Sat, Feb 23, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Time for Facebook to take offensive images seriously

By Laura Bates  /  The Guardian

“We take reports of questionable and offensive content very seriously,” the Facebook spokesperson said. “However, we also want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights and feelings of others.”

“Groups or pages that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs — even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some — do not by themselves violate our policies,” the spokesperson said.

There is a common argument that these pages are “harmless,” and those who do not like them should simply not look at them. However, anyone whose friend “likes” one of these images can find it popping up without warning in their newsfeed timeline. Each image normalizes gender-based violence, sending the message to both victims and perpetrators that ours is a culture that does not take it seriously.

“It’s not about censorship in the end. It’s about choosing to define what is acceptable. Facebook clearly accepts representations of some forms of violence, namely violence against women, as qualitatively different from others,” feminist writer and activist Soraya Chemaly says.

The Facebook spokesperson said: “It’s not Facebook’s job to define what is acceptable. We work hard to keep our users from direct harm, but in the end, censorship is not the solution to bad online behavior or offensive beliefs. Having the freedom to debate serious issues like this is how we fight prejudice.”

For those who believe there is no relation between the treatment and perception of women in the real world and the cultural norms promoted by the most used social networking site on the planet, here is a selection of comments. Some are from those “harmless” Facebook pages. Some are from real women’s experiences, reported to the Everyday Sexism Project. And some are examples of the abuse that I have received, as a woman daring to write about women online.

“You have a choice to have sex, I have the choice to rape you.”

“If you don’t stop giving me shit I’ll pay four of my friends to gang rape you.”

“Go ahead, call the cops — they can’t un-rape you.”

“The only reason you have been put on this planet is so we can fuck you. Please die.”

Can you tell the difference?

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