Does Facebook Have a Misogynistic Agenda? The Policy Department Responds.

Via elephant journal
on Nov 14, 2012
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A Response from the Facebook Policy Department to Recent Article, “Does Facebook Hate All Women—or Just Feminists.”

 We received the following explanation and clarification of Facebook policies in response to Trista Hendren’s recent article, “Does Facebook Hate All Women—or Just Feminists?” ~ Ed.


An employee at Facebook brought your article to my attention and I thought it might be helpful to clarify some of the issues raised. This article covers quite a few topics so I’ll do my best to respond.

You can find explanations of the several issues raised in your article below, and please let me know if you require any further information. It would be great if you could provide an additional fact-check update in light of these facts, and I’ll be happy to escalate any other material you would like reviewed.

Thanks so much

Fred Wolens

Facebook Policy Communications

Joanne Jackson photo:  Mastectomy photos do not violate our content standards and are permitted on the site. The photos in the article were never removed from this user’s account. We aren’t sure why these allegations were leveled against us.

The Body is Not an Apology: Unfortunately, exposed breasts are against our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. At the moment, we have absolutely no way of rationally delimitating “non-sexual images posted by women” from other potentially pornographic nude images. It’s incredibly difficult to come up with any sort of workable standards around non-sexualized vs sexualized nudity particularly for reviewers faced with hundreds of thousands of reports every week, if you have any particular thoughts on this matter, I’ll be happy to relay your concerns to our Policy Team.

Breastfeeding:  This applies to breastfeeding too. We allow all images of breastfeeding but you can’t expose any nipples.

Hildur Lillendahl: The way we apply our policies extend to Hildur Lillendahl too since we don’t have any context on the abusive photos she posts.

Birth Defects: We have taken numerous steps to add flexibility to our policies to allow pictures of children with birth defects and we made a mistake removing the anencephaly pictures.

On the Uprising of the Arab Women issue: we actually made a mistake in two cases and made the correct decision in the third. We have reviewed this situation numerous times and have rectified any mistakes. You can find out more here on Reddit.

Controversial Rape Pages: We prohibit content we deem to be genuinely harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial. Harmful content is generally defined as that which leads to or organizes real world violence, theft or property destruction, that which intentionally and directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual, and that which is broadly illegal. A list of prohibited categories of content can be found in our Community Standards document.

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. When evaluating speech on Facebook, we analyze the nature of the speech itself, as well as its perceived intent as indicated by any additional context we may have. We believe this additional information is important, since identical words may be hateful in one context, or off-color attempts at humor in another (such as with stand-up comedy).

If we believe that a page was created to attack a protected group, we will remove it immediately. Our goal is to eliminate such attacks while still preserving free speech. I want to assure you that we understand your concern about the pages you referenced in your article. They are abhorrent not only to me, but to many other people who work at Facebook. Having said that, as long as these types of pages do not violate our policies as explained above, we err on the side of allowing people to express themselves.


 Thanks to Fred Wolens from Policy Communications for taking the time to respond.


Ed: Kate Bartolotta


Like equal rights for all on Facebook.



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29 Responses to “Does Facebook Have a Misogynistic Agenda? The Policy Department Responds.”

  1. […] a response from Facebook’s policy department. ~ […]

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Penny Rose Webb this is quite distressing. Penny Rose Webb I agree. He addressed some of the issues, but the fact that rape isn't seen as patently offensive is disturbing. ~ Kate

    Bloodtime Moontime Dreamtime A Response from the Facebook Policy Department to Recent Article, “Does Facebook Hate All Women—or Just Feminists.”
    Does Facebook Have a Misogynistic Agenda? The Policy Department Responds.
    ‎… Not sure about that, Kate–to be fair they're trying to protect offensive speech—you know, free speech—same as Reddit. That's an American value—to protect the right of even, say, Nazi's to parade down Main St. This has the positive effect of providing space, instead of suppression, to what might often otherwise grow in darkness, instead of be seen in the light of day and handled if it crosses the line into violence to another. ~ Waylon.

    Rebekah Sigworth But it promoted a response. Even if it is a cover your butt one. You got someone's attention! I agree with that part too. I want to see the speech I hate protected as much as my own. It's a tough call on their part to figure out which is considered just bad taste but protected & which is potentially inciting violence. ~ KB Amen, Kate, always a tough balance and as they say "Our goal is to eliminate such attacks while still preserving free speech. I want to assure you that we understand your concern about the pages you referenced in your article. They are abhorrent not only to me, but to many other people who work at Facebook. Having said that, as long as these types of pages do not violate our policies as explained above, we err on the side of allowing people to express themselves." ~ Waylon

  3. @FunnyLove00 says:

    I don't understand then. According to this response: "We prohibit content we deem to be genuinely harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial. " So breast feeding isn't offensive or controversial, right? According to this, it's "genuinely harmful". And yet… isn't?
    Come on, Facebook. Step up your game.

  4. ashley says:

    Shouldn't rape victims count as a group that should be protected?

  5. ashley says:

    Also, how about underage girls?

  6. Dave says:

    While their policies may not be right, I think this post is one of many examples of the word "hate" being thrown around in a very hyperbolic fashion. Even if we assume that Facebook has misogynistic policies, "hate" is an extremely stigmatizing label, and should be used with care and accuracy. Discrimination can be motivated by a number of emotions, not just hatred; fear is one that comes to mind immediately, and insensitivity is another (which seems closer to the truth in Facebook's case). The word "hate" has become a go-to label for almost any form or degree of discrimination, which serves to water-down the word, confuse issues, and unjustly stigmatize. At its worst, the misuse of this word is intentionally and manipulatively designed to push agendas. Anyway, I just wanted to give my thoughts on that because I increasingly see the word misused, and I think this is a glaring example. Honesty, truth, and mindfulness are always of supreme importance, and that includes when you're fighting discrimination and other injustices.

  7. Olga says:

    I agree with Ashley, Rape is a "real world violence". Saying it's anything else is victim blaming and a disappointment.

  8. Anti-Pope Joan says:

    You do realise that by assuming Facebook has misogynistic policies, you are assuming they are policies of "hate" because misogyny means "hatred of women"…

  9. Dave says:

    No, I extrapolated from its common use that "misogyny" could refer to injustice against women even when hatred is not a motivating factor. I should have looked up the official definition of that word. But I have now, and I'm glad you clarified it for me.

  10. lokicatz says:

    Rape is illegal. Promoting it should be illegal.

    In the UK a man was recently sentenced for a comment he posted on Facebook about forces in Afghanistan -see the report here:

    I cannot see how the above could be deemed punishable, but not a promotional page that persistantly makes a joke of and normalises an illegal, violent and life destroying CRIME like rape.

    I understand the need to keep speech free; but by any account that rape page does not contribute anything to society other than to promote an action that is in the real world OUTLAWED.

    Facebook, please do not pit the real world against the web, they are connected by real human beings who inhabit both and whose actions are influenced both ways.

    If a page promoting murder / manslaughter / arson / armed robbery OR ANYTHING ELSE ON THIS LIST… was created, would facebook shut it down??? Oh look – under 'Serious Sexual Offences' There is listed Rape.

  11. Teresa says:

    This does not make me feel better. I can understand that they dont want nipples to show. I understand where they admitted to taking down pictures that were a mistake. I do not understand the rape sites. Women are brutalized everyday. There have been so many bad comments from politicains this election regarding rape. Any site that is allowed to be up showing rape should be taken down. I feel that it just promote rape and makes it okay. It is not. We as a society need to stop this. Facebook is wrong about the rape sites. Rape is not okay and it needs to stop

  12. Gasp! Nipples! Cover your eyes, children. In fact, everyone else probably should too. Nevermind that the vast majority of you spent the first year of your life sucking on and deriving all of your nourishment from them. Those days have long since passed. Now you should consider them offensive.

  13. herbsandhags says:

    Men who set up pages in order to make rape jokes, hate women. On a practical level, they are a way of rapists making contact with each other, egging each other on and encouraging each other to see rape as normal and fun and something every red-blooded guy does. All the men who "like" the pages who may not be rapists in their everyday life (yet) are reinforcing the view of rapists, that what they do is not really all that bad. Every time someone likes a page, a rapist is given the validation he seeks in sharing a rape joke – see guys, it's fun isn't it, not some terrible moral outrage.

    In allowing the pages to stand, Facebook makes rape more likely: any faint twinge rapists might have had that what they're doing is illegal or wrong, is smothered by the reassurance that they get from these pages, that rape is OK really and women deserve it or even if they don't, it doesn't matter that much because it's no big deal.

