During Memorial Day weekend, the journalist Jane Merrick alerted me to something truly horrific. A website by women in media listing graphic depictions of violence against women on Facebook. Images so violent I can barely describe them. Images depicting women with their faces smashed in, cowering in corners, knocked down stairs, being sexually assaulted while out cold drunk; images glorifying rape, murder, incest and domestic abuse.
I tweeted Sheryl Sandberg who up until then I had considered a role-model, and Nicola Mendelsohn of FB Europe asking what they were going to do about it. The #FBrape campaign was in full flow. Knowing that we were on Memorial Day weekend I planned to weigh in with my followers on Tuesday (but was distracted by the below).
Tuesday night, to my surprise and pleasure, I found that Facebook had posted (unlike previously) a full settlement with women’s groups and a changing of their guidelines.
It was those guidelines, posted on Gawker, that had allowed sex-based hate to reappear on Facebook so soon after being deleted; violence was OK in images whereas sex was not.
Facebook initially denied there was a problem – but after that, they U-turned and changed policy.
In fact, they Leaned In. It is my hope that the women in executive leadership positions, including Sandberg and Mendelsohn, had something to do with this. The brave campaigners behind the #FBrape hashtag, including Jane Merrick, surely did.
Here is a case where the #1billionrising rose and achieved something important – given Facebook’s ubiquity, and how it shapes the generations and their attitude to women.
Would that overturning all injustice was that easy. I would like to commend Nissan to blog readers thinking about a new car; they pulled advertising until Facebook tackled its domestic violence problem.
Conservative feminists love those free-market solutions.
photo by Benicio Murray