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Does Facebook Hate All Women—or just Feminists?
November 12, 2012 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Does Facebook Hate All Women—or just Feminists? An article looking at how Facebook's content standards appear to be unevenly applied in a way that ends up suppressing Feminist content.
posted by Deathalicious (98 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well It was invented as a way to quickly evaluate young women based on their looks; no surprise there is an inherent anti-feminist bias.
posted by Renoroc at 3:33 PM on November 12, 2012 [39 favorites]


It looks like an extremely long essay that misses a key point: To Facebook, you are a product, and users (in the aggregate of thousands/millions) are a product which is used to earn advertising revenue for Facebook. Facebook is an advertising company. It's a free "service" to use, but only so long as whatever you're doing with it is making money for Facebook. Your demographic profile and other information is used to sell things to you, and your friends.

If you want a platform on which to publish your own photos or political messages, then buy your own domain name and sign up for a $10/month http hosting account and install Wordpress on it...
posted by thewalrus at 3:36 PM on November 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


It looks like an extremely long essay

Sorry I stopped reading your comment here as I had to cut in to make this point.
posted by howfar at 3:39 PM on November 12, 2012 [84 favorites]


Among the pictures in the article of stuff Facebook has left up is content that some might consider triggery, just FYI.
posted by Apropos of Something at 3:41 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


One thing I do know for sure is that facebook hates "Most Recent".
posted by srboisvert at 3:42 PM on November 12, 2012 [93 favorites]


I guess what I am trying to say is that various activist groups and political groups seem to assume that Facebook should be their default platform of choice for publishing their messages. Some of this may be due to the ease with which things can be posted on Facebook versus the technical hurdle of hosting your own content. In my opinion the default choice of Facebook is problematic for freedom of speech in general (exactly as the FPP link points out), because you have little to no recourse when Facebook deletes your content, bans your account or suspends your account for any arbitrary reason whatsoever.
posted by thewalrus at 3:44 PM on November 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


I will begin by saying that I have been a huge Facebook fan

This was the line in the article, leaving all the gender politic stuff aside, which got an eyebrow rise of surprise out of me
posted by Bwithh at 3:45 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well It was invented as a way to quickly evaluate young women based on their looks; no surprise there is an inherent anti-feminist bias.

I know this is a joke but that was a separate website called Facemash. </pedantry>
posted by en forme de poire at 3:46 PM on November 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


Facebook is too large to really moderate, obviously. People get angry at feminists and report everything they can. Facebook does not think the stuff through, if they see a technical violation of the rules they take it down. It's not happening because Facebook hates women.

Any sensible moderation does require judgement calls, which is one of the best philosophies behind the moderation on MeFi. When your site has a billion people or whatever you can't do it right.

I only use Facebook for family and friends, anybody else I want to follow I use Twitter. In that family context, I both don't want too much NSFW or hate speech stuff going on but I don't want moderation either. Let users make the call and block people they don't want to hear from.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:49 PM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I have been blocked by Facebook, numerous times, to various degrees. Thankfully, my page has not been shut down yet but I have already formulated a Plan B. I am seeing stories all over Facebook about being blocked for three days or more. I am currently blocked for 60 days from making comments on other pages, although I was not given a specific reason why.

I am also blocked from making friend requests for 30 days.

I have many liberal-minded friends who have been blocked from making friend requests; it begs the question, What is wrong with adding friends? In a world that is becoming increasingly global, where we are coming together more and more on ideas alone, is adding friends so dangerous


Wait, what? I'm not a fan of Facebook, but this sounds like there's more going on than just a critique of supposed FB sexism, and something weird going on on the blogger's side, not Facebook's side.
posted by Bwithh at 3:49 PM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Facebook does not think the stuff through, if they see a technical violation of the rules they take it down. It's not happening because Facebook hates women.

Even users who adhere to the TOS can be targeted though.

I wrote the article about Hildur that this article links to, and in the course of research, found that Facebook has no problems with people re-printing screencaps of statuses, so long as you have the permission of the author. The very status that Hildur screencapped and re-posted (from a guy who implied he would happily murder her) ended with him expressly giving her his permission to re-post said status. So she did. And was summarily probated.

My theory is either the man in question, or someone else, reported her and the folks at Facebook either a) didn't bother reading the screencap, or b) don't understand Icelandic.

The problem here isn't some super-pedantic rule adherence, at least not all of the time.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:53 PM on November 12, 2012 [11 favorites]


I will begin by saying that I have been a huge Facebook fan

This was the line in the article, leaving all the gender politic stuff aside, which got an eyebrow rise of surprise out of me


Why? It's one of the most popular websites in the world. That can't happen if 'hate' is the default setting for most people.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:54 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


and something weird going on on the blogger's side, not Facebook's side.

I am very interested to hear Facebook's side of the story because I don't understand is what facebook gains from this treatment of feminist content.

As long as people are generating traffic to their site why would they to suppress them?
posted by Hicksu at 3:54 PM on November 12, 2012


The friend adds is a thing that's happening to a lot of activists: Basically if you add a lot of people who don't already have links to you, it triggers Facebook's anti-spam filters. It doesn't necessarily mean the blogger is sketchy.
posted by corb at 3:56 PM on November 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


The information in the link, and its links, is really damning. If folks haven't read the press release from the Uprising of Women in the Arab World folks, they should. Facebook's actions appear to have been almost unbelievably stupid, reactionary, insulting and incoherent, probably based on complaints from sexist men who expressed outrage at what would clearly be ordinary political speech coming from any other group of women.

Seriously, here's what they say was posted:

Dana Bakdounes is one the hundreds of women and men who participated in the Uprising of Women in the Arab World campaign, holding a sign expressing the reason why they support this uprising. Dana’s slogan stated: “I am with the uprising of women in the Arab world because for 20 years I wasn’t allowed to feel the wind in my hair and on my body”, and her picture showed an unveiled woman carrying her passport with her picture when she was veiled.

And here's what they say Facebook has done in the last few weeks:

Dana’s picture was initially posted on October 21, among many other photos and statements of women and men of various religious beliefs and practices (some women were veiled, some unveiled, some in niqab...), all demanding women’s rights and equally enjoying the freedom of speech, in a secular space that promotes tolerance and embraces the differences. But on October 25, Facebook chose to censor Dana’s image and to suspend for 24 hours the account of the admin who posted it. This incident provoked an outrage among the defenders of freedom of speech who started sharing Dana’s picture all over Facebook, Twitter and other media channels.

On October 28, persuaded that Facebook had mistakenly taken down the photo due to abusive reports of haters of the Page and that the photo held no offensive content, and seeing that it was all over the web, we uploaded it again. A few hours later, Facebook removed it again and blocked another admin’s account for 7 days.

