Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Facebook's Rape Pages

Dear Fred,

My honest reaction to your belief that a page like “It’s NOT rape, simply free sex” deserves freedom of speech is: horrified.

This is magnified by the fact that many feminist pages and breast feeding images are being censored, taken down and/or suspended while these pro-rape pages are allowed to stay up despite hundreds of reports. This is quite hypocritical and seems to be coming from a place of deep denial about what is actually going on here: Facebook’ penchant for favoring rape culture over women's empowerment.

Apparently, Facebook's policies can be summarized as the following:

Written words, memes and photos advocating violence against minorities:  Hate speech, harmful and will be deleted.
Written words, memes, and photos advocating violence against disabled people:  Hate speech, harmful and will deleted.
Written words, memes, and photos advocating violence against immigrants:  Hate speech, harmful and will be deleted. 

Written words, memes, and photos advocating violence against animals:  Hate speech, harmful and will be deleted.
Written words, memes and photos advocating violence against people of different religions:  Hate speech, harmful and will be deleted.
Written words, memes and photos advocating violence against people who are gay and transgender:  Hate speech, harmful and will be deleted.
Written words, memes and photos advocating violence against women:  Free speech, not harmful and will be enabled, supported and defended in every way possible while hiding behind the First Amendment. 

Facebook's "rape pages" violate their own terms of agreement because they organize or lead to real world violence by contributing to rape culture.  Facebook's rape pages are propaganda, which desensitize people to sexual violence and diminish its impact in the real world. 

Propaganda does have an impact on attitudes and behavior. 

It's hypocritical to delete pages that pertain to sexual violence towards children, but support and defend pages that pertain to sexual violence towards women. 

By your own admission, women are a protected category of people because of the inclusion of "gender" in the following statement:  "We interpret hateful content to mean direct attacks on any protected category of people (based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease)."  Facebook's rape pages attack a protected group—women.

It's true that rape can happen to both men and women. However, Facebook's rape pages aren't about the rape of men; they predominantly focus their attention on the rape of women.  Moreover, only 3% of rape victims are men, so rape disproportionately affects women.

Why are pages about sexual violence towards children deleted, but pages about sexual violence towards women supported and defended? Isn't sexual violence towards women just as wrong as sexual violence towards children? 

I assume that you are deleting pages that advocate sexual violence against children because they represent a direct threat of harm to children.  Why is sexual violence towards children not considered protected speech and considered to be a direct threat of harm, but sexual violence towards women is “humor “and protected speech and not a direct threat of harm?  Isn't sexual violence of any kind a crime,  no matter who the victim is? 

Why is one less of a "direct threat to harm" than the other?   Facebook is not applying its policies consistently. If you came across a Facebook page that advocated  slipping roofies into the drinks of toddlers to make it easier to rape them, and made a bunch of jokes about raping children, you would not ask them to insert a (Controversial Humor) disclaimer in their title.  You would delete the page.  But when you come across a page that advocates doing the same exact things to women, you will enable, support and defend that page while proudly proclaiming that everyone has the right to free speech, as long as they are advocating violence against women and not anyone else. 

You cited the fact that comedians have had rape jokes in the past, using that precedent as a justification for maintaining and enabling rape pages on Facebook.  However, there is also a precedent for rape jokes being removed from the internet, also.  Here's a good example of an online organization self-censoring "rape jokes" in response to public protest.

You might check out RAINN-  the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.  None of the organizations you mentioned focus on helping rape victims.  RAINN is one of the largest organizations providing support to rape victims.

Marne Levine writes, "We strive to provide a platform where people can share, connect, and express themselves freely, while still respecting the rights of others."  Do you really believe that Facebook's rape pages are respecting the rights of others? 

If you do, then I strongly urge you take some time to reconsider and re-evaluate what it really means to respect the rights of others.  Take all the time you need, because women deserve better than this. We all deserve better than this.  

This response was written collaboratively by a group of women, representing hundreds and thousands of Facebook users from around the world who feel the same way about misogyny on Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sick of the apologists around this issue, anything having anything whatsoever to do with rape is clearly hate speech and deeply harmful both to women and society in general. There is absolutely no justification for these pages because free speech, humor or artist expression have nothing to do with it. Rape and violence against women is a crime plain and simple so these pages are advocating and promoting criminal behavior, nevermind all the other reprehensible aspects of the mentally twisted trash the put out. I'm glad this is being vigorously fought because it cannot be tolerated by any of us. As a man, an american and a feminist I am deeply offended and outraged at facebooks behavior and I will relentlessly call it out and fight to change it until this is no longer an issue!