    Facebook can claim neutrality and free speech and blah blah blah, but it doesn't believe in free speech because when women call men who set up woman-hating pages, like that Icelandic feminist did, FB deletes those pages – women aren't allowed to show the world which men hate us via FB, but men are allowed the most appalling woman-hating pages. FB only believes in free speech for rapists and their apologists – not those who call rapists and their friends out. You can claim to be neutral if you want; but neutrality in this situation, actually means standing with rapists against potential and actual victims. Which is exactly what I would expect from FB tbh.

  14. @Kyberian says:

    There are dozens of scientific studies that show that environments where you have a lot of jokes about rape and other forms of violence against women, produce more rapists and people who commit violence against women. Pages like "It''s not rape if you yell surprise" *are* encouraging violence against protected groups.

    They cite Reddit as pursuing similar policies to protect free speech, and Reddit is an absolute den of rape apology, child pornography and misogyny. Hate speech is hate speech; it just doesn't get recognized when the people in charge of recognizing it are all straight white males without the empathy skills or the education to understand what happens to anyone not in their privileged little club every day.

  15. Antonia McGuire says:

    A controversial Facebook page that jokes about rape caused a strong reaction with nearly 5,000 people in the UK and 176,000 in the US signing an online petition – yet Facebook is refusing to take it down. The page stated "You know she's playing hard to get when your chasing her down an alleyway", Apparently this does not break rules on posting hateful content or inciting violence. But exactly where does the site draw the line and how does it decide on what to take down?

  16. Antonia McGuire says:

    "You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence," states Facebook's statement of rights and responsibilities. The light touch approach aims to keep censorship of Facebook's 800 million users to a minimum, with the freedom to create all manner of random and risqué groups. "We sometimes find people discussing and posting about controversial topics," the site told the BBC in August. "It is very important to point out that what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining. "Just as telling a rude joke won't get you thrown out of your local pub, it won't get you thrown off Facebook." Despite the controversy, Facebook is maintaining its position. A further statement said: "We want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights and feelings of others.

  17. Antonia McGuire says:

    "Now, with more than 30 million people in the UK expressing varying opinions and ideals using Facebook as a place to discuss and share things that are important to them, we sometimes find people discussing and posting about controversial topics. "Groups or pages that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs – even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some – do not by themselves violate our policies. "These online discussions are a reflection of those happening offline, where conversations happen freely in people's homes, in cafes and on the telephone." The campaign group Women's Views on News (WVN) says the "rape page" is not the only one promoting violence against females. For example, a page about "kicking sluts in the face" has attracted 88,000 Facebook likes and is still available to view. Surely it has a duty of care towards its users – especially those who are aged 13, which is the minimum age to join .

  18. Antonia McGuire says:

    “It is becoming clear that Facebook managers are completely dismissing the concerns of nearly 200,000 people from both sides of the pond who have signed petitions against pages that advocate rape and violence against women," said Jane Osmond from WVN. "The powers that be who run Facebook make a lot of money off the back of its subscribers through advertising so surely it has a duty of care towards its users – especially those who are aged 13, which is the minimum age to join Facebook and also to half of its audience, women?" The creator of the rape page also posted to his wall this week to defend the joke. "I did not make this page to support rape," said the post. "This group was a joke between me and my friends and you people that think this is about rape do not get this joke because they are small-minded people." (ignorance)

  19. Antonia McGuire says:

    'No nipples' The decision not to take down the rape page may seem strange at first glance, considering Facebook has previously barred pictures posted by breastfeeding mothers. In that case, in 2009, it said the problem was not the act itself but the sight of an exposed nipple. Online protests and petitions by angry mums followed the decision, but the social media giant stuck to its guns. Facebook is not against breastfeeding but its rules don't allow nudity "Whether it's obscene, art or a natural act — we'd rather just leave it at nudity and draw the line there," said spokesman Barry Schnitt at the time, who added the policy was in place to protect the site's younger users. The issue came up again in January 2011 when breastfeeding support group The Leaky Boob, which has 31,000 members, had its profile deleted, before later being reinstated. Facebook was also criticised for not automatically removing Holocaust denial pages in 2009. Despite the pages only having a few hundred members, critics said the basic concept of denying the Holocaust was hateful and that the pages contained blatant anti-Semitic postings. Facebook investigated and later removed those it decided were breaking its rules.

