Flipboard: An Ableist Platform

I don’t recommend it for anyone, and especially not for people with mental health conditions.

I don’t watch the news on the television anymore. Rather than do this, I used to use Google News. I did this for a long time. It was my main source of news. I tried using the fediverse for this, but I do need curation, so this did not work well for me. Flipboard seemed like the natural alternative.

I did not realize that the platform is ableist. I suspect the people who suggested it to me are all exemplars of mental health, and do not belong to minorities.

Keep in mind that I’m not going to go over all features of Flipboard. For one thing, I’m using it as a consumer, not a producer. I also have no inclination to explore its every nook and cranny. What you are getting here is the impression of someone who has used it for a few weeks.

One thing going for the platform is that you can select the topics that interest you. For instance, I picked autism, LGBTQ+ rights, racism as some of the topics that I want to see. This is great, and definitely better than Google News.

I have to say that I’ve received help when I had question about the platform. I got answers from Flipboard Community Support, which, as far as I can tell, is as official as it gets. Other users have also been helpful. This is good. Too many companies try to operate without giving any customer support. Flipboard seems to be different in this respect. This is quite welcome.

Where Flipboard fails is in giving you the ability to easily filter out the information that you do not want. Let me explain the types of sources that I’ve seen on Flipboard. A story can have one or more of these sources:

  1. News outlets: CNN, NBC, The New York Times, etc.
  2. Magazines. I think these are created by users, who may then flip a story into it.
  3. Users. You will see them with magazines.

So you could see a story from CNN because it was flipped by Alice into her magazine Daily Living. So far, so good.

The first area where there is a filtering problem is The Daily Edition. This is a page curated by Flipboard, yes, but it is curated in such a way that you cannot ban the sources you encounter there, nor can you remove an entire section. I was not able to get that page off of my menu bar at the top, even if I unfollowed The Features Desk, which I suppose is responsible for this page.

I wouldn’t be complaining if not for the fact that shitty sources do sometimes appear on this page, like Fox. This news outlet has been taken to court over the lies that it peddled. It settled, and page a huge sum, which in my book means that it lost. However, Flipboard editors sometimes decide that Fox is a news source that is worthy of being featured in The Daily Edition. Who in their right mind would think that this is fine?

In all places other than The Daily Edition, I block every damn Fox source that is presented to me. I did this on Google News too. In fact, I left Google News when what appears to be a bug started letting Fox articles on my page. I did not like it then. I don’t like it now. Yes, I can ban Fox everywhere, except on The Daily Editions page. There’s no technical reason banning couldn’t be implemented there, too. Absolutely NONE! So right now I just don’t read The Daily Edition.

However, the ableism does not stop there. There is simply no way to ban a magazine. So if NBC puts out general news items but also has a magazine attached to it for sports, there’s no way to just ban the sports magazine. Or what if a user has a magazine for autism and another one about spelunking. Why can’t I just ban the spelunking magazine? I’ve been in situations where I have no reason to ban the user or the news outlet, but I want to ban the magazine. Can’t do it.

Now if you want to ban a user you can do it. However, the web interface does not support it. WHY? Again, I cannot conceive of a technical reason this is not implemented. I can think of other reasons, however, like the desire to funnel users to the app, or get more ad impressions in the app.

Flipboard is the type of platform where I find the app occasionally useful, but I primarily access it using the web. Oh, and I’ve just remembered why I tried Flipboard way back when, but decided to toss it into the garbage bin: it used to be app only. There was no web interface. Now, what am I supposed to do when I run into a user I don’t like. Am I to grab my phone, try to find the user there, and ban them when a simple click in the web interface ought to suffice? Hell no!

Note that what I’m talking about here is not a hypothetical. I ran into a Nazi who ran a magazine with Nazi content. I wanted to ban the magazine and the user, but couldn’t. At the time, I did not know that I could have banned them in the app, but ultimately it makes no difference to have the functionality there but not on the web.

When I was in the midst of my cancer, I had to ask my ex-wife to stop watching televised news. They hammered me too much, and it was impossible to skip over things that I found objectionable. This called self-care. Any platform that arbitrarily prevent you from easily filtering out the information you do not want to see is ableist.

Once more, those of us with mental conditions bear the brunt of the decisions that ableists made. I know that the people who decided that Flipboard did not decide to throw those people with mental conditions under the bus. We merely did not figure in their calculations.

However, at the end of the day, this is still ableist. It does not matter if it was done deliberately or not. I guess, I’ll continue to use it until I find something better, or they provide fixes to deal with my grievances.

My conversation with Flipboard about banning magazines and users.
My conversation with Flipboard regarding The Daily Edition.

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One response to “Flipboard: An Ableist Platform”

  1. DCC Avatar

    @yourautisticlife I echo your difficulties in filtering out discredited-in-court Fox News. We should be able to control our news sources. The Fediverse gives that option even though it does require more effort on my part. Many thanks.

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