The move follows a week-long campaign by Women, Action and the Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and activist Soraya Chemaly, who encouraged their supporters to challenge advertisers to contact Facebook over their ads appearing against offensive pages, such as those which made light of domestic violence and incited gender-based hate.
The campaign has led to major brands including Nationwide and Nissan pulling ad campaigns from the site, while other brands – such as Zipcar, American Express and Dove – said they were working with Facebook to resolve the issue.
Last week, Facebook issued a statement declaring its disgust at the offending pages highlighted by the campaigns – which have since been removed – and defending its content policies, adding that having a platform for open debate helps combat ignorance and intolerance.
Facebook, however, has now bowed to the social media backlash brewing around the issue, highlighted on Twitter and in emails with the hashtag #FBRape.
In a statement on its policy page, Facebook’s vice president of global public policy Marne Levine, admitted it had become clear the company’s systems to identify and remove hate speech had “failed to work”.
Levine admitted Facebook “[needs] to do better – and will” and is implementing a five-point programme to capture all the content that violates its standards (see box below).
She adds: “These are complicated challenges and raise complex issues. Our recent experience reminds us that we can’t answer them alone. Facebook is strongest when we are engaging with the Facebook community over how best to advance our mission. As we’ve grown to become a global service with more than one billion people, we’re constantly re-evaluating our processes and policies. We’ll also continue to expand our outreach to responsibe groups and experts who can help and support us in our efforts to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project welcomed the move: “We have been inspired and moved beyond expression by the outpouring of energy, creativity and support for this campaign from communities, companies and individuals around the world. It is a testament to the strength of public feeling behind these issues,” she adds.
Facebook’s five-point programme to deal with “controversial, harmful and hateful speech”
- Solicit feedback from legal experts and representatives of the women’s coalition and other groups that have historically faced discrimination to review and update the guidelines its user operations team uses to evaluate reports of community standards violations around hate speech.
- Also work with these experts and groups to update training for teams that review and evaluate reports of hateful speech or harmful content on Facebook.
- Increase the accountability of the creators of content that is cruel or insensitive, by requiring their authentic identity to be linked to that content.
- Establish more formal and direct lines of communications with representatives of groups working in this area.
- Encourage the Anti-Defamation League’s Anti-Cyberhate working group and other international working groups to include representatives of the women’s coalition to identify how to balance considerations of free expression, undertake research of the effect of online hate speech and evaluate progress collectively.