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Facebook: Page advocating murder of feminist blogger “doesn’t violate our community standard on bullying and harassment.”

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Several months ago, you may recall, feminist activists got Facebook to agree to remove blatant sexist hate speech from its site — much to the chagrin of many Men’s Rights Activists, like Paul Elam of A Voice for Men, who declared, in a post filled with alarmist rhetoric, that “feminist ideologues are co-opting Facebook, and they will root out any and all opposition to their worldview.” AVFM’s John Hembling, meanwhile, denounced the feminist activists as “fascists.”

Ever since then, Men’s Rights activists have been playing a game of “gotcha” with Facebook, trying to prove that the hate-speech monitors there only care about misogynist hate speech, and don’t actually care about hate speech directed at men. Every few days, it seems, there is a new thread in the Men’s Rights subreddit purporting to document this alleged “double standard.”

Ten days ago, for example, a Men’s Rights Redditor called dizzy_j got nearly 400 upvotes for a post complaining that “I reported three anti-men Facebook pages for gender-based hate speech today. Only one was removed.”  Six days ago,  DerDietrich got 580 upvotes for submitting this supposed evidence of a double standard. Trouble is, you can’t actually prove a double standard with a handful of examples.

But I would like to suggest an alternate hypothesis, which also fits the anecdotal data provided thus far by the MRAs, and provide an additional piece of anecdotal evidence that supports my theory and undercuts theirs.

My hypothesis is that Facebook is shitty at recognizing and dealing with hate speech and harassment, no matter whom it’s aimed at.

My evidence for this? Well, yesterday bloggers at Skepchick noticed a Facebook page targeting a specific feminist/skeptic blogger and asking if she “should … be murdered.” The anonymous poster — who identified her by name and posted pictures of her on the page — coyly avoided a literal call for murder, writing instead:

We should not ever break the law. Rather, we should advocate , through lawful land constitutional processes, to have the law changed so that it is legal to kill [name redacted by DF]. Alternatively, we should, where legal, request that [name redacted by DF] kill herself. Relevant laws should be changed so that suicide, and advocating suicide, is legal.

The Skepchick bloggers reported the page to Facebook for its obvious violations of the site’s harassment policies.

And they received this reply from Facebook (I’ve covered up the blogger’s name):

facebookharassnoteREdact

I think it’s fair to say that if Facebook can’t recognize a page calling for the literal murder of someone as harassment there is something very wrong with its system for dealing with harassment and hate speech.

The page has since been taken down, though it’s not clear if it was removed by Facebook or by the original anonymous Facebooker.

Get your act together, Facebook.

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Xanthë
7 years ago

The page skirted around the absolute edge of legality, but it is a clear piece of bullying and harassment and shouldn’t have been needed to be interpreted as a de jure threat to be pulled. On Twitter one of the Facebook employees basically dismissed the page as ‘not a threat’, but that’s sort of the point – the page tried to get as calculatedly close to inciting an act of murder without actually doing so, against a named woman. A friend responded that the Facebook guy must be on crack not to have seen the bleeding obvious.

eseldbosustow
7 years ago

Another reason why I’m not on Facebook anymore.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
7 years ago

They really should just be honest and make “Fuck you, ladies!” the new Facebook slogan.

hellkell
hellkell
7 years ago

“Fuck you, ladies!” would certainly be an improvement. I don’t know why FB and Twitter are so slow to deal with this kind of shit. Are all the employees checking this stuff out men?

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
7 years ago

My guess would be that they see the complaint come in, go “oh, it’s those feminists whining again”, and automatically dismiss it. So the answer to your question is “yes”, but insert “stupid, sexist, techie” in front of “men”.

(I’ve worked in the industry, can you tell?)

sarahlizhousespouse
7 years ago

The FTBlogger has written about her history of suicidal ideation. I doubt that the creators of the FB page are unfamiliar with her history as the page calls to legalize “advocating suicide”. They are attempting to trigger her.

CriticalDragon1177 (@CriticalDragon1)

David Futrelle

How does this not qualify as bullying or harassment? Also we know full well what MRAs would be doing if a woman from a prominent feminist organization posted something on Face Book calling for the murder of an MRA

Argenti Aertheri
7 years ago

Extra annoying, advocating for suicide in general is usually legal. Google results for suicide methods have a crisis hotline number and then *gasp* pages on how to do it! And anyone not under a rock knows that physican assisted suicide isn’t some illegal to discuss topic.

No guys, it’s telling people that they, personally, should commit suicide that’s the problem. You want to, say, discuss the details of various poisoning methods? Yeah there’s internet space for that.

