“We’re not a marginalized group on these sites,” says Soraya Chemaly, a writer and activist who was among the leading organizers of the campaign. “This isn’t some pet project special interest they’re supporting – it’s more than half their users.”
So far anyway, Facebook seems to have gotten the message. In a blog post Tuesday evening, the company announced that it would update its guidelines around hate speech, ensure its employees were accurately identifying prohibited content on the site, and take steps to prevent users from posting such content anonymously.
“When people have to use their real names, it enforces social norms,” says Gerald Kane, an associate professor of information systems at Boston College and an expert on social media. “You’re not going to misbehave as much if your friends are watching you.”
Organized by activist groups Women, Action, and the Media (WAM) and the Everyday Sexism Project, along with Ms. Chemaly, the #FBRape campaign began last week with a call for Facebook users to contact companies whose ads were appearing on pages beside the violent and misogynist content and call for them to withdraw their advertising from the site.
At issue were not just the violent images themselves, but also the fact that Facebook was failing to delete them when users flagged the photos as hate speech. In one screenshot posted to the WAM site, a user had reported an image of a woman shot in the head with the caption, “I like her for her brains.” Below it, an automated response from the site read, “We reviewed the photo you reported, but found it doesn’t violate Facebook’s Community Standard.”
Over the next week, activists sent out more than 5,000 e-mails and more than 60,000 tweets to advertisers, according to WAM, prompting more than a dozen companies – including Nissan – to pull ads from Facebook.