What’s Blue and White and Glorifies Rape? FACEBOOK.

*** Trigger Warning*** The following contains images or content addressing sexual violence and abuse.

fbrape 4One week. One week is all it took for Facebook to respond to the demands of those of us involved in the #FBrape campaign on twitter.  In conjunction with the twitter campaign, a separate petition online has gathered more than 220,000 signatures.  ~60,000 tweets later, Facebook is FINALLY acknowledging their failure to eliminate gender-based hate speech and violence on their website.

For several years now, women and men have been imploring facebook to address the hate speech/imagery found on its social media network.

For example:

“This is why Indian girls get raped” and individual uploads of graphic photographs showing abused women.

An image of a woman lying at the foot of a flight of stairs is captioned “Next time, don’t get pregnant”.

“What’s black on top and white on bottom? Rape.”

Historically, Facebook has stated that these pages and posts fall under the “humor” part of their guidelines, or are expressions of “free speech.” Yet, Facebook is known for and has even been praised for their swift action when eliminating hate speech based on on race and sexuality. Freedom of Speech (which applies to Governments not private companies) did not seem to deter them when it came to these forms of hate speech. Why the willingness to protect expressions of gender-based violence and rape?

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One of MANY threatening images posted to a Facebook page addressing gender-based violence. *actual women beat up. Not photoshopped. Not memes. Trophy pictures.

One of MANY threatening images posted to a Facebook page addressing gender-based violence.
*actual women beat up. Not photoshopped. Not memes. Trophy pictures.

Rather than the knee-jerk reaction of boycotting facebook, Laura Bates – the British founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, US writer Soraya Chemaly and Jaclyn Friedman – of Women, Action & the Mediadecided it was time to make Facebook pay attention by going straight to the advertisers.

The worldwide twitter campaign created a PR disaster for the Social Media network by calling upon advertisers to pull their funding. Despite refusal to pull ads from companies like the supposed “pro-women” company  Dove and Proctor and Gamble the campaign refused to back down – inundating major companies with requests to “put their money where their mouth is”.

“We are working to refine our targeting terms in case any further pages like these are created. Facebook advertising targets people’s interests, not pages, and we do not select the pages our adverts appear on.” – Dove

Twitter users came back with this…

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Other companies (Nissan UK, eReader Utopia, Nationwide UK etc..) heard the outcry and acted immediately to put pressure on Facebook to address user concerns by pulling their advertisements.

It worked! Facebook released the following message in response to the tidal wave of criticism and backlash: Controversial, Harmful and Hateful Speech on Facebook . They did however make a point to hid it from their newsfeed- ensuring that their promises were not easily viewed by all users.

“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(At what point did FB have outdated criteria that said glorifying rape was A-okay?). 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 (ha! Try “Any”) the content that violates our standards. We need to do better – and we will.” – Facebook

The post goes on to list specific steps Facebook will take to address the ensure they eliminate gender-based violence.

Will facebook follow through on this commitment to eliminate content that trivializes or glorifies violence against women now that they know the world (and advertisers) is watching?

We shall see…

For now, Let’s celebrate this past week’s campaign and the way it has drawn men and women together from across the world. Sheryl Sandberg asked us to lean in and we did.

Well done people!