Facebook falls flat in fighting gender-based hate speech

I am an avid Facebook user (is anyone reading this not?); it is an integrated part of my everyday life. So when I heard that Facebook had agreed to better control the content on their site and eliminate gender-based hate speech, I was thrilled. Or so I thought.

When I learned that they had only done so in response to pressure and threats of advertisers pulling ads, a result of a campaign by Women, Action, & the Media (you can check out their open letter to Facebook here), I was sorely disappointed, if not a bit peeved.

Come on, Facebook, really? Can’t you fight hate speech that targets women without being forced to do so? What took so long? Grrrr…

As I see it, the problem here is that as one of the most used social media sites, whether or not Facebook acts and succeeds at eliminating gender-based hate speech on their site will weigh heavily on the issue at large. If Facebook fails to follow through with their promise and act aggressively, it is going to send the message that this kind of speech on social websites is okay; that it is okay to treat and speak about females this way.

It is not, and it will never be. No question.

Personally, I am a bit of an “I’ll believe it when I see it” type person. I am skeptical that Facebook will follow through or will follow through to the degree necessary to evoke lasting change. Companies like this do have a tendency to “talk the talk”, but not “walk the walk.”

However, in the spirit of optimism, I will wait and reserve judgment until I see what Facebook actually does. Who knows, perhaps they will surprise me and make some changes that will change the social media world forever. And hey, they took the first step by admitting that they HAD failed at identifying and dealing with hate-speech. That is a good first step, right?

At this point, the ball is in their court. Only time will tell. What do you think (you can check out Facebook’s response here)?

Do you think that Facebook will step up and evoke lasting change? Or, do you think that they will fall flat once again? Have you ever come across gender-based hate speech on Facebook that has been bothersome to you? If so, how did you deal with it?

Katelin Jordan is a recent university graduate with a Bachelors Degree in General Studies, with concentrations in Sociology and Communications. While currently an eager jobseeker, her interest lies in social issues and social science research. She is the proud pet-parent of her two year-old Manx-shorthair mix cats, Chocolate Chip and Oreo.

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