However on October 31, Facebook restored Dana’s censored photo to The Uprising of Women in the Arab World page without any notice nor explanation, although it didn’t lift the ban on the admin’s account which ended on November 5.

On November 7, all 5 admins of The Uprising of Women in the Arab World’s Page received threats by Facebook for the reasons mentioned earlier that their accounts may be permanently deleted. The repeated temporary blockades on the admins’ personal accounts with no clear motive or explanation show a direct attack on The Uprising of Women in The Arab World’s Page. It also raises serious questions about the true intentions behind FB’s policies, and whether Dana’s “controversial” image is a mere excuse to shut down the voice of the Uprising of Women in The Arab World.

(Note that during the past 3 weeks, we have wrote to Facebook several times asking for explanation about their censorship but received no response at all.)


Does anyone have a guess about what the hell is going on with Facebook and this specific episode?
posted by mediareport at 3:57 PM on November 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


The problem here isn't some super-pedantic rule adherence

Quoted for truth. The ongoing suspensions and the threats to delete the women's accounts, without any response at all to their repeated requests for clarification, seems completely insane. And, as usual, public pressure is the only thing huge companies like this will respond to; we've seen it over and over again with these companies.
posted by mediareport at 4:01 PM on November 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I am very interested to hear Facebook's side of the story

As am I, but I suspect they will go the Reddit/Google Ad path [remember when people were peeved at Google because you could advertize FOR something but not AGAINST something which sort of left activists out of the loop and they spent a lot of time publicizing it and Google spent a lot of time saying nothing] and just try to wait for it to blow over. As much as I find these "facebook hates women!" titles problematic, there is a sense in which deviation from the norm, whether for good reasons or bad reasons (i.e. activists, or spammers), winds up tripping flags and automatically generating censure by companies that are Too Big To Care.

Add to this that on many websites, just being able to get an angry mob to amplify your own complaints or flagging and most sites don't give enough of a shit to check out if that's what's really happening. Too bad. This sort of thing could be handled so much better than it has been.
posted by jessamyn at 4:01 PM on November 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


So, what's happening is that sexist fundamentalists across the Arab world are flagging and reporting basic free speech from women working for equal rights and true democracy, and Facebook's response is to repeatedly threaten and shut down the women working for equal rights rather than the sexist assholes who are abusing Facebook's system to suppress those women's speech?

Is that right?

And this is a company that loves to talk about how it empowers people?
posted by mediareport at 4:08 PM on November 12, 2012 [17 favorites]


"This sort of thing could be handled so much better than it has been."

Isn't that Facebook's motto?
posted by klangklangston at 4:09 PM on November 12, 2012 [45 favorites]


It's almost like the current model of internet "user content" creation, where you rent/sharecrop space on a giant aggregator and laws regarding freedom of expression don't apply to you because it's private enterprise is hugely flawed

I mean, it's really really a lot like that
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:13 PM on November 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Facebook hates everyone except advertisers.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:15 PM on November 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why? It's one of the most popular websites in the world. That can't happen if 'hate' is the default setting for most people.

I don't think I've ever met anyone who's a big fan of their phone company. Doesn't mean I don't have a phone.
posted by figurant at 4:24 PM on November 12, 2012 [15 favorites]


I've recently had to deal with my own case of abusive troll accounts posting crap (sexualized, vulgar stuff, plus some employment threats) about me on twitter (usually tagging my handle or using my real name). I've reported repeatedly but at best the accounts in question (almost certainly all the same people) just get a "time out" account suspension. Twitter's been surprisingly more responsive than I expected but ... not exactly transparent and I'm not sure that they can reasonably do more than they have. They can't reasonably step into every crap fest that comes up and can hardly know the full story in most cases, even if mine seems perfectly clear (to me anyway!). Timeouts seem to be the best option to try to cool off the participants. The worst part is a photo collage image that uses my profile picture in a vulgar setting that is regularly posted (with variations) in multiple tweets (one account is even using it as a profile picture right now). I can file a DMCA take-down on it, but I have to file one for each use, so I've given up. Unfortunately, it makes sense to me why I have to file a take-down for every instance -- if you had legit content that someone wanted to suppress, you would apprecate this rule.

I've known this kind of crap happens on the internet but haven't really had to experience it first hand all that much (comment or two, but no obsessive attackers). I'm honestly just not sure what to do about it. We'd never tolerate it in "real life" (if someone showed up everywhere you hung out and spewed abuse at you, they would likely get in real trouble). But it does seem infeasible for platforms like facebook or twitter to be able to handle it in way that will satisfy everyone (where everyone is even limited to seeming reasonable people). That said, twitter's more hands-off approach (compared to the apparent case with facebook) is probably better. Abuse flows, but at least it's harder for abusers to silence you.
posted by R343L at 4:26 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


One explanation might be found in exactly who are the ones that decides if a picture is crossing the line or not. According to this article, Facebook outsources its content filtering to various third world countries. It's then easy to imagine that someone in a culture with an even worse view on women than the US, will be harsher when it comes to content promoting feminism, while leaving what they feel are "innocent" jokes up.
posted by ymgve at 4:30 PM on November 12, 2012 [23 favorites]


Facebook wants everyone to play nice together and not cause problems. From the management side, they don't want you to express opinions beyond what products you like. Activists are agitators and don't fit anywhere in the model. The article asks why the page for "it's not rape, simply free sex" is still up and running but the "words of women from the Egyptian revolution" page gets repeated flags, and posits that Facebook suppresses feminists. But I think the difference is because one of those pages has 150 Likes and the other has 3500 Likes.
posted by zennie at 4:30 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've recently had to deal with my own case of abusive troll accounts posting crap (sexualized, vulgar stuff, plus some employment threats)

And what if I'm doing this same stuff because someone said some things I consider misogynist or creepy? Do I get to go hang? What if they're a public figure making decisions that will affect the lives of everyone, including me?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:32 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This, of course, alludes to you: I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean responding to someone else's horrible speech with ... horrible speech?
posted by R343L at 4:35 PM on November 12, 2012


Sounds like when Zuckerberg sold off some of his share of the company, it was snapped up by a gazillionaire Saudi Sheik. Hey, they gotta put that excess oil money somewhere, and why not where it'll do them the most good?
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:35 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whether for a cause or a business, to my understanding the current optimal promotion path is to use Facebook only as a communication channel and pointer to external content, ie host your own site and post content there, then share it on Facebook, and include database aggregation methods on your own site so that you build your own list which you can subsequently target-market to. (I believe "sign in with Facebook" allows the site owner to obtain a separate email address and other useful demographics.)

