Really, Facebook?!

Grassroots Campaign Pressures Facebook Over Rape, Assault Imagery

More and more companies are dropping Facebook advertising over the social network’s refusal, heretofore, to address offensive imagery about rape and domestic violence posted by its users. More than a dozen companies have now dropped ads because of Facebook’s apparently permissive attitude toward images like this.

When asked about their policy, a Facebook spokesperson told ThinkProgress that content featuring battered women, rape, and violence falls under “poor taste” or “crude attempts at humor” and therefore does not violate its policies.

Meanwhile, just this weekend Facebook rejected an ad aimed at debunking the false claim that abortion leads to breast cancer because the ad featured the image of a breast. Facebook claimed the educational ad violated a ban on “adult products.”

The ad boycott has been gaining steam as a result of a grassroots campaign launched last week by Women, Action & the Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and other activists. According to Women, Action & the Media, “participants sent over 60,000 tweets and 5000 emails, and our coalition has grown to over 100 women’s movement and social justice organizations.”

This is not the first time in recent weeks that Facebook has come under pressure from progressives. After Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg founded and bankrolled a political group backing immigration reform that instead spent millions of dollars on ads touting dirty energy production and the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, progressive groups launched their own ad boycott and even held a protest outside Facebook’s headquarters. Facebook further enraged activists when it then banned ads going after Zuckerberg on the issue. The Zuckerberg group,, also came under fire from others in Silicon Valley and two of its founding members — and top funders — dropped out of the group in protest.

BOTTOM LINE: Imagery celebrating rape and domestic violence is not merely in “poor taste” or just a “crude attempt at humor.”  It’s time for Facebook to get serious about addressing the offensive and violent imagery posted by some of its users and to learn the difference between “adult content” and educational materials.

Late Breaking Update: Just as we were about to click send, Women, Action & the Media announced an agreement with Facebook:

Facebook addressed our concerns and committed to evaluating and updating its policies, guidelines and practices relating to hate speech, improving training for its content moderators and increasing accountability for creators of misogynist content.

Facebook has also invited Women, Action & the Media, The Everyday Sexism Project and members of our coalition to contribute to these efforts and be part of an ongoing conversation. As part of these efforts, we will work closely with Facebook on the issue of how Community Standards around hate speech are evaluated and to ensure best practices represent the interests of our coalition.

Here’s more from Facebook:

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. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want. In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria. We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards. We need to do better – and we will.

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Advocacy Team