Taking Facebook to Task

5169004822_1a373ab600Have you ever posted a photograph of a nude on Facebook, say one taken by a famous artist such as Imogen Cunningham or Hannah Wilke? It will soon be taken down.

But what about FB pages, groups and images that condone or encourage rape or domestic violence, such as 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 or Raping your Girlfriend? The moderators let those fly.

Here’s how writer/activist Soraya Chemaly, Jaclyn Friedman of Women, Action, & the Media (WAM!) and Laura Bates of The Everyday Sexism Project describe the policy in “An Open Letter to Facebook,”

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.

WAM!—backed by dozens of other groups (including Ms. magazine)—is fed up with this wink-wink treatment of violence against women. So it’s launched a campaign today to hold Facebook’s feet to the fire, so to speak:

Specifically, we call on you, Facebook, to take three actions:

  1. Recognize speech that trivializes or glorifies violence against girls and women as hate speech and make a commitment that you will not tolerate this content.
  2. Effectively train moderators to recognize and remove gender-based hate speech.
  3. Effectively train moderators to understand how online harassment differently affects women and men, in part due to the real-world pandemic of violence against women.

To this end, we are calling on Facebook users to contact advertisers whose ads on Facebook appear next to content that targets women for violence, to ask these companies to withdraw from advertising on Facebook until you take the above actions to ban gender-based hate speech on your site.

WAM!’s Take Action to End Gender-Based Hate Speech on Facebook campaign includes trigger-warning’d examples of hellacious images posted on Facebook, a very useful FAQ and links to five prominent companies “whose Facebook ads have appeared alongside violent, hateful content.” Campaign supporters are urged to contact these companies—by tweet, email or FB message—and ask them to stop advertising on Facebook until it takes “real action to end gender-based hate speech on its site.”

Write Chemaly, Friedman and Bates:

In a world in which hundreds of thousands of women are assaulted daily and where intimate partner violence  remains one of the leading causes of death for women around the world, it is not possible to sit on the fence.  We call on Facebook to make the only responsible decision and take swift, clear action on this issue, to bring your policy on rape and domestic violence into line with your own moderation goals and guidelines.

One other way to join this campaign: tweet under the hashtag #FBRape. Let’s see how our voices together can make change!!

Photo is a screenshot from Facebook


  1. Jennifer says:

    I am in agreement with the demands made by WAM. Move up, move forward! RESPECT FOR WOMEN! It is just awful and low to accept these violent and objectifying manners of referring to and showing women. Especially while not allowing empowering imagery. Although in any situation it is a gosh darn shame to present such negativity and violence even if it is in any way in the form of a joke. Honestly, how does that make it better? Children make cruel jokes to other children on the playground- does the fact that they are jokes make them any less hurtful or harmful? I guess media is one place this cruelty is learned. Women are here, women deserve respect and love and praise. Let’s get it going- we can only do it together!

  2. Wow…pretty much my favourite contemporary feminists all collaborating and being supported by Ms. THIS will be a force to be reckoned with.

  3. barbara morrison says:

    Stop censoring art and stop promoting violent messages against women.

  4. Stacy Guidry says:

    Get with it, Facebook! Half your users are women!

  5. Maxene Yaxley says:

    Get your values and priorities in order Facebook.

  6. Jessica Bart-Williams says:

    I want to participate in any attempt to have Facebook clean up its act. I have sent letters to the Atty Gen of California, Atty Gen Eric Holder, and InterPol to disrupt this behavior to no avail. However, I’m not sure what you are requesting is effective. You want me to tell advertisers that appear next to content that calls for violence against women to stop advertising with Facebook?

    1. Why aren’t I telling all advertisers to do this? Do advertisers actually control where they are advertising on Facebook or is it a general buy? Are there advertisers that are actively targeting misogynists that we are trying to implore? It seems to me that if we push them all and get a few good bites, we would produce the same result with less work while protecting ourselves by staying in the “public square” instead of having separate conversations in smaller niche groups. We are addressing a double standard that exists as a global problem on Facebook, so shouldn’t advertisers be concerned about the brand? Speaking of which…

    2. Should I be making public requests by taking screenshots and posting the advertisement next to the text or photo I find and go viral with the combined message by cross posting to feminist and pro-movement pages and groups? I’m not quite sure how people who would be appalled by this content would know about it if they aren’t moving in those circles. People seem to get away with this crap because they are in agreement with the jerks they are talking to. We need to put pressure on the page AND the group that is frequenting it, don’t we? It seems like the advertisers are leaning on the FB brand as much as the social network itself, and FB’s brand is created by the shared impression of its user content, so shouldn’t part of this exercise be comparing FB’s actual content to the shared impression?

    3. Are you expecting me to proactively seek out hateful groups? I’m just asking because as much as I can’t stand that this double standard exists, I personally don’t encounter many examples of hate speech on Facebook. This being so, should I be seeking it out to ensure the safety of my sisters online?

