Taking Facebook to Task

Have 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


The late Michele Kort—a dedicated feminist—was the senior editor of Ms. magazine for 13 years. She died June 26, 2015, after a long battle with ovarian cancer. She worked for decades in field of journalism, covering sports, music, culture, art and feminist issues for publications like LA Weekly, The Advocate, Shape, Redbook, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Songwriter, InStyle, Living Fit, Fit Pregnancy, Vegetarian Times, Fitness, UCLA Magazine, Women's Sports and Fitness and more. She is the author of four books, including a biography of singer/songwriter Laura Nyro, Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro. Rest in power, Michele.