August 26, 2015
Digital rights advocates demand a revision of Facebook’s policies that perpetuate violence against women in non-English speaking communities.
On July 28th a social activist, Preetha G, was brutally slut-shamed, harassed and abused in Facebook through a page which was in a native Indian language, Malayalam. The hate pages instigated a huge degree of violence, hurled abuses at her dignity and womanhood. It contained her morphed pictures with sexually explicit abuses, targetting even her autistic son. Preetha hailing from the state of Kerala in India, has around 22K followers on Facebook and uses the platform to to express her political opinions, her ideas on gender and other minority rights.
Many users including Preetha reported the hate pages (a total of 5 pages in a span of 3 weeks) to Facebook and also to the cyber crime wing of Kerala Police. Facebook replied with a generic message stating “The post doesn’t violate community standards”. The hate pages continued to update its content with threats and abuses to the women who publicly supported Preetha. Amidst all this, profiles of several supporters, especially women were suspended by Facebook. All these, including that of Preetha was blocked stating “violation of Real Name Policy” possibly due to reporting by those cyber-criminals who started the hate pages.
As the story of violence aided by Facebook policies spread, stories emerged from other countries as well. A recent incident occurred in Peshwar, Pakistan where a similar hate campaign was unleashed towards several young women through Facebook. When this was reported by users, Facebook responded in a similar fashion with the generic message that “no community standards were violated”. These young women’s lives were put to extreme risk and their own families did not protect them.
The women in countries like India and Pakistan do not get family support and Facebook refuses to understand the cultural complexities. With respect to this context, different individuals and organizations had several conversations with Facebook, but Facebook failed to take any measures until now to rectify these.
From the generic response that Facebook provides while hate pages in non-English language is reported, it is evident that the language experts that Facebook claims to have in place, is a myth. The actions or rather the lack of actions from Facebook, make it easier for several majoritarian forces to unleash violence against women and other marginalized sections. Facebook’s flimsy community policies are putting women’s lives in danger and this platform is used as a tool to silence women and bring forth more oppression.
It is high time we collectively inform Facebook about renegotiating its policies what adhere to majoritarian forces, and initiate a global mass campaign against those policies.
We, Women In Campaign, demand the following to Facebook:
a) Right to Privacy: To get rid of the real name policy and its associated proceedings.
b) Right for protection against hate crimes: A systemized responsive system or a set of language experts for assessing hate pages in non-English languages and a timely response and follow up in such situations.
c) Right to cultural diversity: Facebook needs to understand the complexity of non-English cultures and cannot impose its American corporate colonization into other societies. It urgently needs to appoint linguistic experts who can verify hate pages and understand regional languages and it nuances.
On Tuesday Aug 18th 2015, an online meeting was held with representatives from Facebook (India and US), Maya Leela and Inji Pennu (Women In Campaign) and members of a few other organisations who stand for Facebook policy revisions. We are waiting for a post-meeting response from Facebook. Depending on their response, we will disclose our future strategies.
We stand in solidarity against the invasion of Facebook into our right to privacy and political choices.
A Facebook page is started for the campaign: https://www.facebook.com/womenincampaign
hashtag for solidarity: #forabetterfb
Women In Campaign, India
[Aswathy Senan, Inji Pennu, Jaseela Cheriyavalappil, Jina Dcruz, Kunjila Mascillamani, Maya Leela, Najma Jose, Preetha GP]
Digital Rights Foundation, Pakistan – Nighat Dad
Internet Democracy Project, India
Point of View, Bishakha – India
Phone Contact:Inji Pennu : (USA) +1-3212502484
Jaseela CV: (India) +91-9497550324
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org