Wednesday 12 June 2013

Has Facebook Acted Too Late In 'Hate Speech' Row?

After a considerable amount of pressure from campaigners and advertisers, Facebook has finally admitted it will reassess how it reacts to "controversial, harmful and hateful" content that is posted on the social networking site.

In an open letter, several feminist groups called upon Mark Zuckerberg and his company to do more to ban pages that they claim promoted violence, particularly towards women. Although it reacted to this letter in just over a week, several commentators have argued that Facebook may have already suffered irreparable damage to its reputation.

The Everyday Sexism Project has utilised social media - particularly Twitter - to highlight instances of what it deems as casual sexism, both in the media and the wider public domain. It was one of several groups that called on advertisers to boycott Facebook, informing several major companies that their ads were appearing alongside pages containing images of violence towards women that were "shared, boasted and joked about".

One petition demanding the social network remove such pages obtained more than 225,000 signatures. Yet, it was created in September 2011, which serves to show how long these pages have been permitted to exist on the site. However, the company's admission in a blog post dated May 28th 2013 that "we need to do better - and we will" has been welcomed by the campaign groups.

Marne Levine, vice president of global public policy at Facebook, stated: "In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want. In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria."

"We have been working over the past several months to improve our systems to respond to reports of violations, but the guidelines used by these systems have failed to capture all the content that violates our standards," she added.

Following the controversy, Ms Levine pledged that the company will now consult both lawyers and interest groups as it looks to update its guidelines, with particular reference to how to deal with hate speech. In addition, staff training is to be improved, with employees set to receive specialist coaching where appropriate. Facebook also insisted that it will do more to ensure posters of offensive material can be held accountable, forcing them to "stand behind the content they create".

Despite the positives, a large number of users criticised the length of time it took for the social network to take action, with many suggesting it has only chosen to do so since advertisers began to cancel their contracts as a result.

In recent months, Facebook has become embroiled in a number of arguments regarding content on its site. At the beginning of May it was forced to go back on its original decision not to remove a video that showed a beheading. It had first argued that the clip was not in breach of its policies.

A survey in March revealed that 87 per cent of people who reported they had experienced cyber-bullying said that it occurred on Facebook. In an effort to limit the number of people who are experiencing bullying at work or school through the social network, the site as said it will take a zero tolerance stance. It launched a Be Bold Stop Bullying campaign in Australia and Canada in late 2012, but is yet to reveal how it plans to prevent what is clearly a global phenomenon.

Some of the site's staff are expected to face investigations in the coming weeks after it was revealed that a 14-year-old girl committed suicide in Italy after a video of her was posted on the site and shared among users. In what is a European first, the Italian Parent's Association has filed a criminal complaint against Facebook.

About The Author: This is a guest post from Chris Stevenson, marketing manager at Slater Gordon.

Do you think Facebook acted too late and if so, has its reputation suffered as a result? Did the cancelling of advertising contracts cause Facebook to finally take action? Please let me know by leaving me your valued comments.

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  1. Yes, Facebook did act too late and the only reason they acted was because of the advertisers cancelling their contracts. They should of acted sooner rather than later!

    1. I'm with you on this one. The loss of revenue or the thought of losing revenue does have an effect.

      Thanks for leaving a comment Andrew!

  2. I do believe Facebook acted within a reasonable time (albeit from advertisers cancelling contracts) but because this has been an ongoing issue, their reputation may have suffered.

    1. Thank you Carol for visiting my blog and for leaving a comment.

      I tend to agree in that their reputation may have suffered as a result of this 'hate speech' row. If their reputation has indeed suffered, it could be a good thing though to ensure they don't make the same mistake.

  3. I think they acted too late but there is always time to do some damage control.

    1. There certainly is Nelieta. Thank you for visiting my blog and for taking the time to leave a comment.

  4. This sounds very impressive and forward thinking. I don't believe a single word of it, and I say this from personal experience with how "well" Facebook polices what their own policies state are clear violations. I think this is lip service and I doubt we will see them truly taking a stand on this topic. Sorry for the negative comment, Derek, but I am speaking from my own experiences with FB not lifting a finger to address similar issues.

    - Dawn

    1. I do remember you going through a terrible ordeal and I can totally understand your reservations. I too have reservations but I do hope that things will change for the better...only time will tell!

      Thanks for stopping by Dawn. :)


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