You also have to share other people's content, as this raises your and their rankings, and when other people are sharing yours, that raises your rankings and incidentally makes censorship of you much harder.

Facebook is just a tool. Its algorithms are fairly mindless, and even when applied by humans, those humans are not given any discretion; it's just easier to have a third-worlder microwaged human act as the function that returns true or false to contains_nudity(picture) than to write a program to do it. Once you know what the algorithms return, you can route around them appropriately.

The real problem here is the reason why contains_nudity(picture) is even used. Facebook is still US-centric, for now, although IMO the downsides of that are outweighing the benefits and if US copyright and prudery laws cause Facebook enough trouble, it will move outside their reach. US culture has been through a massive race to the bottom of offendability and US corporate HR and PR have been trained to allow nothing that could offend anyone, without examination of the justifiability of taking offense. American free speech is a hilariously inside-out and upside-down concept: your government can't censor you, but your employers, churches, schools, corporate news outlets etc can exercise as much power over your speech as they have. Somehow "no law abridging freedom of speech" turned into "no law preventing a non-governmental entity from abridging the speech of another entity whom it has power over".
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:36 PM on November 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't think I've ever met anyone who's a big fan of their phone company. Doesn't mean I don't have a phone.

I...I like my phone company. SIM only, but £10 a month for 250 minutes (UK, so incoming minutes don't count against this), unlimited texts and data. I am aware that this is unusual.
posted by jaduncan at 4:38 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Remember how the rich and popular kids in school were kind of assholes? How they thought whatever they thought was important was important and no one else mattered?

Facebook is the internet version of that. It isn't that Zuckerberg and friends are bad people, they just have other things on their mind. They want everyone to be social and nice together. Zuckerberg's vision of adding social networking to everything we do on the internet doesn't have any good mechanism for coping with the fact that there are many groups on the internet who would be in conflict with each other if forced into the same room together. It doesn't have a good mechanism for coping with the fact that political activists are going to be, well, active.

There are good things about Facebook, but it isn't where I want to have all, or even most, of my online social interactions.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:42 PM on November 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


[For clarification: I don't mean to diminish the Feminist complaint, I want to add that anyone who wants to challenge the status quo should expect to be eventually be steamrolled on Facebook.]
posted by b1tr0t at 4:48 PM on November 12, 2012


US culture has been through a massive race to the bottom of offendability
The reason why this works is the same reason our monumentally cruel and evil prison system works: no one actually disagrees with it. They disagree with who it gets applied to, who's censored and who gets to live in a tent in Arizona and eat garbage, but no one actually disagrees with the fundamental ideas.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:50 PM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


You've got to keep the livestock happy, but you don't have to keep the livestock really happy.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:54 PM on November 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


no one actually disagrees with the fundamental ideas.

This is a crass overgeneralization, and easy to disprove. Many people disagree with the prison system in small- and large-scale ways. At the same time, for many people, there are many things in their life that they fundamentally disagree with but still have to find a way to make their peace with over the short and possibly long term.

This is the whole thing about facebook and this particular issue. People feel that the rules, such as they are, are being unjustly applied and they feel that they can see a pattern in that application that they find problematic. This isn't about just silencing a particular voice you disagree with (or shouldn't be) but about the mechanism of silencing, how it should be used if at all, and how to determine from outside the institution, whether the rules and guidelines are being applied fairly.

In many cases there doesn't even have to be some sort of conspiracy to silence feminist voices or whatever it is, just that a set of guidelines and/or rules that don't have mechanisms in place to prevent this sort of gaming (if you think that is what is happening) will get gamed. And if you see that happening and do nothing, that makes you sort of complicit in the unintended consequences of your bad system. It's possible no one foresaw this. However now that it's happening it would be nice if they worked out a response and one that was better than "computers are hard"
posted by jessamyn at 4:56 PM on November 12, 2012 [22 favorites]


I am very interested to hear Facebook's side of the story because I don't understand is what facebook gains from this treatment of feminist content.

Why presume they give a fuck? Or to put it another way, what do they lose by pissing of feminists? Not the authors' custom, it seems, a certainly not enough to put a microscopic dent in their 1 billion user base.

Their heuristic is "Is this causing us to lose money? If yes, ban it. If not, don't give a shit." Of course they're arbitrary --- they don't care. The decisions are being made by some overworked customer service rep who probably has to burn through about 100 complaints an hour; I wouldn't be at all surprised if the policy of maximum efficiency is "Ban 'em all and let God sort 'em out." And if it is, I'm sure that's the one they're using.

The question is whether feminists can complain loudly enough in enough mainstream venues to cause facebook to look bad and to get their a line put into the customer service decision tree that says "Is this about feminism? If yes, bump up to next managerial level. If no, goto BANHAMMER."
posted by Diablevert at 5:06 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


This isn't about just silencing a particular voice you disagree with (or shouldn't be) but about the mechanism of silencing, how it should be used if at all

That's what I'm saying. I'm glad you agree.

As for that being a crass overgeneralization, I used to think so and I still kind of hope so, but it's really easy to think you believe one thing and believe something else, or to not believe something until it becomes necessary to.

If I can be excused for being really dramatic and metaphorical, for the contagion to function, not everyone needs to be covered in buboes and dripping effluvia all the time. I feel like we're all sick to one extent or another but sometimes we're asymptomatic.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:09 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Related: When did Facebook stop beating its spouse?
posted by Bookhouse at 5:14 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm guessing this is mostly due to flagging auto triggers and people in poor third world countries doing the actual filtering. I don't think they really care either way.

Anyway, it's kind of a shame that facebook of all things has become a platform for activist movements. FB doesn't give a crap about it's users.
posted by delmoi at 5:16 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


When did you stop beating your wife?

None of this reflects well on Facebook. But the interpretation is overkill. Incompetence and stupidity exist, far more often than grand conspiracies and widespread hatred.
posted by graphnerd at 5:16 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ha. Damnit, Bookhouse!
posted by graphnerd at 5:17 PM on November 12, 2012


None of this reflects well on Facebook. But the interpretation is overkill. Incompetence and stupidity exist, far more often than grand conspiracies and widespread hatred.

On the other hand, as the article points out, "jokey" posts and groups about domestic violence and rape get to stick around under far less of a laser precision of probation and banning than these activists and activists groups do. So if there isn't some kind of conspiracy, there's at least a pervasive wrongheadedness about what qualifies as "crossing the line".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:41 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jesus, why is this a thing? The Arab Spring was called "The Twitter Revolution" for a reason, after all.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:46 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


One thing I do know for sure is that facebook hates "Most Recent".

Could someone explain what this means, and why it's gotten over 30 favorites?
posted by alms at 5:47 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I haven't seen compelling evidence that Facebook hates only feminists, so that means that Facebook hates all women. QED.

or misogynists are gaming Facebook
posted by Challahtronix at 5:47 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anyway, it's kind of a shame that facebook of all things has become a platform for activist movements. FB doesn't give a crap about it's users.

Facebook doesn't have to care; it just has to let the networking happen. You might laugh, but Facebook and Twitter were instrumental in organizing the Pots and Pans Revolution of late 2008 early 2009 here - start an Event, invite Friends, encourage them to do the same, and bam - within minutes you accomplish what used to take hours of flyer-posting, door-knocking and phone-calling to get done. It's no panacea, but I don't see why a social networking tool being used a tool to network socially is a shame.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:48 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm saying it's a shame that people have become reliant on an advertising company for basic community organization.
posted by thewalrus at 5:54 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm saying it's a shame that people have become reliant on an advertising company for basic community organization.
There's nothing wrong with letting an advertising company do most of the heavy lifting. Just be aware that your activism has to be symbiotic. Start to threaten Facebook, and it will stomp all over you.

Be aware that Facebook is part of the infrastructure that holds up the dominant paradigms. If you want to overthrow them, be careful of how much you rely on Facebook. Or Google.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:00 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Let me add a little context to Marisa Stole the Precious Thing's excellent article. The Hildur Lilliendahl story has been a pretty big deal in Iceland (full disclosure: Hildur is an acquaintance of many years and someone I respect highly). In February of this year, when she first made her album of screencaps of hatespeech towards women, she was interviewed on an Icelandic primetime news program. Her main intention with the picture album was to show people just how deeply hateful comments about women on the internet were, even when people posted under their real names, linked to their Facebook account, in public forums (a lot of these comments were made on newspaper websites).

The response was both positive and negative. She got a lot of support and a lot of people were genuinely shocked that many men were completely comfortable with writing incredibly vile things about women in public. Others responded with outrage that anyone be accused of being a misogynist, and some responded by writing horrible things about Hildur. She got incredible levels of abuse, including at least one death threat. This also made her Enemy #1 for anti-feminists, so now whenever something even vaguely feminism-related gets in the news, people start writing crap about her, even when she has nothing to do with it.

For creating her Facebook photo album, she got a series of bans from Facebook back in February and March. Her response was to start a Tumblr, which was passed around, but never got the traction that a public Facebook photo album did. Almost every Icelander is on Facebook, and a lot of the public discourse and organizing takes place there (like the Saucepan Revolution of 2009 that Marisa Stole the Precious Thing mentioned above). For better or worse, Facebook has become the main medium for public discourse in Iceland on the individual level, so banning people from that medium is a serious deal.

jessamyn: I suspect they will go the Reddit/Google Ad path

I did some digging into this way back in February when Hildur first started getting banned by Facebook. How Facebook interprets situations like hers is that they are "naming and shaming" and that somehow it should be clear from the Facebook Terms of Service that this is the issue and that "naming and shaming" is forbidden. This tracks very well with Reddit's response to the outing of members of the Creepshots subforum (MetaFilter thread about it here). The concern Facebook's content review department seems to put first is the potential loss of face for men.
posted by Kattullus at 6:03 PM on November 12, 2012 [18 favorites]


One thing I do know for sure is that facebook hates "Most Recent".

If you set your facebook feed to show you the most recent posts, facebook resets it all the time to show you ... something else that is not that. I can't remember exactly, because I sue social fixer or something that handles it, but it's weirdly annoying and not how you'd expect the interface to work.
posted by jessamyn at 6:06 PM on November 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well. If anybody wonders why the people who run Reddit consider themselves to be occupying the moral high ground, this might be a hint.
posted by localroger at 6:20 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


So if there isn't some kind of conspiracy, there's at least a pervasive wrongheadedness about what qualifies as "crossing the line".

Or, perhaps there's a system in place that responds only to user complaints. A bad system, of course. This article is so obnoxious because it doesn't take how Facebook actually handles its censorship.

Instead, it's happy to rely on nothing but anecdotes. Damning anecdotes, but ones without any real evidence.

It's sensationalist garbage.
posted by graphnerd at 6:25 PM on November 12, 2012


Facebook is weird on the big issues. I've seen stupid things Facebook refuses to address in terms of the law (Jill Meagher case, unmarked police cars), justice (bullying sites) and yet these sites, which neither bully nor break laws are removed.

WTF?
posted by b33j at 7:52 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or, perhaps there's a system in place that responds only to user complaints.

Complaints such as the ones against the rape page?
posted by nzero at 8:25 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]



Complaints such as the ones against the rape page?


Quite possibly. And hopefully those would be taken seriously.

But it's a site with hundreds of millions of users and billions of pages. So pointing to individual pages or referencing 'people I know' as the article does as evidence of any ideological bias is absolutely ludicrous.
posted by graphnerd at 8:29 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The problem seems to be that Facebook has more of a problem with 'smut' (AKA bare breasts of any variety) than they do with offensive, hateful talk. I think this says a lot about contemporary USian culture.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:51 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It all about the signal. From the article: What seems unfair about Facebook’s blocking policies is that it is almost impossible to get in touch with a live person or even defend yourself.

If you look at your FB, you see that there are three pulldown options for every post: Follow, Hide, Report. FB probably doesn't really deal with individuals, it deals with signals. Follow signals an increase in popularity for the poster, Hide a decrease (and almost always associated with apps/games in my experience), and Report signals a potential abuse.

Presumably they allow a certain amount of noise, so one "Report" won't ban someone. But 5-6 might. Now, assume that monitoring those signals is automated, since FB hardly has the workforce to read everything. It doesn't take long for a few complaints to get something marked as abuse. Now, where's the signal for "this is controversial but legitimate". Right. There's isn't one. And because the systems are automated, and there's little chance of getting human oversight, it's relatively easy for a few people working in concert to get something taken down, and extremely difficult to get it restored.

I seriously doubt it's specific bias against feminists, any group that's controversial is subject to being reported and those groups have very little recourse because of how the system is built. There is no signal to measure something as important.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:05 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the linked posts has a link to this gawker article, which has a holy-shit-is-this-real? leaked document outlining Facebook's exact content restrictions. Crushed heads are okay as long as no internals are showing, pictures of nipples and breastfeeding are to be removed, attacks on Attaturk or maps of Kurdistan are to be escalated to a higher level of examination, illegal drug use shouldn't be shown except if it's a scientific study or marijuana, etc...
posted by subdee at 9:49 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think Facebook censors activists to avoid being banned by sovereign governments:
Censorship of Facebook
...
Australia

Facebook has 10 million Australian users - almost half the population - and requires people to state at sign-up that they are at least 13 years of age. But, because there is currently no way to formally enforce the age limit, in July 2011 Australia began considering giving parents access to their children's pages, requiring proof of age at sign-up, and increasing the age limit to 18.[6]

China
...
In Mainland China, Facebook was blocked following the July 2009 Ürümqi riots[2] because Xinjiang independence activists were using Facebook as part of their communications network.[7] Some Chinese users also believed that Facebook would not succeed in China after Google China's problems.[8] The popular Renren social network (formerly Xiaonei) has many features similar to Facebook, and complies with PRC Government regulations regarding content filtering.

