Facebook Hate Speech Protest: A Primer on Making Businesses Listen

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For the last few weeks, Facebook has dealt with growing protests over its failure to shut down groups that make light of rape and violence against women. Campaigners have blasted Facebook executives with emails and used the Twitter hashtag #FBRape to call attention to offensive posts and pages.

Complaints about this sort of hate speech on Facebook are nothing new. A petition launched on Change.org in 2011 similarly asked Facebook to take down pages promoting sexual violence, and garnered more than 225,000 signatures. Facebook did eventually take down some of the offending pages, but it never issued any kind of public statement on the matter. And if the examples of hate speech cited by campaigners this month are any indication, it apparently didn't do much to beef up its monitoring of offensive content.

But it seems this time is different: On Tuesday Facebook published a lengthy blog post acknowledging that it had failed to effectively remove hate speech on the site. It promised to work closely with activist groups to expedite complaints and increase accountability for users responsible for hate speech.

Facebook ad Violence against women
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The well-organized social media campaign, as well as increasing media attention, surely helped spur Facebook to action. But what really made a difference was that campaigners hit Facebook in the wallet by convincing businesses to pull their advertising from the site. The response from Facebook came shortly after two major advertisers, Nissan and Nationwide, suspended their Facebook campaigns.

It's a good lesson for any would-be activists: If you have a grievance against a company that relies on advertising, put pressure on the advertisers.

Consider the case of MTV's "Skins," for instance. The series, adapted from a British show of the same name, came under fire from conservatives for its depiction of oversexed teenagers. The result: sponsors from Taco Bell to H&R Block pulled their ads from the show, and it wound up being canceled after just one season.

Sometimes it's liberals doing the boycotting. After radio host Rush Limbaugh referred to a reproductive rights activist as a "slut," dozens of advertisers pulled their commercials from his show. Cumulus Media, which owns 40 radio stations that broadcast Limbaugh's show, said that it lost millions as a result of the controversy, and now Limbaugh is reportedly considering parting ways with the company.

And then there's Glenn Beck, who saw a mass exodus of advertisers from his Fox News show after branding President Obama a "racist" in 2009. He left the network in 2011, and many attributed his departure to Fox's inability to turn his high ratings into advertising dollars in the wake of the boycott.

Facebook has more than a billion users, and the company clearly feels that it can't be held responsible for everything those users choose to say and do. By going after Facebook's precious advertisers, women's rights advocates forced it to take responsibility -- and in the process, they created a game plan for future activist campaigns.



Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.

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Niki Hart

Cant say enuff AWESOMES!!!!!!!!

June 04 2013 at 7:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bilfon

In a socialized Gov. everything is controled for you.
They decide what you do and see. Take Obama and Move there!
Grow up and don't read it if you don't like it.
Don't watch it, don't tune your radio into it if you don't want to see it or hear it.

June 04 2013 at 3:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
add1dda

You’ve been had. This article isn’t at all about getting better service from companies. That line, and the attractive, bosomy, young blonde in the picture were just a bait-and-switch scam to get people to hit the link. This article is promoting feminist net terror. Facebook offers no goods or services. Feminists and their shills, like this writer, aren’t interested in it doing a better job (what job?), but in forcing everyone to submit to them.

June 03 2013 at 4:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
janet

After American Suzuki Finance Service went bankrupt they sold their car loans to an aggressive debt collection company called " ALLY". Ally has violated every business model and agreement that ASFS ever made with it's customers. But they are not dependent on advertisers, they are just awful people. Wish someone had an idea how I could get some pressure on them....THanks!

June 03 2013 at 12:49 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to janet's comment
greatguys

Have an annoncement that all your calls are recorded and go to Radio Shack and install a simple device to record your calls. That should intimidate the caller regarding harrassment laws.

June 03 2013 at 8:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bobby

Great way to get sued for defamation of character and slander. Stupid idea!

June 03 2013 at 12:17 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bobby

I wouldn't trust any message about a professional company on Facebook. I refuse to even have an account

June 03 2013 at 12:15 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
chickeadoodle

Totally agree with the Freedom of Speech. However, with that right or privilege, one also assumes-or should assume-certain responsibilites. A few of these might include having a little respect - not only for one's self, but for others as well. Being considerate and compassionate. Trying hard to hold ourselves to a high moral and ethical standard. We have become such a desensitized society, that some advertisers feel they only way to get our attention is by using the "shock value", which many times is going to be offensive to someone. The more "shock", the more attention. That's where the high moral and ethical standards need to kick in.

June 03 2013 at 12:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chickeadoodle's comment
nikkitytom

Absolutely correct. I can't believe the abuse of that "freedom of speech" .... responsibility should be an automatic corollary .... which it often isn't.

Facebook is hardly a beacon of positivity. It could indeed be a pleasant social tool with the right provisions for privacy ... but when every site I log onto has that hateful Facebook logo grinning at me .... all I can think of is BIG BROTHER.

It's ironic that so many peole bray about free speech and seem blissfully unaware that they're being stalked by Facebook. And that's exactly what these intrusions everywhere are ... Stalking.

June 03 2013 at 7:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
xak999

Couldn't it have read "Making light of violence and rape" without having to restrict the protection to 'against women'. If anyone thinks men are all for being violated, maimed and penetrated with an object, foreign or otherwise, they are mistaken and narrow.

June 02 2013 at 11:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
psridgell

Hate Speech is relative to your beliefs, each person has his or her own idea of what is hateful. Liberals are just as hateful as conservatives, but when freedom of speech is taken from one group, it will eventually be taken from all. I am for all FREE SPEECH, no matter who is offended, including me, except I don't get offended, I don't pay any attention to what you morons have to say... no offense to morons...

June 02 2013 at 10:45 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
nomad1

when a company doesn't do the right thing I don't do business with them anymore. their in business to serve me /U.S. and their grown adults so I should not have to tell them what they are doing is wrong or their employees. plus face book employees are earning millions/billions so they better get on the ball when allowing criminals to use their site to spread their crimes. in other words face book(all sites) and it's(their) employees better develop some morals/ethics /Godly values fast. if I cant trust your sites to do the right thing then I cant trust you and your employees......this goes for all companies not jus the internet.

June 02 2013 at 9:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply