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What Exactly Are Facebook’s Community Standards?

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Before I vent my frustrations here, I would like to make one thing clear. I have no idea how good or useful this article is going to be in terms of getting an action from the Facebook authorities. It will probably be one of the thousands by those who have experienced and expressed similar frustrations by Facebook admins and their ‘community standards’.

Facebook is one of the biggest social media platforms founded by Mark Zuckerberg (should I spell it out?) and over the years, it continues to grow in a way that, almost everyone with a smartphone has an account on the social network. Facebook’s so-called ‘community’ and their standards will have to be clearly defined. Or, is it meant to say ‘stay within your limits’ or ‘don’t mess with us?

I have been using Facebook since 2010. Over the years, being a woman online I have been asked to take precautions in order to prevent potential harassment and stalking because our culture has accepted a man’s right to abuse more than a woman’s right to occupy spaces. (6 pm curfew remember?)

Starting with ‘don’t use your photos’ and the long subsequent paragraph about honour which went viral. Police officers would rather side with ‘prevention’ squad for girls instead of looking at the profiles of potential harassers.

I am moderating a group that deals with gender-sensitive issues. Over the years we have come across profiles that stalk, harass and explicitly threaten female users. When we report such profiles and the comments made, in a majority of the cases, Facebook gives us the same reply “the post doesn’t violate the community standards” giving a wide range of freedom of speech to the privileged gender and privileged race.

Coming back to the point I am trying to make; a female member came across a Facebook page that posts content which is misogynist in nature. We reported the profile and the said posts. We were welcomed with the “doesn’t violate the community standards” reply by Facebook. Responding to that I wrote a sarcastic comment. I repeat a SARCASTIC comment and got this message from FB eventually.

Why? Because it had the phrase “men are trash”. Apparently, saying that even in a sarcastic context is malevolent sexism and Facebook blocked me for 24 hours. Hooray for MRAs!

Only four months ago, a man who was a religious fundamentalist called me a ‘Bangalore-based whore’ for voicing my dissent about women’s rights in a religion. FB gave “doesn’t violate community standard” as a reply, and another option I had was to block the gentleman. God knows many other women he will go on to harass. A friend of mine reported a comment by a man who threatened to rape a woman (who posted a photo in short skirts) with an iron rod and bottle. That was excused by FB’s community however when she called out this bias with “if we write ‘men are trash’ then the post will be taken down”. Lo and behold, it happened.

I reported three other comments that include casteism (targeting SC/ST) community, homophobia and transphobia. They are all “excused” by FB’s community standards.

The ultimate display of privilege was when reporting a comment targeting Black or Hispanic people were excused but when the term “white” was included in a sarcastic context, that comment was taken down. I shared this to show the racial bias by FB and aghast! Even that post was reported and taken down.

Yesterday I was blocked by FB for 24 hours. Afterwards, I got a notification from Facebook saying that I wouldn’t be able to access the platform for another 24 hours. My.. My… I didn’t know that my sarcasm will make me such a big threat online.

I have paid the platform to promote ads related to my start-ups. I am accessing several other platforms through FB including the Youth Ki Awaaz website. I expected the community standards of FB to be friendly and inclusive. Above all, I expected FB’s community standards and the admins to be able to understand the difference between sarcasm, “dissent” and threats. I received messages from friends who claimed that there were being harassed. I could not respond to them. Due to the floods in Kochi, I wanted to spread the word. I couldn’t do that. I was blocked for 48 hours over a sarcastic comment. At the same time, the number of fake profiles that are defended by FB’s community standards, even after their explicit threats against women and LGBTQIA community, is on the rise.

So what is FB’s community standards exactly?!

Why are fake profiles with malevolent hate speech spared?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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