Egypt
...
Facebook was blocked for a few days in Egypt during the 2011 Egyptian protests.[9]

Denmark

The Facebook censorship robots Websense blocks webpages as "abusive" and "insecure" if the word freemason appears on a page.

Iran
...
After the 2009 election in Iran, the website was banned because of fears that opposition movements were being organized on the website.[3]

Mauritius

The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) of Mauritius, ordered Internet Service Providers(ISPs) of the country to ban Facebook on immediate effect, on the 8th November 2007 because of a fake profile page of the Prime Minister. Access to Facebook was restored on the next day. [10][11][12][13][14]
Morocco
...
On February 5, 2008, Fouad Mourtada, a citizen of Morocco, was arrested for the alleged creation of a faked Facebook profile of Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco.[15][16]

Syria
...
The Syrian government explained their ban by claiming the website promoted attacks on authorities.[1][17] The government also feared Israeli infiltration of Syrian social networks on Facebook.[1] Facebook was also used by Syrian citizens to criticize the government of Syria, and public criticism of the Syrian government is punishable by imprisonment.[1] But most of the people reach to Facebook by internetebak.com which is a gate to banned websites. Syria claims that they do not want to have a prominent website created by a Jew to have presence in the country.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom on April 28, 2011, the day before the Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, a number of politically motivated Facebook groups and pages were removed or suspended from the website as part of a nationwide crackdown on political activity. The groups and pages were mostly concerned with opposition to government spending cuts, and many were used to organize demonstrations in a continuation of the 2010 UK student protests.[18][19][20] The censorship of the pages coincided with a series of pre-emptive arrests of known activists.[21] Amongst the arrestees were a street theater group planning a performance in opposition to the monarchy, whose members included a 66-year-old professor of anthropology,[22] and five people dressed as zombies who were drinking tea in Starbucks at the time of the arrest.[21]

Vietnam
...
In Vietnam, an unauthenticated document supposedly issued by the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security dating August 27, 2009 instructing ISPs to block Facebook sparked shutdown fears. Access to Facebook became intermittent in mid-November and major ISPs were swamped by complaints. Some technicians confirmed being ordered by the government to block access to Facebook while government officials denied it.[4]
posted by jamjam at 10:00 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It walks and talks and quacks like the complaint system is largely or entirely automated. When one page is left up and one page is taken down, and both were garnering complaints, then the apparent lack of judgement may be exactly that - little or no human examination at all, just a machine, and the decision being made by an arcane labyrinth of number checks like complaint-vs-view ratios and who knows what else.

Like everything else in FB, the system is probably perpetually fine-tuned too, so one way to hopefully draw attention to problems in outcomes while user feedback is not sought, is to make a loud fuss, ie the approach taken by the article and this FPP.

At this point, it seems that lack of humans, not humans, is likely the problem. Fingers crossed the message eventually gets heard by humans.
posted by anonymisc at 10:40 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's one of the most popular websites in the world

When it comes to user information Mr. Zuckerberg stated: "They 'trust me.' Dumb fucks."

A fine demonstration of how humanity views trust if Facebook is a "most popular" place to be or go to.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:33 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Crossing fingers is nice, but what will help, I think, is spreading the word about what looks at this point like 1) systematic gaming of Facebook's reporting system by anti-feminist groups in the Arab world (perhaps involving both users and low-level Facebook employees), 2) Facebook's complete lack of anything like a formal appeal process at a managerial level for folks like the women whose accounts have been suspended and are now being threatened with banning for no goddamn reason at all, and 3) Facebook's demonstration so far of a striking lack of concern about the women in the Arab World who rely on its technology to fight for basic equality.

Those are things Facebook should be pressured to change.
posted by mediareport at 11:37 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


So, what's happening is that sexist fundamentalists across the Arab world are flagging and reporting basic free speech from women working for equal rights and true democracy, and Facebook's response is to repeatedly threaten and shut down the women working for equal rights rather than the sexist assholes who are abusing Facebook's system to suppress those women's speech?

No, those are the consequences of what's happening. What is really going on is that proper moderation is expensive and therefore Facebook, like so many commercial sites has basically a squeeky wheel policy: if many people complain loudly, ban something. Furthermore, don't hire too many people to moderate, don't let them spent too much time on it, which explains why bare breasts are banned quickly but rape speech isn't: so much easier to see that something is a nipple than actually read something and come to a decision that it's offensive.

Every commercial site that unlike here is unwilling or unable to invest in proper, intelligent moderation is going to have this problem, from google on down.

If you're any kind of leftist, feminist or other activist group you need to learn to deal with these problems.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:45 PM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


And, as usual, public pressure is the only thing huge companies like this will respond to

One could stop using facebook.

; we've seen it over and over again with these companies

And yet - no smartphone application that allows the consumer to filter their buying habits to match their views on how the world should be.

Facebook "cares" about its bottom line. How does 'banning Feminists' effect the bottom line? Look at Sinclair Broadcasting and the swift boat Kerry history for the clue. Go after how Facebook gets a paid.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:47 PM on November 12, 2012


They disagree with who it gets applied to, who's censored and who gets to live in a tent in Arizona and eat garbage, but no one actually disagrees with the fundamental ideas.

Yeah. Pretty much. There's a strong argument to be made that our society requires a certain number of people to be systematically abused on our behalf. That we aren't comfortable without some other group's suffering being the pedestal to our privilege. Blame what structural component of human nature or civilization you like. I blame capitalism, personally.
posted by clarknova at 11:50 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess what I am trying to say is that various activist groups and political groups seem to assume that Facebook should be their default platform of choice for publishing their messages.

Yeah, and women want special treatment, homosexual agenda, misandry, blah blah blah.

Why the hell shouldn't women be able to use a supposedly universal platform without getting hate speech and death threats? That is not an unreasonable expectation.

--

I am very interested to hear Facebook's side of the story because I don't understand is what facebook gains from this treatment of feminist content.


What do people ever gain from sexism? It's not a rational calculation, it's a prejudice.

