Monday 26 September 2011

Facebook says rape incitement pages are like a 'rude pub joke'

In the last week I have publicised and wholeheartedly endorsed articles written by team members at which show the large number of Facebook pages celebrating, advocating and inciting the rape, abuse and violent assault of women. There are pages about "Riding Your Girlfriend Softly Cause You Don't Want to Wake Her Up", a page about "throwing bricks at sluts" that includes a photo gallery asking "Bang or Brick", pages called "Raping Your Mate's Girlfriend to See if She Can Put Up A Fight", “Kicking Sluts in the Vagina”, “I Know a Silly Little Bitch that Needs a Good Slap”,  "Don't You Hate it When You Punch a Slut in the Mouth and They Suck It" and "Punching Pregnant Women in the Stomach." The page about "Abducting, raping and violently murdering your friend, as a joke" has more than 16,600 Likes.

You can read the entry about it here: Facebook refuse to remove rape incitement, rape apologism, abuse and misogyny pages even when begged. The article links to a petition, now more than 170,000 signatures strong, urging Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg to remove and condemn these pages. I followed up this story for the Guardian, here. So far, Facebook have done nothing.

I want to see a man with his power, profile and leadership take a stand against the endemic violence and abuse of women. Rape incitement and rape apologism are not issues of free speech but of the violent abuse of women, which is absolutely mainstream worldwide and supported by all sides of a culture in which this type of abuse is ignored or belittled, the victims are demonised and blamed and the perpetrators are defended and excused. This article comes in the wake of Topshop's two T-shirts of Hate, one of which compared women to dogs while the other made light of violent perpetrators' typical jeering excuses. Topman's eventual retraction statement contained an extra free bit of added misogyny by saying that the T-shirts of Hate were "light hearted and carried no serious meaning." Yes, that's right: sheesh, we overreacted and are being humourless. How stupid of us not to realise that being compared to dogs and having perpetrators' excuses thrown back in our faces, in a world in which the endemic abuse of women is perpetrated with impunity, are all just a bit of jokey banter. I suppose misogyny is lighthearted and carries no serious meaning when you are the perpetrator, not the target.

Topman's hatred of women is not to be outdone, however, and their T Shirts of Hate spurred other womanhaters across the fashion world to best them. So Chargrilled came up with, and then took down, a classy number with No Plus Rohypnol Equals Yes. Here's the dead page where it used to be on sale. When people complained, the company issued a message that seemed extremely apologetic, until their own CEO Charlie Shiner took to his now deleted Twitter account and said that he "doesn't care" if people do not like rape-loving T-shirts, as they are not meant for "ugly feminists" anyway. Thank goodness for Google caches, for screendumps and for bloggers like this one, who blow the whistle when they can.

I have now learned from Jane Osmond at Women's Views on News, the superlative site which has now replaced the broadsheets as my source of information on women's and girls' welfare, that there has been some reaction from Facebook about these pro-rape pages. The article relates to a 3,000-signature strong UK petition asking  Facebook to delete a specific page that contains ‘joke’ posts about rape against women. The page is called  "You know she’s playing hard to get when your [sic] chasing her down an alleyway", screenshot here, and contains posts such as "I have raped many women….no lie" and "I rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome."

The Facebook reaction is not good. Letters to the press from rape crisis and anti violence against women's groups have been ignored and Facebook have openly defended these pages despite thousands of people protesting against it through the FB report mechanism. In a statement given to the Annie Othen Show on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire on 17th August, Facebook said:

We want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views whilst respecting the rights and feeling of others. We have now more than 750m people around the world of 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

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.

The petition was launched on August 19 by student Orlagh Ni Léid after Facebook issued the statement above. Orlagh commented:
I stumbled across this page and was shocked to see not only rape ‘jokes’, but outright advocacy and even apparent confessions. I started the petition when I found out that Facebook refused to take the page down and the UK mainstream press proved unresponsive to a letter from Rape Crisis England and Wales. Facebook is an influential social force and in a world where 1 in 5 women is a victim of rape or attempted rape, these pages are more than a ‘pub joke'. Surely Facebook should not be perpetuating rape culture?
Further, Facebook appears selective about how it applies its rules – for instance, a policy against breastfeeding pictures is upheld, indicating that breasts are offensive when used by women for anything other than being objects for men to look at, but that rape is not offensive. In doing so, Facebook have made it clear that it does not consider groups which condone rape to be in violation of their own hate speech rules (terms and conditions, section 3 safety, point 7).

The petition can be signed here.

UPDATE, as at 7th October 2011:
  • Facebook have made yet another strong statement in support of the rape pages and appear determined to keep the pages up at all cost. Read the Guardian article about it, written by Lizzy Davies.
  • Facebook's stated defiant reasons for refusing to remove the pages are a direct contradiction of their stated policy, despite what they say. Read the Guardian article about this, written by Cath Elliott.
  • Women's Views On News have also updated their reporting of this new, second refusal, in this article. Full disclosure: I am not asociated with WVoN, but they have quoted me in their piece.
  • Women's Views On News have, as at 13th October 2011, issued a new press release. More and more advertisers are pulling their ads from the pro rape pages. However, Facebook still refuse to take them down. Meanwhile the person who started one of these rape-loving pages is threatening to sue Facebook if the page is taken down. As a lady, brought up in all the diplomatic arts, let me say to that person: don't you have anything better to do with your life, you loathsome piece of shit?