When It Comes To Women's Issues, Facebook Still Hasn't Figured Out How To Play Fair

Illustration for article titled When It Comes To Women's Issues, Facebook Still Hasn't Figured Out How To Play Fair

According to Dr. David J. Ley of Psychology Today, Facebook has started deleting several "pages of several women and female sexuality organizations," including the page of Self Serve, "a women-owned and run sexuality resources center."


The women at Self Serve, Ley writes, had their page deleted after they posted an informational video about labiaplasty. The video, Ley notes, "has a heartfelt message, urging women to love their bodies as they are, and not to give in to mutilation to fit an unrealistic, and uncommon ideal based upon porn," but apparently triggered the organization's page removal from Facebook due to the fact that it contained pictures of vaginas. The context, it seems, was unimportant: the fact that vaginas were being shown was enough of a justification for Facebook to delete the page. Ley also notes that the page of sex columnist Violet Blue was also deleted, even though she "had worked hard to comply with Facebook's rules. She was given no advance notice and no explanation of why her page was deleted." Ley wonders if perhaps these deletions are indicative of a larger, scarier issue: that the site is intentionally targeting, and removing, women-run celebrations of the female body and female sexuality

We've discussed Facebook's strange approach to handling groups and pages before; last Fall, I wrote a piece about how Facebook had allowed a "pro-rape, anti-consent" group to remain active for several months, all the while removing pictures of breastfeeding women as they were considered violations of the site's policies. Heinous Facebook groups are nothing new: a reader notes that as of today, the charming "B.O.T.H. Treatment, For When She Gets Outta Line" group (B.O.T.H. standing for "back of the hand") is still active, and has been since February. Is the group a joke? Casual misogyny? Or a celebration of violence against women? I suppose context matters, but why are groups advocating beating your girlfriend to "keep her in line," given the benefit of the doubt over groups that have clearly stated a positive mission to promote female sexuality and women's health issues?

It's especially frustrating when you consider the rule that most likely led to Self Serve's deletion: "You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence." The "nudity" in the labiaplasty video or pictures of women breastfeeding were enough to make the service take down women's pages and pictures, and yet that very same rule doesn't seem to be applied to groups that are, jokingly or no, celebrating violence and carrying a "hateful, threatening" undertone. If Facebook is going to make the argument that they're simply enforcing the site's terms, they need to be a bit more consistent in actually following through, otherwise it makes the deletion of organizations like Self Serve look even shadier when groups like "B.O.T.H." are allowed to remain.

All of this makes it appear that Facebook still hasn't figured out how to differentiate between images of women's bodies in health context and images of women's bodies in a pornographic context, nor are they taking their own rules regarding violence and threatening statements seriously. If Facebook really wants to create a space where women feel welcome to discuss their health and safety and issues that directly affect their everyday lives, it might want to spend more time promoting healthy attitudes towards women's bodies and lives, instead of deleting women (and sex) positive groups and allowing misogynistic groups to remain. Or perhaps the current system, as Ley wonders, really is being used to, you know, keep the ladies in line, where they belong.

[Cutting Off Your Vagina To Spite Your Face(book) [Psychology Today]


well fuck thee gently with a chainsaw

Date: Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 12:13 PM

Subject: Re: Facebook Warning

To: Facebook

Um, no I didn't. There is no offensive content, nudity or otherwise, in the photo you just removed.

You clearly did not actually look at the photo: this is disingenuous and highly offensive to me because you claimed to remove it because of its content.

You should be honest and explain that you are removing it because someone complained about it, and you cannot be bothered to evaluate the veracity of that complaint.

I would like you to apologize. Please give me my picture back.



On Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 11:56 AM, Facebook wrote:


You uploaded a photo that violates our Terms of Use, and this photo has been removed. Facebook does not allow photos that attack an individual or group, or that contain nudity, drug use, violence, or other violations of the Terms of Use. These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children who use the site.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can visit our FAQ page at [www.facebook.com]

The Facebook Team