Facebook and Hate Speech

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Photo: Jay Theis

As we reach a stage of technology where we can develop printers that can print off a shiny new gun, and cyber bullying has become a real issue, social networking is increasingly becoming a popular way of letting every person in the world spout whatever idiotic thought comes into their head without bothering to censor it. As SCAN touched upon in the last issue, every person is capable of becoming a keyboard warrior when they’re hidden by the anonymity of a computer screen. Unfortunately, anonymity is the perfect disguise for people to be as cruel and sadistic as they like without ever having to face the consequences of their actions.

Facebook – developed in 2004 by a man who came across the idea when his girlfriend dumped him, so in retaliation he decided to hack Harvard’s ‘Facebook’ of students and compare females to farm animals, what a LAD – often becomes the place for uncensored, unacceptable and occasionally unfathomable hate speech. Having been one of those people who reported a grotesque video of a guy in a foreign country whipping himself and splitting half his back open with a sword, and being told the video would not be removed because it’s not violating any of Facebook’s policies – graphic violence anyone? – I’m of the mind-set that Facebook creators and admin will ignore most things as long as it doesn’t affect their profits. But after an outcry, a week-long campaign by ‘Women, Action and the Media’, ‘The Everyday Sexism Project’ and activist Soraya Chemaly, and Facebook’s advertisers pulling their adverts in solidarity; Facebook seems to have finally decided it can no longer sit idly by whilst their users engage in an internet war over downright ridiculous expressions of free speech.

 

“Unfortunately, anonymity is the perfect disguise for people to be as cruel and sadistic as they like without ever having to face the consequences of their actions.”

 

So how did this all begin? One news source reports that protestors lost their cool over content which endorses rape and domestic violence being posted onto Facebook by the collection of ‘hilarious’ pages that every user will have come across. LAD culture and the LAD Bible are two pages in particular which pride themselves on BANTER which, let’s be honest, is usually crap. Examples cited are the grim photo of Rihanna’s bloodied face after being punched by rap singer Chris Brown, captioned “Chris Brown’s Greatest Hits”, and a photo of a woman lying in a pool of blood with the comment “I like her for her brains”. A spokesman for Facebook initially tried to brush it off with the ‘freedom of speech’ excuse, telling Huffington Post “as you may expect in any diverse community of more than a billion people, we occasionally see people post distasteful or disturbing content… while it may be vulgar and offensive, distasteful content on its own does not violate our policies.” But, after the situation went viral with the hash tag  #Fbrape and the likes of Nissan and Nationwide UK decided to pull their advertisements on the website, Facebook were quick to respond, emphasising they “have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations”,  and promised they would review and update their guidelines in co-operation with the women’s rights campaigners.

 

In my opinion, it is somewhat bizarre that Facebook is so lax with its policies. I’m hardly the type of person to be easily offended by a daft joke or someone’s terrible banter (growing up with a pain-in-the-arse older brother teaches you to be made of sterner stuff), but Facebook’s comment that “we prohibit content deemed to be directly harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial” is ridiculous for two reasons. Yes, Facebook is a social networking site based on the concept that you should only be able to connect with people you want to connect to. But unfortunately, thanks to the site’s determination to show every mundane thing my ‘friends’ have liked or commented on,  I’ve seen plenty of things that I could have lived without; from weirdos eating their own tampons to the aforementioned violent sword video. I’m not an advocate of policing the internet, but we need to establish guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not, because in the dark ages before the internet if you were caught saying something racist or potentially threatening, there would be consequences. The internet seems to be teaching people that it’s okay to be an idiot, as long as you’re protected by the anonymity of a Facebook page; and if this carries on it’ll only be a matter of time until we freak out and start printing off those 3D guns everybody’s worrying about.

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