Content warning: features explicit naming of violent misogyny and rape culture.
Anyone who’s spent any time on Facebook knows it’s both a great tool for organising and home to revolting displays of rape culture, racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, disability hate speech….you name the kind of discrimination, Facebook will have it.
Women, Action and Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and author Soraya Chemaly led a coalition which took this on last week, specifically around violence against women and girls, in an open letter to Facebook which encouraged advertisers to pull their content.
Specifically, we are referring to groups, pages and images that explicitly condone or encourage rape or domestic violence or suggest that they are something to laugh or boast about. Pages currently appearing on Facebook include Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus, Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won’t make you a Sandwich, Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs, Raping your Girlfriend and many, many more. Images appearing on Facebook include photographs of women beaten, bruised, tied up, drugged, and bleeding, with captions such as “This bitch didn’t know when to shut up” and “Next time don’t get pregnant.”
Within a week, 15 companies had taken up the challenge and fled Facebook. Now Facebook has responded in what looks like a considerable shift from their earlier stance:
In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want. In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria. We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards. We need to do better – and we will.
The proof will be, as always, in the implementation. Facebook seem to be saying they will privilege engaging with the large feminist groups in the US around this, which makes me wonder about gender-based hate coming out of other places. Of course it’s all online, but it seems to me that we need good process around reporting and removing any kind of gender-based hate (and other kinds of oppressive hate) for anyone who wants to raise concerns.
Nonetheless, it’s a huge coup from the groups involved, and I’d personally love not to feel physically sick at some of the revolting rape culture up on Facebook.