Facebook to crack the whip on pages
Facebook has given in to the widespread outrage over groups and pages on the site glorifying violence against women. The social networking giant has said that it will be updating its policies on controversial, harmful and hateful speech on Facebook, making creators more accountable for content they produce.
Under fire by activists, for being unable to contain pages that promote violence against women, Facebook Safety is now sitting up and taking notice of the problem on a far larger scale. The Everyday Sexism Project and other activists had been pressuring Facebook to act more stringently against pages that talk loosely about raping, beating and killing women.
Some activists sent out mass emails to Facebook’s advertisers and wrote open letters that led to Nissan and more than a dozen smaller companies to proclaim that they would stop advertising on the website.
Facebook gets tough (Image Credit: Getty Images)
In a blog post written to show just how serious it is about curbing hateful pages, Facebook said, “We prohibit content deemed to be directly harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial. We define harmful content as anything organising real world violence, theft, or property destruction, or that directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual (e.g. bullying)” It added, “We work hard to remove hate speech quickly, however there are instances of offensive content, including distasteful humor, that are not hate speech according to our definition. In these cases, we work to apply fair, thoughtful, and scalable policies. This approach allows us to continue defending the principles of freedom of self-expression on which Facebook is founded.”
However, Facebook did admit that in recent days, its systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as it would have liked, especially around issues of gender-biased hate. The company has said it is rolling out stringent steps, including a review and update of guidelines used by the User operations team to evaluate violations of Community Standards around hate speech.
Facebook has said that it is also going to update training for its teams that review and evaluate reports of hateful speech and harmful content as well as include legal experts and members of women’s coalition. The social networking giant will also be increasing accountability of the creators of content that is “cruel or insensitive”. It will also be establishing more formal and direct lines with groups working in the areas such as women’s group and representatives of communities. Facebook will also encourage the Anti-Defamation League’s Anti-Cyberhate working group.
The social network has invited representatives of Everyday Sexism to join the less formal communication channels it has previously established with other groups. In an open letter on May 21, several organisations led by the Everyday Sexism group had asked Facebook to do away with pages like 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 as well as posts and images that showed women being beaten up and abused.
“Facebook has already been a leader on the internet in addressing hate speech on its service. We believe that this is the foundation for an effective working collaboration designed to confront gender-based hate speech effectively,” wrote the activists in a statement regarding Facebook’s decision. “Our mutual intent is to create safe spaces, both on and off-line. We see this as a vital and essential component to the valuable work that Facebook is doing to address cyber-bulling, harassment and real harm.”