  20. Antonia McGuire says:

    The point where edgy discussion and dodgy jokes become hateful may sometimes be tricky to pin down, but often the decision is more straightforward. Facebook has been quick to remove pages such as "I Hate Muslims in Oz" and the "Isle of Man KKK" group, started by a small group of school children, because they contain what it calls "explicit statements of hate". These online discussions are a reflection of those happening offline, where conversations happen freely. And when it comes to child protection, removing or investigating postings and profiles for example, the site is also quick to act. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) said they had a "very good working relationship" with Facebook and the site had always been co-operative. Facebook told the BBC that reports of offensive content are handled by its User Operations Team in Dublin, which measures all content against the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. A spokesman said the decision was not just made by "one person in a cubicle" and that difficult cases were often decided by discussion with its Global Content Policy Team. He said the vital distinction was still between controversial discussion and genuine attempts at humour on one hand, and obvious hate speech on the other but that content targeting a particular minority would always be removed. (Cited BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat by Dan Cairns)

  21. Antonia McGuire says:

    Well fb, today there is content targetting girls and women; rape is not a joke, it is against the law. Men advocating rape are inciting violence towards women and also trauma, beleive me, I was raped in my tenth year. Fb's management have obviously never experienced rape or child abuse, hence no efficiency or rationale in formulating policy and decison making processes. People confessing to rape on fb is not a joke, they are confessing to an offense, and are moulding young and older minds alike with influence. Childhood sexual abuse and rape are tragically common; they constitute a serious social problem and especially so on social media. I will cite once more the fb's terms and conditions: "Youwill not post content that is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitious violence."

  22. eleanor says:

    So can I please start reporting every single fb photo of a man w/o his shirt on ?! There are, to my knowledge, five states here in the uSA that women can legally show their breasts in public. And I am all for this. Why is it ok for a man to walk around w/o a shirt covering his nipples? Why is it ok for me to see summer photos galore of men on the beach exposing themselves but women caring for their children is banned from this site. preposterous….

    Thank you for the article. The original and this follow up
    *on your side*

  23. sue says:

    yes, "see a nipple, report a nipple" and advise others to do so

  24. […] series discussing concerns that Facebook is anti-feminist. Please refer to the original article and the response from Facebook Policy Management. ~ […]

  25. […] a series discussing concerns that Facebook is anti-feminist. Please refer to the original article , the response from Facebook Policy Management, and the response from several of the groups mentioned in the original article. ~ […]

  26. […] Sometimes, we don’t report controversies at all—because we see no upside, no potential constructive conversation that may come out of our work and play. And we know we’ve succeeded when both John and his […]

  27. ellerooms says:

    We should take a look at the bigger picture of what maybe happening under the surface on the internet. Instead of taking it personally, shouldn’t we be asking why it is so easy to find sexual images and porn but its increasingly difficult to find unbiased or controversial newz and political opinion? Porn is the easiest way to keep people self absorbed, distracted, and numb from looking outside at what is going on in the world. It may not be a coincidence that porn is viral to subdue the potential activists and worthwhile articles are being censored. Who knows who is manipulating FB and other social networking sites?!

  28. Trista says:

    Well said!

  29. Bett says:

    It's not FaceBook's call to shut down. ITS OURS! We're the only reason it exists….really! How long would that take? What a magical global challenge! It's the most exciting one of this century in my books, well, maybe right after our digital world got lauched and that's good cause we can actually do this. BELIEVE!!…. Thanks for the challenge FaceBook!! How do ya'll feel about that? Come on now! STEP UP TO THE PLATE!! It's all yours….put up or …..(I guess I'm tooooo polite to say that! ROTFLOL!) And guess what? We'll make double history because we'll demonstrate actual global UNITY for a real and personal and private yet GLOBAL (Yes! Violence against women, and children, is a daily, constant, relentless mean-spirited INHUMANE act on a global scale), as opposed to our human history of demonstrating traditional global-culture-style World War!!! Call a thing a thing People!! GROW UP WORLD! We're only 100 years overdue….well, maybe way way way back, on second thought…. Oh! Dear! Now I'm rambling. Sorry. Do what you like. Think what you like. Do what you do. Don't change. It really does take so much effort, thought, kindness, consideration, awareness, respect. By the way weren't laws made to be broken? Can't we please speed up the spiritual insight of all world religions to respect and honor each other? What's with all these wars? I sure wonder if we can stop that brain-dead-soul-killing past-time too….Unfortunately, religions of late, are prime examples of accelerated human degradation, the spiritually betraying sort. It's sure time for a change there too don't you think? Hmmm I wonder what global direction we'll wonder into in our global journey, if we make it, in that direction?..OK. I'm done. You're IT!