Time to try and get back to blogging with a bit more seriousness. My return is inspired by the amazing work being done by Everyday Sexism on their website, Twitter account, and Facebook page.
They are doing something I tried to do a few years ago, but never really managed to progress it much. What I find interesting is that I wrote a blog post about this back then, and it has mysteriously been deleted. My Tumblr post about the same thing is still available though.
Facebook have a truly appalling attitude toward hate speech. They have said, in effect, that anything is acceptable so long as you ad “LOL JK” after it. Everything that is except pictures of breast-feeding mothers.
For years we have tried to get some of these horrendous sites taken down, without success. Facebook just are not interested. And the reason they aren’t interested is that they have no need to be interested. Facebook users are not important to them (given it is a free service) other than as a pool of customers for their advertisers.
When you use Facebook, an algorithm looks at what Facebook knows about you and presents advertisement – sponsored ads – on whatever page you are on. So if you visit one of these pages, and Facebook determines that you would love Dove products, a Dove ad will appear on a page encouraging rape. What Facebook DOES care about, and cares very much, is their income.
So, part of the solution is to target the advertisers, and convince them to withdraw their funds from Facebook. And for any reasonable company, this is very simple indeed. Who would want the branding of their product decided by another organisation. One that has proven time and again to have no social responsibility.
When some of these advertisers have been approached, their response has been “But we have no control over where our ads appear”. Beyond issues of fighting a culture of abuse, this is a very disturbing attitude. “We have no control over the placement of our branding and we are using this as a defence“. What company would go to a publisher – who publishes some nice books but also produces incredibly vile hate-filled or pornographic magazines – and says “place our ads wherever you like”?
So, why would we enlist such people in helping fight these Facebook horrors? The answer is a fundamental tenet of activism. Like it or not, the world runs on money. That’s where de facto power lies. So if you want to effect change, follow the money. Follow the trail of money to its source. So if Facebook won’t listen to users, they will damned well listen to the people who give them money.
Back in 2011 when I was actively doing this, I had one amazing response. I went to the website of the company whose sponsored ad appeared. Found an email address for the CEO and marketing GM. I emailed them a screencap of their product against images of rape. I received a very quick response saying they were immediately pulling all their Facebook advertising and reconsidering their social media marketing strategy.
This is what can happen. My approach at that time was one of concern for the company and product. Of course I wanted to effect change, but I was also concerned that a product and/or company I enjoy was being associated with such horrors. I could only do so much at that time, and did not have any real reach. But EverydaySexism are doing wonders. And I could not be happier about their success.
It takes a lot of spoons to do it. You have to deal with some pretty horrendous pages, some utterly vile views, and so much hatred. But if you can, it is a rewarding task.