Should Advertisers Join Feminists in the Fight Against Facebook?

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There’s a storm brewing between feminists and the social networking site Facebook — and advertisers and social media marketing experts have found themselves smack dab in the middle of it. Previously, Facebook has been commended for acting quickly to dismantle hate group pages. Yet feminists say when it comes to violence among women, the site treats the issues as a joke. With several advertisers poised to pull out ad dollars on Facebook in protest, however, none of this is anything to laugh about.

Women, Action & the Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and author Soraya Chemaly have led the charge against Facebook.

“It appears that Facebook considers violence against women to be less offensive than non-violent images of women’s bodies, and that the only acceptable representation of women’s nudity are those in which women appear as sex objects or the victims of abuse,” the groups’ open letter to the website reads. “Your common practice of allowing this content by appending a [humor] disclaimer to said content literally treats violence targeting women as a joke.”

According to, “Facebook currently allows pages on its site called ‘Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus,’ ‘Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs,’ ‘This is why Indian girls are raped’ and ‘Punching your girlfriend in the face cuz you’re Chris Brown.’ The social media site also permits pictures of battered women who are bleeding, bruised, tied up, or drugged alongside captions like ‘This bitch didn’t know when to shut up.’ Using the hashtag #FBRape, the campaign has called for companies like Dove, American Express and Sky to pull their advertisements from Facebook until the anti-woman pages are taken down. Facebook, for its part, says, ‘There is no place on Facebook for hate speech or content that is threatening, or incites violence, and we will not tolerate material deemed to be genuinely or directly harmful. We try to react quickly to remove reported language or images that violate our terms and we try to make it very easy for people to report questionable content using links located throughout the site. However, as you may expect in any diverse community of more than a billion people, we occasionally see people post distasteful or disturbing content, or make crude attempts at humor. While it may be vulgar and offensive, distasteful content on its own does not violate our policies. We do require that any such page be clearly marked — so users are aware that the content may be in poor taste. In many instances, we may also require a page administrator to display their real name on the page, or the page will be removed.'”

This complicated issue is bound to get even more so as corporations are forced to pick sides. So, readers, you tell us. What’s the difference between hateful and humorous Facebook content? And as marketers, how do you deal with social media controversy? Sound off below!

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