Does Facebook Indirectly Encourage Abuse, Threats And Violence?


Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has played a key role in several social reforms and revolutions. Well, that’s mostly because it acted as a platform for people to quickly share their thoughts. But when that thought depicts violence, harassment, abuse and bullying, especially against women, Facebook not only acts as a platform, but it looks like it quietly encourages such activities. Absurd!

Does Facebook Indirectly Encourage Abuse, Threats And Violence?

Facebook now has over one billion active users. And the social networking site should realize its social responsibility, more importantly when handling sensitive issues like violence against women.

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Facebook policy clearly reads, “Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.”

Contrary to this and many other Facebook policies, you can find tons of content demeaning women on the social networking site. And you will find threads on some pages discussing the ways to murder them. Such pages usually have 500 to 15,000 followers. For example, a page titled ‘Sh**s and Giggles’ has about 16,628 likes, and this page has been reported several times by offended people, but the page it still up, according to a popular Pakistani daily Dawn.

Such pages are usually included in “Humor” category. That’s why Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) doesn’t remove them despite repeatedly being reported for policy violation. After all, they “distinguish between serious and humorous speech.” The question is, can Facebook justify keeping such pages live that promote harassment, violence and further infect millions of minds?

Many human rights, women’s rights and cyber rights organizations have criticized the Menlo Park-based company for its slack attitude towards removing content that degrade women. But whenever the rights groups or any individuals raise voice against such content, the opposite occurs. Facebook bans the accounts/pages  of these groups and people, and the offensive content flourishes! Such a behavior further encourages abuse.

You want an example? Recently, Facebook banned the page of Iceland-based women’s rights organization Hildur Lilliendahl for 30 days. Hildur’s mistake? It had posted an album on how women and girls are being harassed and bullied offline and online.

Responding to the concerns of several rights groups, Facebook said, “We seek to prohibit such attacks while giving people the opportunity to use language – even when highly offensive – to express their opinions, tell jokes, and engage in other activities that we believe do not represent direct threats of harm.” The response is discouraging because it leads to the harassment and bullying incidents being ignored as well.

Another problem is that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) takes far too long when responding to the reports of bullying, harassment, abuse and threats. By the time it responds, a lot of damage is already done. A pitiful example is Canada’s Amanda Todd. Teenage Amanda committed suicide after a derogatory video of her was posted on Facebook. Even reporting a page or profile is futile, as Facebook’s usual response is that the action can’t be taken because the reported content doesn’t violate their “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.”

With thousands of such incidents across the globe every day, Facebook should revisit its policies and revise them thoroughly.

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