    I’m just not clear as part of the herd you are trying to move that I will be moving as part of a group or walking into a lion’s den and exposing myself to attack with no support and relatively little chance to succeed. There are those of us who will chose to do so regardless, but it would be nice to know the inherent risks of your ask.

  7. Yes I agree with all the pro-women stuff we are all saying and yes half of facebook’s users are women. Also I want to add a lot of men find violence against women offensive and breast feeding non-offensive so this is about more than half the population of facebook in any case. The overrepresented minority of men who like/approve these images should not get pandered to like this. I do hate this violence as a woman, and I also hate it as a mother of sons who are learning what it is to be a man. Why should this be the main version of masculinity they see when it is not representative??

  8. Teshan Laucirica says:

    You censor art and breastfeeding babes, but allow violence against women… Why? At least find a balance, please. Allow all or nothing. Or allow beauty and end violence. It’s not a humorous joke, ever.

  9. To this day, I’ve never used Facebook, mostly because I don’t have the time. That Facebook allows “jokes” about domestic violence is just one more reason for me not to try it at all. I wonder; what would the company execs do if a lot of women simply boycotted Facebook and simply stopped using it? Maybe it might give them cause to start removing groups and images that encourage rape and domestic violence. It’s just a thought.

  10. I had my account suspended for posting a photo of a painting that hangs in the Louvre that depicts the partially nude Bathsheba. The painting is 320 years old. This is not the first time I’ve had my account suspended and now I’ve been threatened with complete banishment and removal of my account if I continue to share the culture of humanity with my friends. FYI my FB page is not public and is only shared with friends. I posted the below comment when I was able to log into my account for the first time in three months yesterday.

    In american culture, there seems to be an inability to distinguish between nude and porn. Certainly on some social media sites as Facebook, they arbitrarily remove any images of nudes. Including a 320 year old painting of a nude that hangs in the Louvre.

    Facebook treats its members like children, unable to make decisions for themselves as to what to view, Facebook makes those decisions for them. Claiming that they are “protecting” children from the possibility of seeing a painting of a nude that the same children would see in an art museum if they were on a field trip.

    Facebook’s twitter page has this slogan on their page, “Giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Which couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, Facebook is doing its best to destroy the culture of humanity by arbitrarily removing images they deem unacceptable for their members to view.

    Tumblr on the other hand, treats their members as adults by leaving the decision as what to view up to each individual. With Tumblr, a viewer can choose to view or not to view anything from lovely Fine Art Nudes to the raunchiest of porn images.

    It’s an adult world, and I want to be able to choose to view the work of others or to share my work with like minded individuals without the specter of some drone sitting at a keyboard choosing to delete images I have uploaded. But then there is the real threat that Facebook has written an algorithm that finds nude images and deletes them without the need for human intervention. In that case, the future of Facebook will be a cultural wasteland and that brave new world of social media will be homogenized to the point of being worthless.


  11. Of the examples given the ones about rape seem inappropriate, but the other two are clearly joking and defining them as “hate speech” is completely unreasonable.

    The demand: “Recognize speech that trivializes or glorifies violence against girls and women as hate speech and make a commitment that you will not tolerate this content” is unreasonable, although if you change “trivializes or glorifies” to “advocates” it would be reasonable.

    Also I think they should allow the nudes and draw a line at what a reasonable person would consider pornography.

  12. If you really take your demand literally then a female victim of violence who didn’t treat her own situation with complete and absolute seriousness could herself be accused of “hate speech”… and that’s pretty ridiculous.

  13. Greg Colvin says:

    Please! Facebook is for sharing with my friends, and I don’t want that sharing censored at all.

  14. There’s a better way to confront them. They expose who they are, their identities, by doing this. Shouldn’t the people making the threats be held personally accountable, rather than punishing the medium (Facebook)?

    A better approach would be to get their own statements to backfire on them in their personal lives. By silencing it, and making them curtail their conversations to private places, you lose your knowledge of them and their activities. Worse still you make topics like rape and abuse verboten and prohibited on Facebook. That is always the end result of censorship and selective “moderation.” Films and fiction that deal with topcs like this will be off-limits on the new, “politically correct” Facebook, that you yourselves are pushing for. This is not a simple issue, despite the glaring examples that can be cherry picked. Censorship always brings unintended consequences and a slippery slope.


  15. Sandy Garossino says:

    What kind of a company allows teenagers to post the gang-rape of a child? What kind of a company does business with one?

    Facebook is essentially a network now–one that is viewed by children. For all intents and purposes it has more in common with NBC and CNN than with its earliest self as a college chat & sharing site. As a $66 billion tech company it has the resources and expertise to solve this problem. It’s stunning that no one considered the obvious frailties of combining un-edited content with multi-billion dollar advertising.

    Shame on the directors of Facebook–they are listed here: http://investor.fb.com/directors.cfm. Shame on the advertisers who never asked the questions, and who helped build this abusive and horrific juggernaut.

  16. Is there such an effort to protect children/victims of child abuse?

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