Facing a growing boycott from advertisers, Facebook on Tuesday said efforts to remove content that trivialized or incited violence against women would be increased.
“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,” the social networking site said in a statement. “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.”
A large coalition of groups organized a boycott of Facebook on May 21 to force the popular social networking website to ban gender-based hate speech. The coalition was led by Laura Bates of The Everyday Sexism Project, Jaclyn Friedman of Women, Action & the Media (WAM!), and activist Soraya Chemaly.
The coalition noted that Facebook pages such as “Rapist Community,” “Punching Rihanna,” and “Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs” were not removed despite being reported. Similarly, gruesome images joking about domestic violence and raping women were categorized as “humor” and not removed. Yet, Facebook regularly removed images of breastfeeding.
“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,” the coalition wrote in an open letter to Facebook.
The boycott campaign quickly generated more than 60,000 tweets and 5000 emails. In response, 15 companies pulled their ads from Facebook.
“We have been inspired and moved beyond expression by the outpouring of energy, creativity and support for this campaign from communities, companies and individuals around the world,” said Bates. “It is a testament to the strength of public feeling behind these issues.”
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