The campaign is being led by the Women, Action and the Media group, activist Soraya Chemaly and the Everyday Sexism Project. They put an open letter to Facebook, asking for action to be taken against this potentially triggering material.
Of course, this campaign is not targeting jokes and humour pages that are bad taste, or prohibiting free speech, but it is attempting to stop the normalisation and trivialisation of violence and abuse.
There were 60,000 responses to the #FBRape hashtag on Twitter, and thousands of users have boycotted companies such as Dove, Nissan and Audible, pressuring them to remove their advertisments from pages containing offensive material.
The responses from the companies were mostly positive, with smaller businesses removing their adverts from Facebook voluntarily. Some larger companies, however, were reluctant to make any statement and are reported to have continually deleted users’ complaints on their Facebook pages.
There have been several attempts over the last few years to get Facebook to change its policies on what is construed as offensive. It is rare for Facebook to respond to these calls for action, but they have released a statement on their website saying: “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.”
They have promised to work on several key areas that have allowed this offensive material to slip through the net.
Firstly, they’ll be communicating with legal teams and representatives of various activist groups when updating their community guidelines, to ensure that everyone gets a fair say on what should be changed.
Secondly, they’ll be looking into better training for their staff to enable them to identify what is hate speech and what is not.
Thirdly, Facebook will be increasing the ‘accountability of the creators of content’. This means that if you post something potentially offensive, you will be required to stand behind your decision to post it. In their statement, Facebook said: “If an individual decides to publicly share cruel and insensitive content, users can hold the author accountable and directly object to the content.”
As one of the largest social media platforms, Facebook has huge moral obligations to ensure its users are safe, and should present a no tolerance policy against violent and offensive content.
Only time will tell whether Facebook will keep their word and make the changes required for a safe online community.
What can you do to help?
If you see an image that offends you, or condones violence or hate crimes of any sort, report it to Facebook.
Question your own actions. Don’t be pressured into laughing at something you find disturbing and think about how your own content could affect someone else before you post it.
You can read the full response from Facebook’s Vice President of Global Public Policy, Marne Levine, here.
You can read the full open letter to Facebook here, with an updated statement by WAM.
Visit the Women, Action and the Media website: http://www.womenactionmedia.org/
Visit the Everyday Sexism website: http://www.everydaysexism.com/