There are many positive things Facebook can be used for such as connecting with old friends, joining special interest groups, or starting a business. Many of us have become addicted to checking our feeds multiple times a day and receiving notifications. Facebook is a part of daily life for many people.
However, Facebook also has a very ugly side which may not be well known to some. Women are being threatened and harassed, and to their shock and dismay, Facebook isn’t doing anything to change this.
Last year, one feminist from Australia, Clementine Ford, was blocked from Facebook for thirty days for telling a man to “fuck off” after he made violent threats to her.
She shared her experience after creating a duplicate Facebook page. Then tweeted this:
— Clementine Ford (@clementine_ford) March 25, 2016
Just in the past month, more women have come forward to discuss their concerns on Facebook. A woman who asked not to be named shared this direct message she received from an unknown man:
The woman also shared that this had not been the first message she had ever received like this. This message is blatant harassment and is extremely threatening in demeanor. It certainly creates an environment that would cause someone not to feel safe.
So why doesn’t Facebook stop this kind of behavior?
The above messages and other similar ones have been sent to Facebook, but their response is that it doesn’t go against one of their “specific community standards.” When the woman above was asked how things could be better, she responded with this:
“The post is advertising sexual material that advocates sexual assault and correctional rape against feminists. It was sent to someone who publicly states she’s a feminist. How is this not against community standards?”
Facebook still has not responded back to her. Soraya Chemaly says:
“Facebook has detailed procedures for handling complaints and clearly states that user safety is a company priority. Given the astounding volume of people and content that Facebook deals with (more than 1 billion users), the company only acts when content is reported. The issue is, therefore, how words like “hateful” and “genuinely” “harmful” are defined, and, importantly, whether or not men and women understand “safety” differently.”
“Immediately, the page became the target of massive trolling and administrators were threatened with violent rape and death and bombarded with graphic images and porn. Posts, such as one urging people to give a donation to an anti-violence campaign at Amnesty International, generated more than 100 comments, including “fuck that. hit that hoe (sic),” and “Domestic violence is a 2 way street you hypocritical cunt.” This suggests hostility. Which might provoke anxiety. And create an environment that does not feel safe to the average woman. Studies show that content like this is triggering and degrades the ability of consumers of the content to empathize with victims.”
Facebook is missing the boat when it comes to protecting women, and its administrators do not understand how misogynistic threats create an environment that is hostile to women.
On a larger societal level, one in three women in the world will be sexually assaulted and one in five in the U.S. The majority of domestic violence perpetrators are men as are online perpetrators of abuse.
Sadly, Facebook is a microcosm of the larger world – a world that doesn’t believe victims, where rapists and domestic violence offenders often walk free. Their response to gender-based violence isn’t all that surprising.
However, the fact that Facebook has a set of community standards means that they need to take a serious look at what those standards are and how they are defined. They have an opportunity to help the problem. With so many followers, they have the potential to be a huge leader in standing up against misogynistic violence.