(This is not commentary on whether I think there should be said space, my thoughts on suicide, nor anything else besides a case of BUT THEY’RE WRONG)

cloudiah
7 years ago

I remember reading an article about how FB deals with complaints like this; it wasn’t very informative, but what was interesting was all the comments from people both describing content that very clearly violated FB’s guidelines but that still wasn’t taken down, and relating stories of relatively innocuous content that got people temporarily or permanently banned.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
7 years ago

This is Facebook.

Murder threats – sure, why not?
Pictures of babies being breastfed – OMFG that’s offensive, how dare you post it?

cloudiah
7 years ago

They’re also apparently more willing to leave up graphically violent content (videos and such) if it depicts violence committed against dark-skinned people in developing countries.

SittieKitty
7 years ago

This is Facebook.

Murder threats – sure, why not?
Pictures of babies being breastfed – OMFG that’s offensive, how dare you post it?

Well, it’s more:

Murder threats against women – sure why not?
Pictures of women’s breasts in a non-sexualized manner – OMFG that’s offensive, how dare you post it?

I’m seeing a theme develop here…

Ashley
7 years ago

I know of someone who wrote racist statements in status messages where ONE person complained and his profile was immediately terminated, on the spot, without question. If they take racism so seriously, why not sexism or hate speech directed against women?

MaudeLL
7 years ago

This is clear evidence of the profound impact the AVfM Toronto rally had on our culture. Just a couple weeks ago, Facebook was soaking in misandry. Now they are starting to listen to men’s humans rights activists and provide a platform to personally threaten individual feminists.

Christopher Gauthier
7 years ago

I found out about this last night from Pharyngula and immediately reported it. Like everyone else, I got the message that there wasn’t anything wrong with the page. Minutes later it was announced on the comment thread that the link to the page redirected to the Facebook home screen, which it still does. Everyone assumes this meant the page was removed.

I think it’s rather obvious that the original message from Facebook is automatic and when a certain threshold is reached the page is taken down for further review. What’s shitty is that Facebook quietly disappears these things and pretends they never told outraged users that harassment is A-OK with them.

The funny thing in all this is that MRAs think they are proving some point about hypocrisy when one random guy can’t make a Fb page disappear. All they are really proving is that they’re anti-social jerks with a small following and an inability to coordinate their efforts.

kittehserf
7 years ago

Which is why I refer to Facebook’s founder as Fuckerberg and one of many reasons I’ll have nothing to do with his disgusting site.

genderneutrallanguage
7 years ago

Wow, you made a real point with real evidence presented in a responsible manner. Facebook isn’t failing at removing feminist hate speech, they are failing at removing hate speech. This includes all sorts of hate speech, not just the feminists hate speech. Keep it up and you may turn into something more than just a feminist puppet.

hellkell
hellkell
7 years ago

Shut up, GNL, no one cares what you think.

Argenti Aertheri
7 years ago

Oh great, look who’s here. Show of hands, who gives a shit about GNL’s opinion?

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
7 years ago

My cat is snoring, which is cool, since I needed something to wake me up after GNL’s babble.

emilygoddess
emilygoddess
7 years ago

Has anyone ever done a serious study of how Facebook responds to hate speech complaints? Like, with stats showing the frequency of types of response and comparing them based on the type of content they’re responding to? It seems like all anyone has to offer is anecdotes, and while the overall picture seems to show Facebook having wonky priorities (misogyny yes, breastfeeding no), I’d like to see a thorough, cite-able study.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
7 years ago

It seems like they don’t have much of an internal policy, or if they do staff aren’t following it, they’re just kind of deciding things based on whatever the biases of the individual staff member who responds are. Which is a shitty way to run a company.

Athywren
Athywren
7 years ago

I always have to wonder… who are these guys talking to when they post things like that here? I mean, clearly it’s important to remind themselves that believing that women are humans is wildly irrational, but… huh?

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
7 years ago

You mean GNL? I figure leaving comments on feminist blogs is the only situation in which he’s able to get women to pay any attention to him.

Athywren
Athywren
7 years ago

I was pretty amused by the “OMG FASCISTS!” response when the original move to get facebook to treat hate speech as hate speech was going on. “Aaah! Feminists are trying to steal my free speech and stopping me from abusing people for no good reason! That’s even worse than Hitler!!” It’s funny, because there already was, at least as far as I’m aware, a policy of restricting abusive speech – I’m quite sure of it, because I fell prey to that policy when I once suggested that an empty tomb didn’t really prove much. (Yes, I’m that much of a monster.) So it seemed to me, at the time, that all they were calling for was a rational and consistent application of that policy.