--


Complaints such as the ones against the rape page?/

Quite possibly. And hopefully those would be taken seriously./

But it's a site with hundreds of millions of users and billions of pages. So pointing to individual pages or referencing 'people I know' as the article does as evidence of any ideological bias is absolutely ludicrous.


Demonstrably, they haven't been taken seriously enough to get it taken down. Meanwhile, demonstrably complaints about breastfeeding images have been taken seriously.

Therefore, the system is either bigoted or broken, and if it's broken, it's broken in a way that favours bigotry.

The 'ludicrous' thing is to make a lordly declaration in the face of this evidence that it's 'garbage' to raise concerns about this. Unless you just don't like feminism being discussed at all, of course.
posted by Kit W at 12:16 AM on November 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


What do people ever gain from sexism? It's not a rational calculation, it's a prejudice.

Power or advantage over others. Sexism is both wrong and often beneficial to sexists; one need merely think of how much a male co-worker could gain when competing against an equally qualified woman in a sexist workplace.
posted by jaduncan at 1:23 AM on November 13, 2012


jaduncan, in that situation the worker gets an advantage from his bosses being sexist. Whether or not he is sexist has no bearing on his success.
posted by Dysk at 1:36 AM on November 13, 2012


Oh this is just great. I reported that rape site too, and just received this mail

"Hi,

Thanks for your recent report of a potential violation on Facebook. After reviewing your report, we were not able to confirm that the specific page you reported violates Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities."
posted by ymgve at 1:37 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


jaduncan, in that situation the worker gets an advantage from his bosses being sexist.

This is somewhat true. But it certainly means that the competing worker is more likely to encourage a sexist atmosphere. It's not like the good old boys club is either unknown or not a source of advantage. I'd also say it's a two way thing, and that it's a created network that makes a gift economy.

Whether or not he is sexist has no bearing on his success.

Because openly challenging the prejudices of people's bosses has historically gone well for them?
posted by jaduncan at 1:43 AM on November 13, 2012


There's a big area between being an out-and-out sexist to openly challenging your bosses' sexism. Quietly disagreeing, for example.
posted by Dysk at 1:45 AM on November 13, 2012


I'm not sure how much quiet and non-threatening disagreement with the patriarchy isn't just accepting that one is benefiting from the privileges of a sexist system enough not to wish to challenge it. Invisible knapsack and all.
posted by jaduncan at 1:57 AM on November 13, 2012


It's how a lot of women get by in workplaces (even if it doesn't help you rise to the top). Passive-aggressive disagreement that doesn't result in calling anyone on anything (particularly if the 'anyone' in question is your boss) strikes me as pretty common with men, too. Beyond that, you might benefit from it without ever being aware of it - I've worked jobs where my (or others') role changed based on the decision of bosses I (or they) had literally never met or spoken to.

I do accept that a whole-hearted endorsement of the ideas ("yes sir!" rather than "..." with eyes firmly on the floor) is more likely to get you some form of rapport and advancement. But it's a little more complex than a 'for it/against it' dichotomy.
posted by Dysk at 2:08 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I...I like my phone company. SIM only, but £10 a month for 250 minutes (UK, so incoming minutes don't count against this), unlimited texts and data. I am aware that this is unusual.

I know exactly the company you're referring to, and frankly the best that can be said about them is that they mean well. Competence on the other hand appears to be something they have at best a passing familiarity with, but it's not as if the competition is all that much better.

On the FaceBook censorship front, it seems that there are a lot of very, very angry men out there who find it incredibly offensive when women speak their minds. Unfortunately, FaceBook responds to 'I am offended' signals more than anything else from the looks of things, so the 'most offended' groups have the most effect. Like many SV companies, FaceBook has chosen to implement a technical solution to a social problem because it's cheap, despite knowing perfectly well that it won't work very well. So long as it works well enough to keep a lid on the flow of bad FaceBook PR then it's working for them & they really don't care (or can't afford to care) about the consequences for anyone else. Proper moderation costs real money & FaceBook doesn't want to spend that money.
posted by pharm at 2:16 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's a hard thing to confront one's own role in reinforcement of prejudice. During this conversation I wondered what the acid test was. My line was asking myself if I'd turn down a job I was offered over a better candidate due to prejudice.

Being absolutely honest, I suspect it would depend how blatant it was; I'd want to believe they saw something in me that wasn't just gender/ethnicity/sexuality (as, I suspect, everyone would). If it was obvious I think I'd have to turn it down in favour of being able to look at myself in the mirror, as I don't view sexism as more acceptable than racism.

I don't think it's a for it/against it split, but I do think that a quiet and tacit acceptance comes close to reinforcement without cheerleading. I'd also say that knowingly benefiting from the sexism of one's bosses is effectively reinforcing a sexist system by benefitting from it.
posted by jaduncan at 2:19 AM on November 13, 2012


I reported that rape site too

Good idea. I just went and did the same. Let's hit it with as many complaints as we can.

(And for everyone about to type 'It won't do any good' - it'll either get it taken down, or it'll put more ignored legitimate complaints on record. The more complaints they ignore, the worse they look, and the worse they look, the more it can be used against them.)
posted by Kit W at 2:56 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Half the time, you wouldn't necessarily be able to say for sure that you were benefitting from sexism. Might well be why you (rather than a female candidate) was offered the position in the first instance. Even if you see that there are few or no new female hires ever, that's hardly damning evidence you can confront anyone with. It's often so insidious and subtle, thinking it's only there when we can see it strikes me as a mistake.
posted by Dysk at 2:56 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you're any kind of leftist, feminist or other activist group you need to learn to deal with these problems.

What about the problems when the people they hire disagree with you? An algorithm is at least dumb enough to work around. If I didn't know better, I'd think that it's impossible to restrict expression without creating power structures that will be gamed, never mind the madness of thinking that the subconscious knows negation, and the wonderful people on the "left" who think free expression is a bourgeois affectation like, say, adequate prenatal care were part of the problem

all talking points itpchat people
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:16 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The 'ludicrous' thing is to make a lordly declaration in the face of this evidence that it's 'garbage' to raise concerns about this. Unless you just don't like feminism being discussed at all, of course.

That actually couldn't be further from the truth. My concern with this is that the article (well, really the headline more than anything) automatically prevents a real and honest discussion of what's happening here. And when words like "systemic" are thrown around based on anecdotal evidence, the discussion becomes too easily discretible.

I don't doubt for a moment that there are countless ways that patriarchy exists and propagates itself both explicitly and implicitly in daily life. And that it's entirely possible that Facebook may even be consciously or unconsciously part of that problem.

But evidence that somewhere in their system foolish decisions on content have been made a handful of times--and I think we all can agree that this entire discussion only revolves a few incidents--hardly provides any legitimate evidence that this is the case.

