Facebook: rape jokes no worse than ‘pub jokes’
Two weeks ago I wrote about a Facebook page, entitled ‘You know she’s playing hard to get when your chasing her down an alleyway (sic)’ which appeared to be advocating rape against women and also featured posts relating to child abduction.
Also, we estimate that thousands of people have reported this page as a result of both the WVoN article and other people, equally incensed, who are posting links all over Facebook asking people to report it.
Meanwhile, as a result of a letter collaboration between WVoN, CRASAC, Birmingham against Rape and Rape Crisis (England and Wales), on Wednesday this week (17th) I was invited into the studios of BBC Coventry & Warwickshire radio to talk about why we were calling on Facebook to take the page down immediately.
Further in (41 minutes) is Mary-Ann Stephenson from Coventry Women’s Voices who does a brilliant job talking about the wider harms that encouraging and thus perpetuating the existing rape culture can do women’s chances of being taken seriously when raped or sexually assaulted.
In addition, over at the ‘I bet we can find 1,000,000 Proud Feminists on facebook’ page, the tireless Orlagh has started a petition – which can be found here: please sign it.
I have reprinted the Facebook statement below: as you can see Facebook appears to be arguing that rape and child abduction jokes are no more serious than a pub joke.
However a quick glance around the internet shows us that Facebook are quite capable of censoring pages when they feel like it, such as a page featuring a topless statue of liberty, political statements made by liberal commentators, and The Pansy Project, a group against homophobic abuse. The Pansy Project received this Facebook statement:
“Among other things, groups that are hateful, threatening, or obscene are not allowed. We also take down groups that attack an individual or group, or advertise a product or service.”
Facebook also, only this week, made this statement in response to being asked to attend a meeting with the Home Office after allowing two men (now sent to prison for four years) to incite rioting through a Facebook page:
“We look forward to meeting with the home secretary to explain the measures we have been taking to ensure that Facebook is a safe and positive platform for people in the UK at this challenging time.” (BBC News, August 19, 2011)
Therefore a preliminary conclusion seems to be that Facebook is, at best, inconsistent in terms of applying its own polices and at worst actively refusing to take issues such as rape and child abduction seriously.
This brings to mind the image of a few young lads – kind of like the young lads who are making the rape ‘jokes’ – in a Facebook back office somewhere, sniggering at the page and dismissing the very real harms and offence that this page is causing.
Also being dismissed is the collaborative letter mentioned earlier – the Guardian have expressed no interest in this at all, and to date neither has the Times. The letter will be sent to all the broadsheets by the end of this week, but I am becoming a tad disillusioned by the reaction of the mainstream media.
Not wanting to equate sniggering boys in a back office with grown up male news editors, I do have to wonder why the news organisations are not taking this seriously.
After all, if you think about it in the context of the statistic 1 in 5 women worldwide will be sexually assaulted or raped in her lifetime – is this page not newsworthy? And if not, do we have to ask ourselves what is? Perhaps it really is the sniggering boys who are in charge. And that is scary.
Watch this space for more updates: this story is not going to be allowed to fade away.
Facebook statement to the Annie Othen Show, 17.8.11, BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire; available until 24.8.11
We want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views whilst respecting the rights and feeling of others.
We have now more than 750m people around the world of varying opinions and ideals using Facebook as a place to discuss and share things that are important to them.
We sometimes find people discussing and posting about controversial topics
It is very important to point out that what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining – just as telling a rude joke won’t get you thrown out of your local pub, it won’t get you thrown off Facebook.