Victory for Everyday Sexism Project: Facebook bows to campaign over sexist 'hate speech' posts

Facebook has agreed to review its community standards around hate speech following a campaign led by the Everyday Sexism project

Facebook has agreed to update its policies regarding hate speech following a campaign led by the Everyday Sexism Project, which criticised the site for hosting offensive content.

In a statement issued on its site, Facebook said its “systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like”, and that content on the site has been “evaluated using outdated criteria”.

Starting “immediately” the company promises to review and update their “Community Standards around hate speech” and “increase the accountability of the creators of content”.

The statement marks a clear success for a week-long campaign organised by the Everyday Sexism Project, Women Action & the Media, and activist and writer Soraya Chemaly.

In an open letter published by the Huffington Post, Chemaly asked Facebook to take “swift, comprehensive and effective action” against the “representation of rape and domestic violence” on the site.

Chemaly asked the tech site to categorise “speech that trivialises or glorifies violence against girls and women as hate speech” and cited many examples including ‘fan’ pages with titles such as “Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won't make you a Sandwich” and “Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs”.

In response to the campaign at least 15 companies have pulled advertisements from the site, including Nissan and Nationwide UK. 

The appearance of brands’ advertisements next to offensive imagery reflects Facebook’s ad-targeting technique that matches brands to individuals, not to specific pages.

Following Facebook’s announcement, Women Action & the Media released a statement saying: “We are hopeful that this moment will mark an historic transition in relation to media and women’s rights”. The group hopes the move by Facebook will “set industry precedents for others to follow”.

Facebook has previously sought to distance itself from responsibility for its users by not moderating content that is deemed “offensive”, but its U-turn on policy marks a change in its approach. 

Facebook generated revenues of $1.46bn from advertising in the first three months of 2013. 

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