I think, and stop me if you’ve heard this one, various MRAs of the lurkosphere, that it would be far better to actually keep pressure on facebook to apply that policy rationally and consistently, rather than finding the few occasions where it’s going against you and ever-so-rationally concluding that, “therefore feminism has a stranglehold and men are chattel.”

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
7 years ago

Don’t be silly. If social media isn’t for bullying women, why does it even exist?

Catfish
Catfish
7 years ago

I once reported facebook pages that posted creep shots, and openly admitted that they wanted “no selfies” – just images of other people they had taken and were more than happy to post images, including nudes, of minors. I do believe they specifically asked for nudes – it was even in their page name.

I don’t mind nudes, but they should be consensually posted, which the creep shot pages clearly did not care for. And, in case of FB, not sexual or sexualized in context. Nobody should be posting images of minors.

One of the sites had a nude picture of a 17-year old boy with an erection. Not sure if it was posted with his consent or not. At least one site had panty shot of a little girl.

there was a discussion started by some young woman, where she said that their content was creepy, and in a lot of cases illegal or against FB terms, and said she reported it. The admins responded by removing all the images and REPOSTING THEM ON A NEW PAGE which they named in an almost identical way. They were also dumb enough to state on their original page that the images had been moved and a new site created.

I reported the sites, got no response about the other one as far as I can remember. (Both had their images removed while I filed the report) but the other one still had the young man’s image up. FB responded by telling me that the page had no content which violated facebook’s rules.

Uh-huh. That’s nice.

Athywren
Athywren
7 years ago

Don’t be silly. If social media isn’t for bullying women, why does it even exist?

Up until a year ago, I thought it was for universally accusing atheists of having on morals, and Catholics of being child molesters? Oh, and talking about Button Moon.

Alice Sanguinaria
7 years ago

Facebook: where it’s okay to call for the death of people you don’t like, but where it’s not okay to post a picture of your post-mastectomy tattoo and a message of hope. Good job.

Makes me happier to have deactivated my account on there now.

cloudiah
7 years ago

I think I’ve posted this video here before, or seen it here at least, but I just stumbled across it again and it still makes me laugh:

Viscaria
Viscaria
7 years ago

I’ve always wanted to be a feminist Muppet. I’d do back-up vocals for Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem, and take Animal for walks.

kittehserf
7 years ago

Facebook: where a picture of a woman’s elbow that can be (briefly) mistaken for her nipple is banned, but calls for women to be raped and murdered are a-okay.

AK
AK
7 years ago

I have read that Facebook outsources their moderation work to poorly-paid people in developing nations (I don’t remember exactly which one, sorry). I’ve read speculation that it’s the reason for a lot of the seemingly random enforcement–a combination of lack of training, low pay and cultural differences.

I’m not sure of that, though, and feeling too lazy to do more than a cursory Google for it (which just brought up the claim on some blogs), so please take this with a huge grain of salt.

And of course, it doesn’t justify anything–if anything, it makes it worse because you’d think such a profitable company would be able to figure out a system with consistent standards and well-treated workers (haha I know, but I’m an optimist). It’s just a possible explanation for some of the more bizarre choices.

baileyrenee
7 years ago

Another reason why I’m not on Facebook anymore.

I was thinking the same thing. I had a profile on and off for a couple years (I kept deactivating it), and it’s been about a year since I completely deleted it. Never looked back. It’s a crap site.

With all the garbage on YouTube now, this is starting to be the only site I enjoy going to.

AK
AK
7 years ago

I am on Facebook, and I often think about quitting it but ultimately it’s my main regular contact with several very close friends (the kind you can not actually talk to for a year because you’re both wildly busy and on totally different schedules, and then go on a road trip which basically is you being trapped in a pickup truck together for 36 hours and still not have any awkwarndness or ever run out of things to talk about…yes, that actually happened; we had about 5 hours of sleep in between the two 18-hour drives!) and with a lot of extended family who I don’t really care to have a closer relationship with, but it provides a convenient way to share pictures and keep them updated enough that I don’t hear about it at the rare family reunion I attend. 😉 It’s really valuable to me, as problematic as it is as well.

AK
AK
7 years ago

Er, that was supposed to say “awkwardness.” I didn’t get a red squiggly under “awkwarndness” for some reason…

MrFancyPants
MrFancyPants
7 years ago

The facebook employee who went to twitter to defend allowing the page to stay up was a real hoot, too: he complained about being “fitted for a cross” by those of us asking how he could possibly support a company providing a platform for people to “jokingly” discuss murdering a college student. Because yeah, asshole, your tender feelings getting bruised on twitter is so much more the REAL issue that we need to discuss, not the fears of the actual victim or the despicable “ethics” of facebook.

