A number of female comedians say they’ve been temporarily banned from Facebook following remarks made in conversations about sexual assault and harassment, while racist, threatening messages are seemingly allowed.
Women are reporting that their Facebook accounts are being routinely temporarily suspended for violating “community standards” after posting comments about men.
As the ongoing revelations about widespread sexual harassment and assault illustrate the wider problem of gender inequality, many have taken to social media to continue the conversation, simply posting opinions or discussing their own experiences using hashtags such as #MeToo.
But, as The Daily Dot reports, US comedian Marcia Belsky saw her account suspended for 30 days for posting “men are scum” in the comments section of a friend’s photo album in October. The friend, Nicole Silverberg, had written for The Guardian about how men could treat women better, and the photo album detailed some of the vitriolic online abuse, including rape and death threats, she had subsequently received.
While Belsky saw the comment as sarcastic, Facebook banned her for what could be considered hate speech, with an automated messaged stating: “We remove posts that attack people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation or disability.”
Facebook, as The Guardian reports, operates a policy of escalation when it comes to bans, and Belsky had been banned before for a joke picture of herself as a child with a speech bubble saying, “Kill all men”.
However, while it could be argued that her comment was indeed dismissing a whole gender, many people’s upset lies in the rules not being so strictly enforced across the board; many insist previous incidences of hate speech, including racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia, have been allowed to remain on the social media platform while innocuous posts, such as pictures of women breastfeeding, or jokes, have been removed in the past.
And Belsky’s experience doesn’t appear to be unique. According to The Daily Dot, she began looking into the issue of women receiving bans and deletions of low-level or light-hearted comments while hate-filled racist or sexist messages were not subject to punishment – and one friend, Kayla Avery, started compiling them on a website called Facebook Jailed.
According to Avery, Facebook has also been trawling her previous posts and removing content, such as a comment that involved the phrase “fragile men feelings”.
Avery told The Daily Beast that one of her bans was for writing “men continue to be the worst” following sexist messages from male trolls, one of whom threatened to find her address and attack her – but her ban came into effect before she could report the comment.
She also said that in protest, nearly 500 female comedians agreed to post some version of “men are scum” on 24 November, resulting in bans for nearly all who took part.
To illustrate what seems to be a lack of equality in the moderation process, Belsky and the Facebook Jailed website have posted examples of hate speech not being deemed offensive enough to delete or see the offender banned, such as a user referencing “a tall tree and a short piece of rope”.
The “kill yourself” comment referenced above was directed at comedian Rae Sanni, who posted a Twitter thread last month in which she called out the issue, explaining that she had been banned for taking part in the “men are scum” protest, yet racist and sexist abuse directed at her was not found to have violated community standards.
I wrote a post decrying the absurdity of this ban, and used the phrase “men are scum” in solidarity with my friend. Marcia remained banned and 3 days later Facebook removed my post. Then, as you know, right wing blogs got a hold of a sarcastic tweet of mine and sent their minions— Rae Sanni (@raesanni) November 28, 2017
after me. I reported the dozens of racist and sexist slurs I was called on public posts and messaged privately, and weirdly, none of them went against FB’s terms of service. In the meantime, Marcia did an interview with the Daily Dot describing her issue, and discussing the fact— Rae Sanni (@raesanni) November 28, 2017
That over and over FB banned women and people of color, whilst leaving up comments and accounts from men and white people who had either directly threatened rape or physical harm or used racist and sexist slurs. After being contacted for the article, FB said her ban was an error— Rae Sanni (@raesanni) November 28, 2017
And removed the ban 15 days in. I continued to be harassed, btw. I continued to report this harassment, and continued to be told everything I was getting didn’t violate community standards. So, to be clear, “men are scum” violates TOS, “ugly cunt” and “dumb nigger” do not.— Rae Sanni (@raesanni) November 28, 2017
Sanni then says that the above comment “got me banned too”.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Guardian: “We understand how important it is for victims of harassment to be able to share their stories and for people to express anger and opinions about harassment — we allow those discussions on Facebook. We draw the line when people attack others simply on the basis of their gender.”
Told about specific examples of bans by The Daily Dot, another spokesperson said: “It sounds like we did make mistakes in some of these cases, and so I do want to look into those and correct those mistakes.”