Activists call on Facebook to pull sexist content

Activist and feminist groups published an open letter on Facebook on Tuesday urging the social network to remove content on the site that endorses violence against women.

Activist and feminist groups published an open letter on Facebook on Tuesday urging the social network to remove content on the site that endorses violence against women.

Facebook is “heavily in touch” with campaigners to change its policy on content relating to violence against women, with an announcement expected in the next couple of days, said Jaclyn Friedman of Women, Action & the Media (WAM!).

While it is encouraging that it is finally engaging on this issue, its refusal to comment publicly is continuing to damage the Mark Zuckerberg-founded social network as more advertisers consider following the example of Nationwide and Nissan UK in withdrawing their ads from Facebook.

Friedman said Facebook has been engaging WAM! on the issue since Friday. However, Facebook did not respond to PRWeek's requests for comment, and it has also blanked other media outlets.

“A lot of groups have been calling on Facebook to do this for several years, but there have been hundreds of thousands of complaints with no response, so we wanted to get their attention in a different way,” added Friedman.

That different way was a campaign called “FBrape” calling on Facebook to take effective action to address the representation of rape and domestic violence that exists on the social networking site.

It is spearheaded by WAM!, the Everyday Sexism Project, and writer and activist Soraya Chemaly, who published an open letter to Facebook a week ago calling for it to change its moderation policy to recognize and remove gender-related hate speech. The letter has been signed by 40 groups.

The campaign calls on Facebook users to contact brands whose ads have appeared next to content that targets women for violence and urge them to withdraw their advertising from the social network.

Examples of this content on the site include groups such as ‘Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs' and ‘Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus' - places that no brand in its right mind would want to be associated with, but where ads from major brands have been appearing alongside.

Nationwide is the latest advertiser to take a stand, announcing it is pulling its advertising from the site, following the lead of Nissan UK. WAM! has listed other brands that have pulled their Facebook ads on its site as well as those that haven't, offering visitors an easy route to contacting them via email or Twitter.

Dove and ZipCar have said they have taken the issue to Facebook to resolve.

Friedman said that while the group anticipated the campaign would garner a wide response, it did not expect it to be at such a high level. So far 5,000 emails have been sent and just under 60,000 tweets with the hashtag #FBRape.

“It's entirely blown us away,” she said. “We've found the level of enthusiasm, passion and creativity from around the world so encouraging and gratifying. We will keep going until Facebook changes its policy and we are hoping it won't be much longer."

In the interests of protecting its reputation, it is time for Facebook to take a more public stance on what it is doing to alleviate the concerns of major advertisers about this issue - before it escalates out of control.

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