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#FBrape: Will Facebook Heed Open Letter Protesting 'Endorsement Of Rape & Domestic Violence'?

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A campaign to ban content endorsing domestic violence and rape against women on Facebook is urging high profile companies to boycott advertising on the social media site.

Spearheaded by Women Action Media (WAM), The Everyday Sexism Project and writer and activist Soraya Chemaly, the campaign cities incidences where company ads have appeared alongside “violent, hateful content.”

WAM regularly updates a disturbing cache of examples found on Facebook, with Monday’s haul including a photograph of singer Rihanna’s bloodied and beaten face, captioned with “Chris Brown’s Greatest Hits’.

facebook gender hate

This is one of the examples cited by Women Action Media

It also features an image of a woman lying in a pool of blood, with the words “I like her for her brains” emblazoned across it.

It includes a message stating the image will not be removed because “it doesn’t violate Facebook’s Community Standard on graphic violence.”

Further examples include a picture of a bruised and battered woman entitled ‘WHOREMOUTH – shut it when men are talking’ and one of a man holding a rag over a woman’s mouth, captioned ‘Does this smell like chloroform to you?’.

Click here to see more examples of content from Facebook which encourages or makes light of violence against women. WARNING, these images are graphic and disturbing so please view at your own discretion. Some remain live on the site.

WAM is already claiming success, reporting that 15 companies – including Nissan UK, House of Burlesque and Nationwide UK, have pulled ads from Facebook.

On Tuesday Sky, American Express and Dove found themselves in the crosshairs.

Marketing Magazine reports Dove – which markets itself as a purveyor of products for “real women” – is now “working aggressively with Facebook to resolve the issue”.

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Procter and Gamble’s response was: “We can’t control what content they [our advertising] pops up next to. Obviously it’s a shame that our ad happened to pop up next to it,” Think Progress reports.

While conceding Facebook has proven willing to crack down on other forms of hate speech, including anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and homophobic speech, an open letter calls on the company to take “swift, comprehensive and effective action addressing the representation of rape and domestic violence.”

Signed by over sixty feminist groups, it calls for Facebook to:

1. Recognize speech that trivializes or glorifies violence against girls and women as hate speech and make a commitment that you will not tolerate this content.

2. Effectively train moderators to recognize and remove gender-based hate speech.

3. Effectively 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 campaign puts its success in persuading advertisers to withdraw from Facebook down to the more than 57,000 tweets and over 4,900 emails sent highlighting the issue under the hashtag #FBrape

A Facebook spokesman told the Huffington Post UK:

“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. 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. However, 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. 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.”

On Twitter, @TheWomensRoomUK is tweeting photographs of pornographic Facebook pages alongside the adverts promoted on them, under the hashtag #FBrape, and asking advertisers if they are happy with their product placement.

Huffington Post UK blogger Judi Sutherland writes:

“There is a major chasm in the law, and it is in the area of gender. Certainly under British law I have not been able to find any legislation that covers hate speech towards 51% of the global population; women. If there are such statutes, they are inapplicable if the crime is committed in another jurisdiction; Facebook pages that glorify and promote pornography, misogynistic violence and hate speech, but emanate from the United States, for example, cannot be prosecuted in the UK.”

Jane Fae, writing for the New Statesman, points out: “Facebook has a long track record of somewhat heavy-handedly imposing heteronormative values and attitudes.

"Breastfeeding groups have been taken down, as have all manner of pages celebrating the female body in art and more generally, while soft porn remains. As does some hate speech, magically disappearing only when a journalist mentions it to their press office.”

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