Feminist reflection on internet policies

Changing the way you see ICT

How women around the world are taking part in combating gender-based hate speech on Facebook

Nighat Dad
Nighat Dad on 13 June, 2013 - 13:58
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Sexist, gender-based violent speech is a norm today. Sign in, check your home page and somewhere on that or over the timeline you’ll be linked to a page or a photo which only serves to demean the existence of woman. What’s worse is finding some of your friends making jokes about it. But should that be a norm too? Finding your friends making rape and other gender-based jokes? No, it’s NOT funny! Stand up and shout out, haven’t we taken enough already?

A couple of weeks back, on 21st May 2013 The Everyday Sexism Project and Women, Action & the Media started a campaign demanding swift and effective action from Facebook regarding domestic and rape violence on one of the biggest social media sites.

The strength of feminists and women rights organization all over the world made Facebook respond after 60,000 tweets and 5000 emails! The signed letter by the coalition can be found here. Marne Levine from Facebook responded with a note assuring that Facebook would revise its policies and increase the accountability of creators of such content. The positive point from Facebook response is the promise of including legal expert and the representatives of women coalition and other discriminated groups.

To help Facebook and our representatives in presenting ideas, I brainstormed with and inquired of local feminist groups to present their ideas to make Facebook a nonviolent place. Some of the responses that I got from feminists are shared here anonymously.

“Rape threats specially need to be taken a lot more seriously. And I’m not sure if this is possible, but if there’s some way for a person’s account to get suspended because they’ve been commenting nonstop on someone’s public posts, e.g. 30 comments in five minutes, then this needs to happen. A lot of times, guys start pestering you by posting obscene comments on all your public posts. This needs to stop, and we shouldn’t have to go about deleting such comments ourselves. They should be automatically removed and the account suspended or deleted.”

“I think the dislike/thumbs down suggestion is something they should seriously consider. In the absence of a dislike button, you can either like something or hold your tongue.”

“Regarding mechanism, here’s what I have been suggesting: Set a threshold, if number of reports exceed that threshold, content should get marked as ‘controversial’ and disappear from site to go into a moderation queue. FB could then review it keeping in view its policies and see if that has to be permanently taken off or it should be up again. Reason is simple: currently they remove content after damage has already been done. This mechanism could perhaps help prevent that.”

“Abusive messages also need to be dealt with. There needs to be accountability for people harassing you (through your) inbox. It shouldn’t be just the harassed party who has to block over and over while the person gets away scot-free even if you report the message as abusive.”

“Regarding abusive content, I think pages with photos stolen off other women’s Facebook, especially schoolgirls, should be removed. There should be a way to report such content as abusive because clearly, the girls haven’t given permission for these photos to be used (e.g. https://www.facebook.com/pakistanigirls2). Also, Facebook does not remove photos UNLESS the original owner registers a complaint. Facebook needs to have the option to let other users complain if someone’s photo has been stolen or is being misused.”

Many other valuable suggestions were shared by the concerned groups and individuals making the community stronger and this process legitimate. It is hoped that Facebook would continue this to streamline their moderation processes to stop having targeted communities being denigrated and marginalized. Facebook’s current policies of banning photos of nursing moms, fully dressed women sharing their photos with consent for the political uprisings while keeping the rape jokes and pornified pinups.

For the readers who want to dig into this cause and more information and examples, here are a few links: Examples of gender-based hate (trigger warning), frequently asked question (recommended), Facebook’s response and the Facebook Action page from WAM!

 

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