This is the second part of a series of briefings related to OHPI’s campaign video “Stop Racism and Online Hate with OHPI”. This briefing focuses on the three images in the video which relate to women. The full video can be seen below, and the images have each been recaptured from the video to show when they appear. This briefing also includes details of a serious double standard when it comes to threats of violence. While noting that Facebook has committed to do better in this area, the information we present here suggests there is still work to be done before everyone at Facebook understands that hate does not become acceptable when the target is a woman.
The issue of misogyny, the “hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women”, has gained significant press coverage over the last year. Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s parliamentary speech on the topic in October 2012 tapped into a nerve and went viral online. The video of the speech currently has just shy of 2.5 million views on YouTube. In a later interview Ms Gillard noted how Opposition Leader, Tony Abbot, (now Australia’s Prime Minister) had posed for a photograph next to signs reading, ”Juliar: Bob Browns [sic] Bitch” and ”Ditch the Witch” and drew a comparison with racism saying “If I was the first indigenous prime minister, and Abbott had gone out and stood next to a sign that said, ‘Ditch the black bastard’, I reckon that would be the end of a political career”. As Ms Gillard noted, “it’s not less because it’s gender. But it’s been treated as less.”
Laurie Penny, a feminist activist and author has noted that “the Internet made misogyny routine and sexual bullying easy”. Last month she published her book “Cybersexism: Sex, Gender and Power on the Internet” which was written from a safe house after she received violent threats on Twitter. Commenting on Penny’s book Tom Watson notes that, “nearly 20 years into the commercial Internet, it does at times seem that sexist speech, bullying and misogynistic behavior online is still pretty normal, and even accepted”.
This has certainly been the experience on Facebook where, until this year, rape jokes and other forms of misogyny were not only prolific, but reports about this content were routinely rejected by Facebook. After a large scale campaign in May which was directed against Facebook’s advertisers, causing a number of major advertising accounts with Facebook to be suspended, Facebook issued a public response acknowledging that their ‘systems to identify and remove hate speech’ were deficient. Problems, however, still persist as documented in OHPI’s video.
The page “I Hate Teen Moms” had over 20,000 fans when it was documented by OHPI in October 2012. The about description was highly offensive as was the content. While this page has been removed, another with the same name and 428 fans can be seen here.
While the debate over abortion vs right to life is about values an ideas, the attack on teen mothers is an attack on people, specifically women, and is a form of hate speech.
This image “she put me in the friend zone, so I put her in the rape zone” is typical of the rape jokes which led to the campaign against Facebook. A similar rape meme is currently online here.
This image not only trivialises rape, it goes further and suggests it is acceptable. It denigrates women and promotes an idea of society where men have power that can be used to abuse women. The promotion of such content is a public harm.
This image contains hate speech against both women and Muslims. The caption reads “Women: Can’t live with ‘em… Can’t trick the garbage man into taking ‘em”. It denigrates women, in this case suggesting they are less than garbage. This image thankfully is no longer on Facebook.
A double standard on death threats?
Moving away from the video, and returning to former Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the Online Hate Prevention Institute is seriously disturbed that a page called “Like this if u hate julia gillard and want to help me kill her” has remained on Facebook for over three years.
Not only was our online report to Facebook about this page rejected, but a follow up e-mail to Facebook Australia a few weeks ago received no response.
The fact that the page may be inactive and relatively small is no reason not to shut it down. The 165 likes it has is far too many for a page advocating the murder of a named individual. Such pages should be removed based on their name and nothing more.
We note that OHPI had a similar page called “Tony Abbott should just die” removed.
While we note that the age of the page directed against Ms Gillard, and its lack of activity, could be used to differentiate it from the page against Mr Abbott, we wonder if the fact Ms Gillard is a woman played a role in this as well? Is such hate against a women “still pretty normal, and even accepted” (as Tom Watson put it) and therefore not grounds for removal while a similar attack against a man is grounds for removal? Facebook, you have some explaining to do. The page is still online and can be reported from here.
UPDATE April 2014: After more than 6 months Facebook finally reviewed the decision on the page about Julia Gillard and now accepts that is should have come down.
All our politicians work hard to advance the interests of the Australian people. While they have different views about what is best for the nation, and we may strongly disagree with some politicians on some issues (such as the Attorney General’s efforts to change S18C of the Racial Discrimination Act), we respect the effort all our politicians make to advance the interests of the nation. Advocating violence against anyone is wrong, and politicians are no exception. This should not have taken 6 months to fix, but we are glad to finally be able to call this a win.
The Online Hate Prevention Institute is an Australian Harm Prevention Charity. Until Mid-November you can support our appeal which will enable us to build new tools to make social media companies like Facebook more accountable (donations are in $US but the the $AU value donated is tax tax deductible in Australia). You can also support us by joining our Facebook page.