I reckon Facebook annoys most of its users from time to time. The surreptitious changes to your privacy settings, the new timeline, the relentless push towards a ‘share everything’ mindset. Until this week, my own bugbear was the insistent promptings to add my favourite films and books every time I log in on a pc. Facebook had even come up with some helpful suggestions (Dirty Dancing and Twilight), making me wonder if they think I am, in fact, a 14-year old girl.
Until now I’ve put up with these irritations because I have friends, family and colleagues on Facebook, and I’m mildly nosy. I like to see what they’re up to. Granted, there is the odd boring picture (I don’t need to see your dinner!) that doesn’t improve the quality of my life, but generally it’s worth it.
Today I deactivated my Facebook account. The #FBrape campaign of the last week made me re-think Facebook – what it stands for, and whether or not I want it in my life.
On the plus side, Facebook has very carefully defined its own parameters of what it deems to be acceptable behaviour. There is a ‘like’ button, but no ‘dislike’ button, because Facebook is meant to be a positive, sociable place. And it ostensibly does “not permit hate speech based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition”.
So far, so good. Where Facebook falls down is its inability (or unwillingness) to actually enforce its own standards. In my Twitter feed this week I’ve come across a plethora of vile images that have been reported to Facebook, including: a female child with two black eyes, a woman tied up, gagged and crying, and various pictures of girls who look unconscious, covered in blood. Facebook’s sanctimonious response has been a refusal to remove most of this content, because it is classified as ‘humour’.
One of the pages was apparently called ‘fly kicking sluts in the uterus’. I wonder if it would have been taken down if it was called ‘fly kicking pakis in the face’? I suspect it would have been – because racist content is rightly removed from Facebook as soon as it reported, which is where the raging inconsistency comes in. Race and gender are covered by the same clause in Facebook’s own standards – so either both racist and misogynistic content is not OK, or both are considered humour and tolerated. You can’t apply one rule for one and not the other.
Then there’s their other piece of inconsistent, anti-female behaviour: routinely removing pictures of women who’ve had mastectomies. You can’t share a picture of a woman who has bravely overcome breast cancer (because that’s offensive) but you can share a picture of gagged, crying rape victim (because that’s funny). To me, this just speaks volumes for the contemptuous view the company has of women.
To date, Facebook has yet to respond to the open letter, signed by 40 organisations, calling for hate speech against women to be recognised and moderated. They must assume that users are so hooked on their daily Facebook fix that they’ll overlook a small matter like gender-inspired hate speech.
I know that as only one person, deactivating my account will be a non-event for Facebook. But I want to make the gesture anyway – because I refuse to be part of a network that routinely trivialises violence against women.