For those who might not have seen some of this content, and who have responded to our recent #FBrape campaign with the usual “don’t be so easily offended” or “learn to take a joke,” let me be clear. We are talking about thousands of images of women bleeding, torn, bruised, battered, scarred, and sometimes even dead.
- Images with captions like “Next time don’t get pregnant” and “Now walk it off and get back into the kitchen.”
- Groups with names like “Raping a pregnant bitch and telling your friends you had a threesome.”
- Images of children, little girls, with black eyes or semen on their faces and jokes about raping or beating them.
- Images of disabled girls, with men underneath and the caption “No arms, no legs? No Problem.”
- Images of women’s faces contorted in pain, pictures of girls screaming.
- I have seen photographs purporting to show actual rape.
- Videos of women actually having their heads hacked off with a short knife as you look into their eyes less than a metre from the camera. After that one, I couldn’t eat, work or concentrate for several days. A week later, when I tried to watch a film that included an unexpected beheading scene, I found myself suddenly shaking, in floods of tears again.
As someone who follows this type of news regularly, I must admit that the images that I saw in the case were particularly jarring. It is heartbreaking to see rape culture in any of its form and most of the time as these stories unfold. However, this week something remarkable happened. A group of activists led by Everyday Sexism and Women, Action and the Media banded together to fight for a change in Facebook’s community standards. That’s not the remarkable part. After all, amazing change agents join as one daily to fight against oppression and hate. What was remarkable was that Facebook actually listened. Today at 4:51PM, Facebook announced the steps it is taking to make their site a safer community for all:
As part of doing better, we will be taking the following steps, that we will begin rolling out immediately:
- We will complete our review and update the guidelines that our User Operations team uses to evaluate reports of violations of our Community Standards around hate speech. To ensure that these guidelines reflect best practices, we will solicit feedback from legal experts and others, including representatives of the women’s coalition and other groups that have historically faced discrimination.
- We will update the training for the teams that review and evaluate reports of hateful speech or harmful content on Facebook. To ensure that our training is robust, we will work with legal experts and others, including members of the women’s coalition to identify resources or highlight areas of particular concern for inclusion in the training.
- 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.
- We will establish more formal and direct lines of communications with representatives of groups working in this area, including women’s groups, to assure expedited treatment of content they believe violate our standards. We have invited representatives of the women Everyday Sexism to join the less formal communication channels Facebook has previously established with other groups.
- We will encourage the Anti-Defamation League’s Anti-Cyberhate working group and other international working groups that we currently work with on these issues to include representatives of the women’s coalition to identify how to balance considerations of free expression, to undertake research on the effect of online hate speech on the online experiences of members of groups that have historically faced discrimination in society, and to evaluate progress on our collective objectives.
Now Facebook isn’t the end all and be all and there are obviously still major changes that have to be made throughout our society, but it is a start. If only change happened this quickly in the real world…
Marc is a co-founder of MasculinityU and is tremendously passionate about how social constructs of masculinity affect the way people interact with each other, themselves and society as a whole.