Many of us came home from the Women in Secularism conference and worked to settle back into real life. Soraya Chemaly went home and launched an anti-rape, anti-domestic violence campaign with Women, Action & the Media (WAM). What are they working on?
Facebook has long allowed content endorsing violence against women. They claim that these pages fall under the “humor” part of their guidelines, or are expressions of “free speech.” But Facebook has proven willing to crack down on other forms of hate speech, including anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and homophobic speech, without claiming such exemptions.
When these pages are reported to Facebook as hate speech, Facebook says, “Oh, no. Those are humor pages. They stay up.” Facebook doesn’t do the same thing with pages that laugh about violence toward other demographics, but it does with those that laugh about beating, raping, and killing women.* Pages that put up content like this. (Don’t click through unless you’re sure you want to see that.) It leaves that while taking down pictures of babies breastfeeding and calling an ad highlighting the lack of link between abortion and breast cancer unacceptable “adult services” advertising.
Complaints about these uneven policies and processes made to Facebook have been ignored or the responses unhelpful. So what can be done short of closing your Facebook account and walking away from it? You can take action by talking to the advertisers whose products and services appear on those pages in support of WAM’s open letter calling for changes.
WAM have made this manageable. They’ve highlighted a few large advertisers, provided pictures of their ads in places they won’t want them, given one-click links for contacting those advertisers by Twitter, email, and Facebook. They are also tracking the status of various companies’ responses so you know, for example, whether to simply ask them to keep pressure on Facebook to change or whether you need to remind them that reporting isn’t enough when Facebook’s policy is to shrug off these complaints. All you have to do is click and go.
*Standard disclaimer about focusing on violence that targets women: Yes, men experience higher rates of violence in the U.S. than women do. Yes, I’d like to see that end too. However, men are not targeted for violence specifically because of their sex (for cissexual males), meaning that other factors than their sex have to be addressed to reduce that violence. Yes, I spend time and energy on those issues too.