Facebook has been waging a war on women’s safety. They are not working against abuse of women – like all decent companies and people should – but they are working to defend offensive, aggressive and appalling Facebook pages that promote rape culture and validate abusers.
There are pages are generated by Facebook users with content is offensive, threatening and racist. The images are truly appaling, but despite reports by several people they are still there eve though they are explicitly against Facebook’s terms and conditions. The rules for ‘hate speech’ and reported content reads ‘we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.’ Yet, thousands of photos are still posted on the website, despite reports.
Women from all over the world report offensive content every day – but they get the same response.
This photo of a murdered, bloodied woman does not violate Facebook’s Community Standard on graphic violence.
This page about slapping hookers does not violate Facebook’s Community Standard on hate speech.
This image condoning (and perhaps even encouraging) date-rape drugs does not violate Facebook’s Community Standard on violence and threats.
Neither does this one, promoting physical abuse and the silencing of women.
Though the word ‘promoting’ might seem a bit strong to describe Facebook’s current (or lack of) actions towards this problem, there is no other way to put it. Though the social media network is a pit of information, the company is still responsible for the content posted by its users. That is plain and simple. The lack of action has resulted in a plain and simple conclusion: Facebook is a misogynist, sexist, racist company that doesn’t really care about anyone but themselves (white, rich men).
According to the blogger Rosie at Make Me a Sammich, the creator of Rapebook, a page built to make people aware of the hateful content on Facebook, has been speaking to the company herself for six months. This means they know that there are issues with their reporting system, but for six months they have failed to do anything about it – and if they eventually do something about it, it is because several people had to point it out to them, not because they know it’s wrong. In fact, women haven’t just been pointing it out, they have been actively reporting and writing about this issue for more than a year.
Yet, nothing has been done to change the system, except for a Twitter account that says reports of this issue are inaccurate and a thinly veiled scheme to show their system works. Facebook is currently tracking down everything reported by bloggers on their pages and taking them down, just so they can say ‘This is inaccurate, our system works perfectly. You’re overreacting.’
Women are not overreacting. We are reacting, and implying we are over-sensitive or easily offended is just a way to silence us. Why is it so hard to believe we actually feel offended by these images? Why is it so hard to understand that we have real opinions and feelings?
‘Lighten up’ is another phrase used to silence women. ‘It’s just a joke, we don’t really think rape is acceptable!’ – well, you know who thinks rape and abuse are an acceptable and common part of everyday life? Rapists and abusers do. And these jokes, images and pages validate their urges and their aggressive actions to satisfy them.
Women also feel threatened by these jokes every day. Who’s to say someone who thinks rape is just a way to get laid doesn’t hang around them? Guess what, statistics show that 75% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Jokes like this are threatening behavior, whether you mean it to be or not. Intentions don’t quite matter here as we already feel threatened by society in general because of rape culture. Facebook is condoning and even encouraging just that – a culture in which rape is normalized by jokes and sniggering comments.
And all of this begs the question of why the social media network is doing this. Why are they directly associating themselves with this? Why have there been no responses and only meek efforts to fix this?
It gets worse. Bloggers and women fighting against this have taken matters to where it hurts; the money. They started tweeting and emailing companies that buy ad space from Facebook, showing screenshots of hateful content right next to their ads. Facebook’s response and ultimate proof they do not care about abuse and rape being encouraged in their website? They pulled adverts from any abusive pages that have been reported.
And again, I ask – why? Is it a ‘freedom of speech’ defense? That’s not very convincing, as photos of breastfeeding, breast cancer awareness and protesting Femen breasts have been taken down when reported.
So here’s the conclusion: Facebook only cares about white men who laugh at other minorities. Everyone else can be offended in their own time and stop complaining.
I have received the following message from Jaclyn Friedman from Women, Action, and the Media (WAM): “These images don’t just affect women — they affect all of us. They have the effect of normalizing violence against women, so that the culture treats it as inevitable, or a joke, and does nothing about it. But just like these images aren’t inevitable, neither is violence against women. That’s why we launched the campaign.”
Great news for Internet activism – Facebook has replied to the #FBrape campaign and promised to take action.
Now it’s up to us to make sure that happens.
FB’s full statement can be read here.