So I said that it is ludicrous not because I think it's necessarily wrong, but because it levels an extremely serious charge against an incredibly complex system based entirely on anecdote. I didn't mean that the underlying notion is crazy, or that I don't believe that it isn't possible that in reflecting prevailing social norms the company is contributing to the oppression of women in ways large and small.

But again, precisely because those are such important issues; and precisely because that's such a heavy accusation, pointing to individual instances and concluding that the company might "hate all women" is irresponsible at best. There is a litany of possible explanations, and automatically assuming the worst shuts down reasonable discussion.
posted by graphnerd at 5:45 AM on November 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


The bare breast thing reminds me of the livejournal thing of a few years ago, where their administration decided bare boobs were offensive no matter the context and banned icons of breastfeeding. I know Facebook and livejournal are held in different kinds of contempt around here, but to me they're converging over time.
posted by immlass at 7:23 AM on November 13, 2012


One could stop using facebook.

Yeah, the 2nd comment in this thread already established that, as early comments in threads like this always do. But in the real world, Facebook has managed to become the go-to default social network in many countries around the world, as Katallus pointed out above with regard to Iceland:

Almost every Icelander is on Facebook, and a lot of the public discourse and organizing takes place there (like the Saucepan Revolution of 2009 that Marisa Stole the Precious Thing mentioned above). For better or worse, Facebook has become the main medium for public discourse in Iceland on the individual level, so banning people from that medium is a serious deal.

Focusing on ways to make Facebook better - in this case, adding an appeal process to the existing automated moderation, perhaps only with regard to certain troubling subjects Facebook's existing system isn't handling well - is a fair thing to do, and deserves a better response than an easy dismissal and casual acceptance of Facebook as it is.
posted by mediareport at 7:40 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Random anecdata: I have plenty of feminist friends who post plenty of feminist content onto facebook, and I've never once heard them complain about it being arbitrarily deleted or their inability to add new friends. In fact, they often post/share content that is highly critical of facebook's policies towards facebook 'groups' that appear to be misogynistic, and again, never once have those posts been removed.
posted by modernnomad at 8:02 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


precisely because that's such a heavy accusation

Yeah, yeah. It's just TERRIBLE to point out that things are working in a sexist way and question someone's motives based on it. That's almost like calling someone sexist! Which is the worst thing in the world! The worst, I tell you! Sit down and stop pointing out problems until you have proof that nobody, NOBODY could ever possibly deny!

Yeah, right. We'll all just sit down here until the sexists tell us it's okay to stand up.
posted by Kit W at 8:09 AM on November 13, 2012


The reason I brought up my "story", if it wasn't clear, was to point out that the way platforms handle this kind of thing is pretty arbitrary and it really is a hard problem. It seems really unlikely Facebook is intentionally suppressing certain voices. The far more likely explanation is that their abuse system, which depends on a lot of automated processes and cannot reasonably involve humans in most cases, is easier to game than the systems on other sites. Since there are active groups of people who feel it's their mission in life to keep the feminists in their place (see also, the way the skepchicks are treated), a platform as large as Facebook with a relatively easily gameable abuse-reporting system will *necessarily* result in seemingly large numbers of people feeling like they are being unfairly suppressed for their ideas. If enough complain publicly, it starts to look like a pattern. Generally, we prefer to blame bad things on the active intent of organizations or individuals rather than accepting that sometimes it happens thru a confluence of individual actions that are either of harmful or neutral intent but work out to something larger.
posted by R343L at 8:27 AM on November 13, 2012


What I find most offensive is that Facebook has bent to the will of the puritan minority in the US and decided that pictures of certain parts of the human anatomy are forbidden, while just about any utterance is fine. I don't perceive an anti-feminist stance so much as a cowardly anti-naughty-bits stance coupled with a cowardly try-to-avoid-terrorist-reprisal stance. My teen-age nephew routinely links to the most foul-mouthed Facebook pages with some really ugly sentiments, but thank jeebus he can't find any nekkid women or men on there. (There's the rest of the Interwebs for that, I guess.)
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:41 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


localroger brought up the recent Reddit creepshots debacle, which I think is an interesting parallel. It seems like Facebook didn't hesitate to take down certain feminist posts because "naming and shaming" is expressly forbidden in the Terms of Service. Other offensive stuff, like rape jokes and hate speech, stays up if it's popular enough. (I'm sure that some of that stuff does get removed, but stuff like rape joke pages with hundreds of subscribers aren't going away based on anecdata here, in the article, and elsewhere.) Preserving anonymity is a high priority at Reddit, so they similarly crack down on anything that describes the identity or actions of individuals.

Even when the content that's exposed is offensive, vitriolic, Stuff Nobody Thinks Is Okay (death threats, rape threats, etc.), and even when users are posting this stuff publicly under their real names, the right to not be "named and shamed" seems to be a higher priority for the administrators of these communities. In my opinion, this also parallels the debate about Jezebel's handling of some racist teen tweets over in the gargantuan election thread.

So it's kind of pushback against destructive, hurtful speech (There Will Be Consequences For Being Such A Total Asswipe) vs. you can't just sling those accusations and consequences around because Free Speech (Asswipe Or Not, We All Deserve Some Degree Of Privacy). I know it is a lot more nuanced than that; but nuance, like computers and fair 'n' just community moderation, is DIFFICULT and CHALLENGING.

Also, I like to imagine Facebook sending most workaday reports of inappropriate content through the All-Purpose Moderation Machine, but every time a photo of a human breast or maybe nipple is posted, a situation room full of highly-trained operatives gets set to RED ALERT until that mastectomy smut or baby-feeding smut is eliminated.
posted by King, in the hall of the mountain at 8:50 AM on November 13, 2012


srboisvert: "One thing I do know for sure is that facebook hates "Most Recent"."

Social Fixer will fix that, block Facebook ads, and do other neat stuff.
posted by exogenous at 9:48 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate facebook with a passion, but I can understand them not wanting to allow nude pictures, surgery scars, and screenshots of other people's mean posts which will inevitably keep the hateful comments coming. They aren't responsible for the standards set by the society that came before them.
posted by hellslinger at 10:09 AM on November 13, 2012


Mental Wimp: "What I find most offensive is that Facebook has bent to the will of the puritan minority in the US and decided that pictures of certain parts of the human anatomy are forbidden, while just about any utterance is fine. I don't perceive an anti-feminist stance so much as a cowardly anti-naughty-bits stance coupled with a cowardly try-to-avoid-terrorist-reprisal stance. My teen-age nephew routinely links to the most foul-mouthed Facebook pages with some really ugly sentiments, but thank jeebus he can't find any nekkid women or men on there. (There's the rest of the Interwebs for that, I guess.)"

