Facebook Responds To Ad Boycott, Vows To Work Harder To Prevent Hate Speech

By Justin Lafferty 

Facebook has come under fire recently, as several advertisers pulled their campaigns in light of pages promoting hate speech against women on the site. The company responded to this criticism Tuesday, saying that Facebook will start working harder to prevent those kinds of posts and pages from coming to light. Facebook will work with legal experts, as well as women’s rights groups, to better train the teams that deal with feedback on these issues, and it will open up the lines of communication with groups that have faced discrimination.

ThinkProgress.org reported that major brands in the U.K., such as Nationwide and Nissan, pulled their Facebook advertising campaigns. Several others, including Dove and Procter & Gamble, were pressured on various social media channels to do the same.

Women, Action, and the Media wrote an open letter to Facebook last week, pressuring it to crack down on advertisers with ads that appear next to content glorifying rape and other violence against women:

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.”

These pages and images are approved by your moderators, while you regularly remove content such as pictures of women breast-feeding, women post-mastectomy, and artistic representations of women’s bodies. In addition, women’s political speech, involving the use of their bodies in non-sexualized ways for protest, is regularly banned as pornographic, while pornographic content – prohibited by your own guidelines – remains. It appears that Facebook considers violence against women to be less offensive than non-violent images of women’s bodies, and that the only acceptable representation of women’s nudity are those in which women appear as sex objects or the victims of abuse. Your common practice of allowing this content by appending a [humor] disclaimer to said content literally treats violence targeting women as a joke.

Facebook responded Tuesday with ways that the company will improve filtering out pages that make these references. The social network plans to open up dialogue with women’s groups, as well as other groups that have felt discrimination. In addition, Facebook will update the training for the teams that evaluate reports of hateful speech on the site, as well as take other measures:

We will increase the accountability of the creators of content that does not qualify as actionable hate speech but is cruel or insensitive by insisting that the authors stand behind the content they create. A few months ago, we began testing a new requirement that the creator of any content containing cruel and insensitive humor include his or her authentic identity for the content to remain on Facebook. As a result, if an individual decides to publicly share cruel and insensitive content, users can hold the author accountable and directly object to the content. We will continue to develop this policy based on the results so far, which indicate that it is helping create a better environment for Facebook users.

Women, Action, and the Media posted a response Tuesday to Facebook’s plan to crack down on hate speech:

We are hopeful that this moment will mark a historic transition in relation to media and women’s rights in which Facebook is acknowledged as a leader in fostering safer, genuinely inclusive online communities, setting industry precedents for others to follow. We look forward to collaborating with these communities on actions both big and small until we live in a world that’s safe and just for women and girls, and for everyone.

Readers: How often do you see Facebook pages promoting hate speech?