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?