Just days since a massive campaign was launched by a coalition of more than 40 groups and individuals, advertisers have already begun to act swiftly about seeing their ads adjacent to images depicting rape and violence against women on Facebook. Indeed, the response has inspired hope that the demands in the Open Letter to Facebook may just be met.
For those who missed it, organizers of the campaign are asking Facebook to take action about gender-based violent imagery and pages that proliferate on the site, while its moderators act quickly to remove similarly graphic and hurtful content that is racist or homophobic. Examples of these pages include Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus and Violently Raping Your Friends Just for Laughs. This is not new. Back in November 2011, I wrote about several pages on Facebook, including It’s Not Rape if you Yell Surprise and Kicking Sluts in the Vagina Because it’s Funny Watching Your Foot Disappear. When you combine this with tolerance, or even implied approval, of photo memes that depict violence against women with taglines like, “This bitch didn’t know when to shut up,” it adds up to a long history of a corporate culture that is a willing participant in spreading gender-based hate speech and rape culture.
As the coalition explains in an official statement:
Specifically, the group demands that the social media giant take three specific actions:
- Recognize speech that trivializes or glorifies violence against girls and women as hate speech and make a commitment that Facebook will not tolerate this content.
- Train Facebook’s content moderators to recognize and remove gender-based hate speech.
- Train moderators to understand how online harassment differently affects women and men, in part due to the real-world pandemic of violence against women.
The message to Facebook is accompanied by a massive social media campaign, calling on advertisers such as Dove and American Express to pull their advertising from Facebook until they can be assured it won’t appear next to content that promotes rape or domestic violence.
And so far, several advertisers are not just listening, but reacting to the campaign. Half-a-dozen companies, including Candyopolis and Nissan UK, have pulled their ads after receiving campaign information released on May 21. At least as many companies have responded and have said they are looking into the situation, one of which being American Express. Unfortunately, a few companies including Dove, VistaPrint, and Audible, have declined to take action.
It’s time for Facebook to change and we’re glad to see that so many advertisers agree! (You can get updates on where companies stand on the Women, Action & the Media campaign page.)
We at Feminism 2.0 are proud to have signed on to this campaign (as well as this author, as The Sin City Siren) and we want to thank the campaign organizers for their diligence and hard work to launch and follow through with this seminal campaign, which may just change the landscape of Facebook and social media.
Follow the latest on the facebook campaign here and by using the hashtag #FBrape on twitter.