intelligence (AI).

David Cumin of the Free Speech Coalition told The AM Show on Thursday it was a "warning about the future", in which algorithms decide what humans are and aren't allowed to say.

"Why is something like that censored, but much more hateful things aren't? And then there's the issue of balance. Facebook has said that they will allow Holocaust denial, for example. There are terror supporters on Facebook. Yet we see them going after comedians with jokes like that."

David Cumin.
David Cumin. Photo credit: The AM Show

Earlier this week, Facebook said while it would remove posts or content that sought to justify the Holocaust - in which about 6 million Jews were systematically exterminated by the Nazis - it wouldn't take down denials it ever happened.

"We do not remove lies or content that is inaccurate - whether it's denying the Holocaust, the Armenian massacre, or the fact that the Syrian government has killed hundreds of thousands of its own people," Joel Kaplan, Facebook's vice president of global public policy, wrote in a letter obtained by Israeli media.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last year said while it was "deeply offensive" to him as a Jew, he didn't believe people were "intentionally getting it wrong".

Cumin said as a private company, Facebook can allow and ban whatever it likes - but it should be consistent, fair and transparent.

"Facebook says it's got hundreds of thousands of staff that look at things as well, and there's a huge challenge with AI in trying to pick these things up... It's one thing for a private company like Facebook to be making these mistakes - it's another thing for a government."

Tiernan's offending video is still on Facebook - she's just not allowed to use it to promote her show.

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