Facebook’s Questionable Policy on Violent Content Toward Women

Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities offers numerous guidelines regarding appropriate speech and user safety, including an admonition that “you will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user” and that “you will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”

But that hasn’t stopped countless users on the social media site from making comments, posting images and starting pages that promote the rape and abuse of women. And in many cases, it doesn’t mean that Facebook has any intention of stopping them, either.

Around Christmastime, an Icelandic woman named T. A. came across a Facebook page titled “controversial humor – men are better than women,” and after bantering back and forth with a user whom she describes as a “troll,” she soon found herself staring back at a photo of herself posted on the wall. Her user image had been Photoshopped to look like she had been beaten, with a caption in Icelandic stating, “women are like grass, they need to be beaten/cut regularly.”

“You just need to be raped,” the commenter told Agustsdottir.

Agustsdottir reported the image to Facebook, tagging it as “graphic violence.” A few hours later she received a notice that the image did not meet the criteria for removal.

She reported the image several more times over a period of 24 hours, along with numerous other users, and all received the same response: “This photo wasn’t removed.” Finally, on New Year’s Eve — more than two days after her initial report — Agustsdottir contacted an Icelandic media outlet, DV.is, that broke the story, and it was soon picked up by other Icelandic news sources.

“To my great relief my countrymen responded swiftly and jumped on the Icelandic ‘report train’ – fortunately, there is no stopping the report train once it leaves the station,” Agustsdottir explained in an online account of the incident.

The next day, says Agustsdottir, the image disappeared — removed either by Facebook or by the user — and not long afterwards the page itself was gone. Hours after the page was removed, Agustsdottir received yet another response to a report saying Facebook did not see anything actionable in its content.

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