For the past seven days, spurred by Women Action and the Media and the Everyday Sexism Project, everyone on your Twitter feed has been asking Facebook to remove content that condones and encourages violence and hate speech against women. Today, the social media behemoth finally responded.
After pressure from many major social justice groups and countless of its users — and, perhaps more importantly, 15 major companies dropping their advertising — Facebook finally issued a statement that they will be reviewing their community standards and employee training as concerned with hate speech, and more actively and specifically including women's groups in the ongoing conversation.
Part of their commitment:
In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want. In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria. We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards. We need to do better – and we will.
It's good they finally responded — and that they responded thoughtfully and with promised action — but it's hard to throw a parade for them because they did something that's so blatantly obvious. They allowed images like these to stay on the site for days and days, and that's not only bureaucratic bullshit, it's also heartbreakingly misguided. This should've been a day-of executive decision. This is not a question of free speech — Facebook isn't a megaphone on the corner that anyone can grab and rant about how god hates gay people. No. The removal of photos that gratuitously encourage violence against women isn't a First Amendment issue, and neither is it a slippery slope. It should not be this hard or take this long to do the right thing.