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Social Issues
Facebook Under Pressure To Get Rid Of Content That’s Degrading To Women
May 28, 2013
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Facebook is under growing pressure to crack down on content that glorifies violence against women and rape.

The FBrape campaign, which started a week ago, now has more than 50,000 Twitter mentions (using the hashtag #FBrape) and 220,000 signatures on a separate online petition.

In an open letter to Facebook, campaign organizers list examples of material which they consider unacceptable. Facebook says it has removed all of the examples given.

"There is no place on Facebook for hate speech or content that is threatening, or incites violence, and we will not tolerate material deemed to be genuinely or directly harmful," said Facebook in a statement.

"We try to react quickly to remove reported language or images that violate our terms and we try to make it very easy for people to report questionable content using links located throughout the site."

The campaign was set up by 40 women's groups and individuals, including 'Women, Action and the Media' based in the United States and the 'Everyday Sexism' project - a Twitter feed based in Britain.

Laura Bates, the founder of Everyday Sexism, told thedrum.com "We're absolutely thrilled at the enormous success of the campaign and delighted that over 100 women's and human rights organizations from around the world have added their support to our open letter."

"This just goes to show the sheer strength of public feeling about this issue - it matters deeply to both men and women and it's time for Facebook and its advertisers to sit up and start listening to them," Bates said.

The campaign is also asking Facebook users to get in touch with brands whose ads appear next to content that condones or encourages domestic abuse and/or rape.

Facebook-under-pressure-to-get-rid-of-content-that's-degrading-or-threatening-to-women-feature1.jpg So far, around 5,000 emails have gone out to companies - including American Express and Dove.

"Dove makes its money from women, it has built its entire brand around pretending it cares about women and womens' empowerment," Bates told Metro UK. "But that doesn't stack up when they allow their ads to appear on a website next to these images."

In a statement, Dove said it "takes this issue very seriously and does not condone any activity that intentionally insults any audience. We are working with Facebook to prevent our ads from appearing on these pages. As Facebook advertising targets people, not pages, we cannot select which pages our adverts appear on.

"Ads are served to people based on their interests. In the future, we will be refining our targeting to reduce the chance of any ads appearing on similar pages. We heard your concern and are committed to creating a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. We assure you that we will continue to carefully review and revisit our advertising and marketing decisions."

More than a dozen brands, including Nissan UK and Nationwide, have suspended advertising.

Bates told the BBC that campaign officials and Facebook are "in communication" and both are hoping to get everything settled as soon as possible.

"Obviously it's difficult to moderate a platform with one billion users but it is disproportionately affecting women," she said.

"Facebook does crack down on issues like anti-Semitism and has been praised for it but when they see images of women being raped they don't consider that to be a form of hate speech."

"A lot of women are saying it's preventing them from using Facebook," she told the BBC.

Facebook-under-pressure-to-get-rid-of-content-that's-degrading-or-threatening-to-women-feature3.jpg Some of the content in question include Facebook groups with titles such as "This is why Indian girls get raped" and pages showing graphic photos of abused women.

One image of a woman lying at the bottom of some stairs says "Next time, don't get pregnant".

Other pages include "Kicking Sluts in the Vagina," and "I know a silly little bitch that needs a good slap."

Facebook noted that while some users might find certain content to be "vulgar and distasteful", not all of it violates company policies.

'...as you may expect in any diverse community of more than a billion people, we occasionally see people post distasteful or disturbing content, or make crude attempts at humour," Facebook said.

"While it may be vulgar and offensive, distasteful content on its own does not violate our policies."

"We do require that any such page be clearly marked - so users are aware that the content may be in poor taste. In many instances, we may also require a page administrator to display their real name on the page, or the page will be removed."

As the BBC reports, Facebook has been criticized in the past "for removing pictures of women breastfeeding infants and displaying their chests after mastectomy operations."

"I don't think you can use the smokescreen of free speech when you take down other images which are often of women's bodies," Bates said.

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