*spit*

kittehserf
7 years ago

AK – awkwarndness should be a word. It sounds like a type of bird call, the awk warn(ing). Awkwarndness might be the bird equivalent of crying wolf.

katz
7 years ago

Ah, the endless suffering of people who act like dicks and then get pushback for it. Truly the moral issue of our age.

kittehserf
7 years ago

There aren’t enough tiny violins for them. I just hope dudebro tears are happening.

Threadrupt! since the open thread seems moribund.

The Mick Aston

Memorial

Coat (complete with cat)

Buttercup Q. Skullpants
Buttercup Q. Skullpants
7 years ago

Facebook outsources its moderation to a company called oDesk, which pays people in third world countries $1 an hour to sift through an enormous number of complaints (around 250,000 per hour). For that dollar, they have to sift through a lot of whinging (“This fish looks like male genitalia and I have small children who might see it”; “I don’t think God would allow this”; etc.) but also really, really horrific acts (TW) – beheadings, mutilations, child molestation, war crimes, bestiality, necrophilia, all the sewage of the world. They probably spend an average of about 5 seconds evaluating each complaint. It takes a huge psychological toll on them. Turnover is frequent.

They’re directed to escalate a complaint only if there is specific intent to harm mentioned, e.g. “I’m going to stab so-and-so at the frat party on Friday”. Vague threats automatically get ignored.

Facebook needs to find a better way to deal directly with cyber-bulling, harassment, and stochastic terrorism. A few hundred underpaid staffers in Marrakesh can’t possibly stem the overwhelming tide of garbage.

Catfish
Catfish
7 years ago

@ buttercup

Yeah I’ve read of that too. Seen an article of one such worker calling for users to really think if what they are about to report is absolutely deserving of it, because screening has saved lives and going through useless gibberish can and has wasted enough precious seconds to have lead to someone’s death. There have been a number of cases where these report screeners have called the authorities when stumbling upon an alarming enough case.

It’s all really disturbing.
The reason I believe the pages I reported didn’t cause any action to take part was because
1. the images were swiftly removed once one of the people reporting them announced her intentions to the group
2. the new version did not have much material in it at the time, apart from the male nude which was easy to miss, since it wasn’t there on the front page

Facebook really needs to invest more in the system. It’s not a happy place to be due to the content.
I also dislike the entire system used for reporting is lacking imho.

The whole job is very unpleasant for the screeners, and the pay is shit too. I can imagine that many would bail out because of that just because of the emotional pressure / douchebaggery that is abound. Not to mention the wasted time for the pointless reports…

lionicle
7 years ago

I wonder if they even view the pages that are reported. It’s so obvious by the titles of most of these reported pages that they’re hate speech and harassment. It’s so infuriating.

kittehserf
7 years ago

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Facebook operates this way. Zuckerberg’s been pretty open in his contempt for the people using it; they’re the suckers, the losers, the source of income for him. They’re the product, not the customers. When the company owner is a piece of shit, it’s to be expected the whole setup will stink.

SittieKitty
7 years ago

I can’t even imagine that kind of job. I chose my job because it while it’s medical it’s all about life and health instead of death and disease, I couldn’t imagine having to deal with that all the time.

SittieKitty
7 years ago

Sidenote: OMFG I LOVE YOUR COAT kitteh!!

cloudiah
7 years ago

Kitteh, the coat (with or without the attendant cat) turned out wonderfully. How long did it take you?

kittehserf
7 years ago

::preens::

Thank ‘ee, ladies! 🙂

It took 26 days. Mind you, some of those days were eat, sleep, knit, and not a lot else!

Of course I had help. Fribs was quite sure there was no reason I couldn’t have her on my lap, on the coat, while I was sewing the seams. Humans are so unreasonable.

sarahlizhousespouse
7 years ago

I wish it were cold where I live, so I could snuggle up in a nice coat just like that.

Argenti Aertheri
7 years ago

“This fish looks like male genitalia and I have small children who might see it”

*dies* don’t get your kids fish! They might see them MATE!! (Note from the serious department, get your kids fish, not goldfish, not a bowl, but a small tank with proper filter and some tetras or cories…you’ll probably get to explain how eggs got there and how baby fish are made and holy shit is that less awkward than waiting until puberty and talking about human sex! [Check that the fish store will take any offspring before you do this, unless you want to just set up a tank big enough to keep them…or let the parents eat the eggs…])

On topic! People seriously report shit like that? No wonder it takes a mass effort to get FB to pay attention for even five minutes. And I somehow doubt it would be hard to do the complaint coding so that if the same thing gets X complaints it automatically gets escalated.

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