#FBRape Campaign Lifts the Veil Off the Putrid Side of Facebook

You don’t get to 1.11 billion friends without harboring a few rapists, misogynists and fans of domestic violence. The #FBRape feminist movement wants to remind that to the whole world.

What started as a place meant to help friends keep in touch has turned in time into a home for anti-women groups that consider raping and domestic violence things the world should joke about. On XOJane, Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project and one of the spearheads of this campaign, gives us a hint about what’s wrong with Facebook: images with revolting misogynistic captions, groups with names that incite to domestic violence and rape, photographs allegedly depicting actual rape, images of children with black eyes along with “jokes” about beating or raping them, and so on.

Mark Zuckerberg’s social network might be great for organizing events, but when the world has a real problem (think of the Arab Spring), the micro-blogging platform Twitter seems more appealing. The hashtag #FBRape has accompanied thousands of messages that encourage the world to wake up and smell the putrid side of Facebook. Even Facemash, the predecessor of Facebook, was created by Mark Zuckerberg with the goal of rating the attractiveness of Harvard female students. It should be noted that he decided to create Facemash after breaking up with his girlfriend and insulting her on his blog.

Quitting Facebook might seem the proper thing to do, but Laura Bates recommends against that. In this particular situation, the flight is not honorable, as men and women alike have to fight to get rid of the corruption. A few hundreds have still decided to close their Facebook accounts, but ironically, Google+ hasn’t become any more popular.

#FBRape’s call has not been without an echo. About 50,000 tweets and 4,500 e-mails later, big names on whose advertising Facebook strives (Nissan UK, Nationwide UK, Dove) decided to suspend adverts until the social network gets rid of these pages. At first, the companies tried to explain that the ads are not targeted to specific pages, but to people. Dove representatives stated that “Ads are served to people based on their interests. In the future, we will be refining our targeting to reduce the chance of any ads appearing on similar pages. We heard your concern and are committed to creating a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety. We assure you that we will continue to carefully review and revisit our advertising and marketing decisions.”

In an interview for The Drum, Laura Bates declared: “We’re absolutely thrilled at the enormous success of the campaign and delighted that over 100 women’s and human rights organizations from around the world have added their support to our open letter. This just goes to show the sheer strength of public feeling about this issue – it matters deeply to both men and women and it’s time for Facebook and its advertisers to sit up and start listening to them.”

Overall, the message was rather simple: “Facebook, clean up your room or prepare to be grounded!” A few hours ago, Facebook announced that it would commit to have policies that address these particular issues. It took them a week to do that, but the scare they got from the advertisers must have worked, if nothing else.

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