Dear friends, supporters and fans, Facebook administrators and members of the media,
Effective immediately, the Rapebook page will no longer be active on Facebook. This page has achieved what it was set up to do. It has shown that Facebook’s terms and conditions are null and void. We will leave the rest of the work for Facebook to do – or not.
We believe that Facebook is not a safe place for children and that the content displayed there far, far beyond the pale as far as the average internet user could be expected to tolerate on a social networking site. Or rather, THE social networking site.
This content ranges from distasteful comments, like mocking the death of the victims of 9/11, via threats to the physical well being of political opponents, to collections of pictures of naked children or very graphical pictures of victims of all sorts of violence and incidents.
Facebook does make a display of severely banning content that goes against the terms and conditions that each and every user signs when setting up an account on Facebook, but in reality will not do nearly enough to uphold these terms and conditions.
We set up 'Rapebook' to report such content. We also sought the proximity of Facebook administrators and regularly emailed them with the intention of being absolutely certain that the things we reported were seen by Facebook administrators.
We soon gathered a small following of Facebook users who supported us in reporting content that goes against the terms and conditions of Facebook. The results were mixed, the actions taken by Facebook rarely swift and seldom sufficient to uphold their own rules.
Child porn was quickly deleted, but a profile with a collection of photos of Indian women, gathered without their permission and lathered with sexually explicit comments, still exists today. After reporting this profile, Facebook specifically stated that it does not violate the terms and conditions in a way that Facebook deems ground for deletion.
When we widened our targeting of content that violates the terms and conditions, we pinpointed content that promotes hate speech towards minorities, such as races or women, or taking enjoyment in crimes like rape and murder. Facebook deemed the vast majority of these not offensive enough, stating that they are 'controversial humor'.
At the same time, feminist activism is targeted for quick deletion by
Facebook. Facebook will leave a picture of a woman who lies, obviously physically hurt, at the bottom of stairs, captioned 'next time don't get pregnant'. At the same time Facebook will delete a picture, taken from a news item, of a woman who displayed her breasts at a political protest and temporarily ban all the administrators of a page that displayed it.
During this part of our experience, we asked Facebook to delete some pictures, also showing nudity or displaying extreme hate speech, from a page with more than 138 000 fans. Other pages get removed from Facebook altogether for showing such content.
In return, the owner of said page asked his fans to target 'Rapebook' and its owners specifically. When they did, they did so in no uncertain terms. We received death threats and our page became a true repository of illegal content because of these fans posting these pictures on our 'wall' and in comments below our articles. The result is plain for all to see:
http://www.facebook.com/StopRapebook (Warning: graphic content, vile language)
We reported these actions. To our knowledge, no accounts have been deleted by Facebook, nor has the page that targeted us, nor has its owner. Note: after we reported these actions, Facebook again stated that they do not violate the terms and conditions of Facebook in a way that warrants any sort of action on their part.
It is curious how any of our information was made public, since none of the Admins on this page were public and should have been known only to Facebook. We were all targeted by people putting our personal details (home address/phone number) on a site for hackers and that serious attempts were made to hack our page and personal accounts. These actions weren't addressed by Facebook to our knowledge. In fact, Facebook came across as very lax about our personal safety.
The implications of the passive approach of Facebook towards applying their own terms and conditions clearly constitute a situation where they have rendered these void, by not acting against these violations, despite acknowledging fully knowing of existence.
The same holds true for violations of foreign laws. For example, in
Germany displaying a swastika is illegal. Facebook tolerates the display of swastikas in the full knowledge that they are visible in Germany, whilst specifically targeting Germany as a market, in German. It is only a matter of time before legal action is taken against this.
We are not lawyers, but the continued disregard for law and decency shown by Facebook is bound to have a very negative impact, not only on its current users, but also for the company itself in the not so far away future. We can but guess as to the reasons Facebook is not willing to even moderately address the lewd and partially criminal activity it hosts. Does policing cost too much money? Can't they be bothered?
Not long ago, Microsoft became the one and only real player in the market for operating systems. Holding a monopoly on a market has made MS a target for many legal actions and very precise scrutiny by the law. With great power comes great responsibility.
We think that Facebook holds the de facto monopoly on social networking and bears a likewise responsibility to keep this market a safe and clean environment for all its customers, particularly children and young adults.
For now, we can only state one thing with absolute certainty: Facebook needs to be labeled and marketed as adult content. It is no place for children or even adolescents.
Trista, Melissa and Dirk