Huh. I have a couple of friends that are terrifyingly good at finding amazingly explicit stuff on there. (And I'm talking stuff like kneeling girl from behind with unpeeled banana inserted in girl parts, although that is the worst I have seen to date.)
posted by Samizdata at 12:36 PM on November 13, 2012


I've also reported the rape page linked in the article. Even if the FB system is set up so that it only responds to complaints, surely they must have received enough complaints about that site by now to warrant taking it down! I can't imagine anyone even trying to counter that the page is blatantly misogynist.

I do think that, in passionately stating the case that FB either "hates all women" or "just feminists", the author of this piece leaves out some important information, though.

For instance, Facebook rules state that you have to request permission from Facebook to repost screencaps, which requires you to fill out a Permission to Repost Request Form in addition to getting written permission from the original poster:

"Permission to use a standard, unaltered screenshot from Facebook must be granted. To make a request, please use our Permission Request Form."

So by reposting the death threat against her, Hildur Lilliendahl was, technically, breaking the community guidelines.

That's a minor omission, though, because it isn't just that Lilliendahl was suspended from FB, It's that there was a death threat made against her and nothing was done about that. Death threats are, without ambiguation, against FB rules. The death threat maker should have been banned from Facebook, and a formal apology made to Hildur. Neither occurred. Whether that's due to misogyny or comprehension fail on FB's part, I don't know, but it reflects poorly on them either way.

The author of this article left out pretty relevant information about herself too, though, and I do have a problem with that, because I don't think that information is a minor omission. As support that FB hates all women/feminists, she writes:

I am currently blocked for 60 days from making comments on other pages, although I was not given a specific reason why.

I am also blocked from making friend requests for 30 days.


That sounded insanely oppressive to me--but also a bit fishy. I've never even heard of a 60 day ban before.

So I looked at the author, Trista Hendren's, Facebook page and that clarified the situation a little more for me. She is not merely a feminist but an activist for other causes, and a prolific Facebook poster. I imagine some of her other stances also offended FB users, not just her sex or feminist credentials.

Some examples: She linked to a YouTube video for Rachel Corrie, a Palestinian activist killed by Israeli defense forces, earlier this month. The Palestine/Israeli conflict is a volatile issue even on Metafilter; I can imagine just mentioning that got her some unwanted attention. There's also links from al-jazeera.com, calls for immediate retreat by the US-NATO forces from Afghanistan, climate change and veganism--she's pretty much a leftist activist--and that's all just in the last two weeks alone. As a liberal democrat living in a conservative area, I can attest that any one of those issues could bring out the haters every bit as much as the feminist standpoints she takes. Repeated reporting, leading to repeated take downs and timeouts due to FB's automated reporting system, might explain the excessive restrictions on her FB account.

So I agree that FB looks really bad here and that there's a lot of problems with the way they handle moderation. And I definitely agree that some of that directly hurts women, like the case with Hildur and the Arab Uprising women.

But I'm not sure, as others have said, if we are dealing with systemic misogyny or just systemic incompetence coupled with a poorly designed and implemented reporting system.
posted by misha at 8:58 PM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Make your point without the racial slurs please.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:37 AM on November 14, 2012


Sorry, I'll retype that with the word bleeped:

Saying "Yeah, yeah. It's just TERRIBLE to point out that things are working in a sexist way and question someone's motives based on it. That's almost like calling someone sexist! Which is the worst thing in the world! The worst, I tell you! Sit down and stop pointing out problems until you have proof that nobody, NOBODY could ever possibly deny! Yeah, right. We'll all just sit down here until the sexists tell us it's okay to stand up." in response to someone saying you shouldn't jump to the worst possible conclusion is like saying "I don't hate n*****s" in response to someone saying you shouldn't be racist. It doesn't convince the person that they're wrong and you're right, it just serves as evidence that they were, in fact, right all along.
posted by Bugbread at 7:55 AM on November 14, 2012


Related: Why did Facebook censor this photograph?
posted by immlass at 6:02 PM on November 14, 2012


Related: Why did Facebook censor this photograph?

That was a really weird read. I was nodding my head along with it until I got to the point that they talked about Facebook's "role as a forum for free speech." It seems like that article strongly implies that these were the actions of a few moderators from countries with different standards for things like "what is offensive" instead of, for example, people following a tightly scripted set of guidelines with no room for the fact that one person's political expression is almost by definition offensive to another person. From later in the article

"It's only normal that Facebook, which has penetrated the whole globe, hires employees from all over the world with various religious and cultural backgrounds," she says. "This becomes problematic only when those employees favor their cultural and religious biases over Facebook's policy of respecting freedom of expression."

Facebook's global reach has very little to do with why they have hired people from "around the globe" They have hired people form other countries because they can get them to work for a dollar an hour and are allowed very little freedom to make executive decisions. Anything requiring judgment appears to have to be handled by an actual facebook employee. Which makes this entire thing so vexing. At some point through this series of cascading mistakes, if you believe their explanation, someone who is actually not an outsourced person made a judgment call and that judgment call was wrong.

I'm not expecting one of those "the people responsible for this have been sacked" message, but some sort of understanding that the system that they have is not sufficiently transparent and does not seem to function in some cases would have been nice.
posted by jessamyn at 6:25 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Telegraph posted two articles about the Hildur Lilliendahl case this morning:

"Facebook has banned an Icelandic woman from the social networking site after took a screen grab of a death threat another user made against her and reposted it on her own profile."

And then there's an interview with her. Excerpt:
She doesn’t understand why some regard her as “too radical” in her approach. “What I’m doing is not radical—I’m just re-posting the internet on the internet. Every comment on the album has already been made publicly. I’m not taking it from a friend’s news feed or a private conversation.”

This is not the first time Facebook has been accused of censorship of feminist content: one page dedicated to “radical self-love and body empowerment” was suspended after posting a photograph of tribal women in Senegal with their breasts visible.

“I don’t think Facebook is being consciously sexist,” says Hildur. “For a page to be shut down, it has to be reported, and I don’t think they follow up and research these reports properly.”
posted by Kattullus at 3:11 AM on November 16, 2012


Facebook won't remove photo of woman "begging to be raped"
posted by homunculus at 9:13 AM on November 18, 2012


Clicked the link homunculus posted. Looks like they have removed it now?
posted by jessamyn at 9:17 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wrote about the Hildur Lilliendahl case for The Reykjavík Grapevine (there isn't that much new info, though I can tell you that since that article went to print, she got rebanned for reasons I don't know).
posted by Kattullus at 4:39 AM on December 10, 2012


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