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Facebook Pledges Action After Sexism Campaign

Facebook has vowed to clamp down on postings and pages that promote violence and sexism against women

On by Tom Jowitt 0

Facebook has promised swift action after campaigners raised concerns over its content vetting policies surrounding violence and sexism against women.

Last week the group “Women, Action & The Media” published an open letter to Facebook, asking why moderators at the social networking giant had removed pictures of breast feeding mothers, yet allowed “groups, pages and images that explicitly condone or encourage rape or domestic violence or suggest that they are something to laugh or boast about.”

Domestic violence

The pressure group said that Facebook had not removed images of beaten, bruised, tied up, drugged and bleeding women from its network, and highlighted a number of Facebook pages that encouraged violence against women.

Facebook broken

The campaign proved highly successful after 15 companies, including Nationwide UK and Nissan UK, pulled their Facebook adverts in response, because of the danger of their adverts appearing alongside such offensive material.

Similar petitions on Change.org also gained more than 200,000 signatures.

Facebook has reacted quickly to the campaign and promised to take action.

“Recently there has been some attention given to Facebook’s content policy,” wrote Facebook’s VP of global public policy, Marne Levine. “The current concern, voiced by Women, Action and The Media, The Everyday Sexism Project, and the coalition they represent, has focused on content that targets women with images and content that threatens or incites gender-based violence or hate.”

Levine admitted that Facebook’s policies were not working and promised change.

“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,” she wrote. “In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want. In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria.

“We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards. We need to do better – and we will.”

Policy Changes

Facebook’s Levine promised the company would update its guidelines on user reports of hate speech. Facebook is even soliciting feedback and input from legal experts and anti-discrimination campaigners so that its guidelines reflect best practices.

Facebook also said it would revamp training for its moderators and would “increase the accountability of the creators of content that does not qualify as actionable hate speech but is cruel or insensitive.”

The firm pledged to create more formal and direct lines of communications with representatives of groups working in this area, including women’s organisations. It also said it would encourage the Anti-Defamation League’s Anti-Cyberhate working group and other international working groups that it currently works with to identify ways to balance these concerns with freedom of expression.

“These are complicated challenges and raise complex issues,” concluded Levine. “Our recent experience reminds us that we can’t answer them alone. Facebook is strongest when we are engaging with the Facebook community over how best to advance our mission. We’ll also continue to expand our outreach to responsible groups and experts who can help and support us in our efforts to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”

This is not the first time Facebook has been criticised for its policies. It has regularly faced criticism over changes to its privacy policies and how it handles personal information.

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Tom Jowitt
Author: Tom Jowitt
Freelance TechWeek Reporter
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