Breaking: Facebook promises action on gender-based hate speech.

facebook-like-iconHuh! Seven days after the launch of the #FBrape campaign, Facebook has responded in just about the best possible way. From the company’s statement:

Many different groups which have historically faced discrimination in society, including representatives from the Jewish, Muslim, and LGBT communities, have reached out to us in the past to help us understand the threatening nature of content, and we are grateful for the thoughtful and constructive feedback we have received. 

…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…. We need to do better – and we will.

The statement then lists a series of concrete steps, “that we will begin rolling out immediately” — these include:

  • a review of Facebook community standards and an update to its hate speech guidelines
  • updated training for teams responsible for reviewing “hateful speech or harmful content”
  • increased accountability and transparency for creators of questionable content
  • establishing “more formal and direct lines of communications with representatives of groups working in this area, including women’s groups,” and other outside resources, such as the Anti-Defamation League’s Anti-Cyberhate working group, legal experts, “and other groups that have historically faced discrimination.”
  • undertaking “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.”

This is all very, very good news indeed, and as someone who’s advocated around a lot of painful issues in the course of her life, I almost don’t know what to do with it. You mean – people can see reason? Within a reasonable amount of time? Really?

And it’s all thanks to the folks at the Everyday Sexism ProjectWomen Action and Media, and activist Soraya Chemaly – from their statement about the day’s events:

Facebook has admirably done more than most other companies to address this topic in regards to content policy.

…“It is because Facebook has committed to having policies to address these issues that we felt it was necessary to take these actions and press for that commitment to fully recognize how the real world safety gap experienced by women globally is dynamically related to our online lives,” explains Soraya Chemaly.

“We have been inspired and moved beyond expression by the outpouring of energy, creativity and support for this campaign from communities, companies and individuals around the world. It is a testament to the strength of public feeling behind these issues.” says Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project.

Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of Women Action and the Media (WAM!), said: “We are reaching an international tipping point in attitudes towards rape and violence against women. We hope that this effort stands as a testament to the power of collaborative action.”

We are hopeful that this moment will mark an 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.

Now, of course, Facebook still has to deliver on all these fine promises – but you know what? Rape culture and domestic violence apologists are EVERYwhere. What we don’t have everywhere are efforts to combat those things. Facebook is to be commended for this swift and solid response, and its willingness to be in dialogue with the very people who called it on the carpet. This is a very powerful, very hopeful thing.

And I have to say: I’ve been active around the issue of sexual assault since the mid-80s, and I have seen huge cultural shifts in just the past few years. Today’s outcome would have been completely inconceivable even just five years ago, I think. It’s utterly remarkable to me – in fact, I think I’m in a little bit of shock.

But it’s the good kind of shock! So thanks Facebook! And thank you very much to all the folks who read this blog and spread the word. We are a part of something that made real change for good. Give yourself a high-five for me, ok? : ) THANK YOU!


  1. Reblogged this on Life Out of a Box and commented:
    Yes. The three who led are to be commended, as are the thousands who supported them in the effort. It was a communal battle one in a war that we must continue to fight…

  2. *won* mine too LOL. I, like you, am astonished by the swift “resolution’… it leaves me wondering on a several different fronts. It was just too fast. Of course I’m delighted. But I’m also wary. Let’s see what happens next. I just tweeted the following on @SheQuotes: “Just remember Little Red Riding Hood: ‘It’s in the wolf’s nature to be a wolf.'” ~ Fairy Godmother #quotes #quote #SQN /

  3. Darth Thulhu

     /  May 29, 2013

    Well. Insert necessary provisional statements about follow-through, careful observation, and continued caution. That granted …


  4. Snoring Dog Studio

     /  May 29, 2013

    This IS impressive and my feelings about Facebook have been altered greatly because of their response. I hope the other social media sites take heed. I’ve seen far too much exploitative and gender-based hate speech and imagery on all social media. Great work by those involved!

  5. I am not pleased to be the one who comes to the party and pees in the punch bowl, but Facebook’s track record in dealing with these issues is spotty. They are very good at generating press-worthy copy, but slow to take action, even when there have been multiple reports of a page that clearly defies their Terms of Service. In the words of a sage of the distant past: I will believe it when I see it. When the pages that currently exist vanish and when attempts to establish new ones are snuffed out almost immediately, then I’ll be impressed. Right now, we have only words, and Mark Zuckerberg can afford quite a number of words.

    • A) Thank heavens, because I’d have to preemptively dis-invite you from any and all parties.

      B) Well… yes! Promises are never enough. But how many times have we heard the polar opposite of this kind of response? We always have to hold feet to the fire. But in this case, they walked up to the fire and said “here are my feet.” (If you see what I mean). It’s a good thing.

      • A) Well, thankfully it’s only a figure of speech… 😉

        B) I don’t see it as a negative, Emily — I am pleased at such a swift response. I just don’t trust them based on their previous actions, or more to the point, inactions. I’m not sure if this is a sincere attempt to right a wrong, or they have just become very good at damage control. I am conditionally optimistic.

        • I believe situations such as this are where the term “cautiously optimistic” apply perfectly 🙂

          • If this were to bear fruit, it would be a coup of tremendous proportions. Facebook has a level of power unlike any other social media site. If it chooses to crack down on these detestable pages and not only eradicate them but keep them from returning, it would be a seismic shift in social relations.

            The caveat, at least for me, is that Facebook has shareholders, and they have had no reason to be happy of late. If they thought Facebook would take a significant hit over this, that kind of financial reticence might be enough to retard a full-throated attack on misogyny and sexism in their milieu, and serve as some de facto “permission” to continue propagating such disgusting content with only token attempts to rid the site of the “worst” of it.

            Or maybe I’m over-thinking it.

  6. Captain_Button

     /  May 29, 2013

    Ads on Facebook dropped after appearing next to offensive posts
    By Robert Budden
    May 29, 2013 — Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)

    (Financial Times) — Major advertisers including Nissan and Nationwide have suspended Facebook marketing campaigns after their ads appeared alongside offensive posts, highlighting the risks of a new form of “targeted” advertising.

    The cancellations follow complaints on Twitter and from women’s rights organisations over the publication of misogynistic content, including images of abused women, on the social networking site.

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