From TANZINA VEGA of The New York Times . . .
activists, who sent more than 5,000 e-mails to Facebook's advertisers
and elicited more than 60,000 posts on Twitter, also prompted Nissan and
more than a dozen smaller companies to say that they would withdraw
advertising from the site.
In a blog post,
Facebook said its "systems to identify and remove hate speech have
failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around
issues of gender-based hate." The company said it would review how it
dealt with such content, update training for its employees, increase
accountability — including requiring that users use their real
identities when creating content — and establish more direct lines of
communication with women's groups and other entities.
groups have complained to Facebook about misogynous content in the
past, but pressure on the company escalated last week when a collective
led by Women, Action and the Media; Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism
Project; and Soraya Chemaly, a writer and activist, published an open letter asking Facebook executives to "ban gender-based hate speech on your site."
letter highlighted Facebook pages with names like "Violently Raping
Your Friend Just for Laughs" and "Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny
because she won't make you a Sandwich," and other pages that included
graphic images of women being abused.
The groups asked Facebook to
improve how it trains moderators to recognize and remove such content. They
also asked Facebook users to use the Twitter hashtag #FBrape to call on
companies to stop advertising on Facebook if their ads have been placed
alongside such content. A petition on the site change.org had almost
224,000 supporters by Tuesday evening.
"We thought that advertisers would
be the most effective way of getting Facebook's attention," said Jaclyn
Friedman, the executive director of Women, Action and the Media. "We
had no idea that it would blow up this big. I think people have been
frustrated with this issue for so long and feeling like that had no way
for Facebook to pay attention to them. As consumers we do have a lot of
David Reuter, a spokesman for Nissan, said in an
interview on Tuesday that the automaker has stopped all advertising on
Facebook until it could assure Nissan that its ads would not appear on
pages with offensive content.Nissan typically buys
Facebook advertisements that target particular demographic groups, like
men age 30 to 35, Mr. Reuter said. In Facebook's system, those ads
follow the users onto whatever pages they visit, potentially including
those with offensive content.
"We are working with Facebook to understand
this situation better and opt out of advertising on any pages that are
offensive," he said.
While more than a dozen smaller
advertisers like Down Easy Brewing and eReader Utopia had agreed by
Tuesday to remove their ads from Facebook, other major advertisers,
including Zappos, Dove and American Express, stopped short of
withdrawing their ads. Those companies did, however,
issue responses through Facebook, e-mail or Twitter that they did not
condone violence against women.
Dove, a beauty brand that has a campaign
that focuses on "real beauty," has
come under intense pressure because of its marketing focus on women,
Ms. Friedman said. One commenter on the Dove Facebook page wrote: "So,
Dove, you're willing to make money off of us, but not willing to lift a
finger to let Facebook know violence against women isn't acceptable?"
for Dove did not respond to requests for an interview, nor did
representatives for Zappos or American Express.Stacy Janicki, a senior
partner and director of accounts at the advertising agency Carmichael
Lynch, called Facebook's response on Tuesday "a bit of a cop-out."
think advertisers have a responsibility to consumers and media
companies have a responsibility to advertisers to make sure they control
the content on those sites," Ms. Janicki, adding that as Facebook and
other social media companies seek to secure more advertising dollars,
advertisers will have the power to walk away from content that does not
represent them well.
"That's the power and the curse of
social media," she said. "You can put anything on there, but the benefit
is that you can elevate it and scale it to where advertisers will
listen and ultimately Facebook will listen."