**TRIGGER WARNING FOR DESCRIPTIONS AND DEPICTIONS OF EXTREME, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND HATE SPEECH**
Much of the work I do relies on spending a good deal of time online. I strictly avoid certain spaces that I know will enrage or upset me, like Reddit threads, 4Chan, and hashtags like #auspol, #qanda and #TeamBreezy. This is because as a citizen of the internet I can make decisions about where I go and who I engage with, to a certain extent, and I choose not to visit places where Bad Things happen. When attempting to create safer online spaces for groups like SlutWalk and Cherchez la Femme, I’m ruthless about deleting material that I think is triggering, trolling or hate speech, out of a sense of responsibility to users. I have no compunction about doing that. I understand that the big, bad world can’t be a safe space and I also know that there are implications for freedom of expression if ‘we’ could magically have all ‘hateful’ content removed (like who’s we and what’s hateful?). I get that, I really do. But I just wanted to share my experience today of reporting to Facebook and how it was handled, in the interest of shaming them publicly (like it might make a difference LOL).
An FB community, Being Feminist, shared a picture that was so disturbing they were calling on supporters to officially report it for removal from the site. I think they mismanaged the broadcast of the image (posting a trigger warning but then publishing the picture in a way that viewing it was unavoidable) and could’ve utilised separate links, page jumps etc but their outrage at the content was pretty straightforward and I felt it too. The picture showed a woman lying on the floor, covered in blood, apparently having been beaten or stabbed. The (meme-style) caption read THAT WILL TEACH YOU NOT TO DO DISHES and down the bottom NOW WALK IT OFF AND GET BACK TO THE KITCHEN.
THE IMAGE IS INCLUDED AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST SO PLEASE BE AWARE BEFORE SCROLLING DOWN.
I reported it despite being fully aware of a number of truths:
- that the internet is full of this shit
- that the world is full of this shit
- that this shit really happens
- that we can’t stop it from happening
- that we can’t stop people joking about it
- that people laugh because they’re conditioned to dehumanise women to the extent that they do
- that the people posting it feed off the persecution complex they get that feminists are out to get them
- that you’ll get one taken down and an even more hideous image will take its place
- etcetera ad nauseum
But why not? Why not take the minute to report it because it appalled and sickened me?
I reported the image (not the page, called ‘Being an asshole’, by the way) for two different infringements of Facebook’s Community Standards: Graphic Violence and Hate Speech. I received a reply to both reports in under a minute. They rejected my view that a savagely beaten woman accompanied by a joke implying she deserved it fell under the terms of either hate speech or graphic violence.
I wanted to share this for a number of reasons. First, to demonstrate that Facebook is a law unto itself and has no intention of ever acting on reports made regarding the ‘community standards’ that it trots out. The replies to my reports had to be automatically generated (arriving as they both did within roughly thirty seconds of me lodging my complaint). Second, in what version of reality does an image like this not constitute hate speech against women, or graphic violence? Third, I want you to know (if you don’t already) that as women, we stumble across shit like this all the time. I have had stuff like this expressly sent to me, as I’m sure have other public feminists. It’s incredibly traumatising for survivors of abuse, it feeds victim-blaming, it trivialises violence against women, and it just plain terrifies us.
The internet is, of course, just like the rest of the world – full of beauty and wonder and rage and despair and hatred and hubris and injustice and possibility. I don’t blame the internet. Today I’m blaming Facebook for being part of the problem. If you’re going to have community standards and complaints procedures, fucking observe them.
And for anyone who really wants to see it, the image is published below.
*TRIGGER WARNING FOR GRAPHIC CONTENT DEPICTING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN**