Monday, 20 January 2014

Racist abuse perfectly acceptable on Facebook?

The Internet is becoming less anonymous to protect us?

 With sites such as Youtube trying to make the internet a safer place I have to say I am very confused. Youtube has been pushing for people to use their real names, with the belief this will somehow stop people leaving abusive comments, trolling or cyber bullying. I always wondered about this theory. Facebook is a site that knows all about peoples real names, plus with the way it works your friends and family will see what you say which should also act as a deterrent. But do people using their real names online really behave any differently?

Facebook, Twitter and Youtube under fire

Last year Facebook got into trouble with its strange lack of action over groups on there which encourage hate and even abuse of women. Thanks to the real power of the net, petitions had Facebook exposed in the media over this at least here in the UK. Several big companies decided to withdraw themselves from Facebook. Facebook business pages can generate big money for Facebook. These companies wondered where exactly is all their money was going if nobody takes action against this type of thing plus wondered if they really wanted to be associated with Facebook.

Twitter also got into alot of trouble with many female members openly threatend with rape, violence and even bomb threats with poor or no action taken. I have also heard about pages on Facebook which show animals being abused, with lots of sicko comments under the pics and videos. These pages were reported by hundreds yet Facebook appears to do little or nothing. I am subscribed to a woman on Youtube who found that someone had stolen her videos and re-uploaded them on another channel. Whats terrible about this (apart from how easy identity theft is) is that the imposter set up Youtube adverts so is making money from her videos! She reported the channel to Youtube and so did many of her subscribers. Youtube has done NOTHING.

Openly racist comments on Facebook

I had not really had many bad experiences on Facebook. I have seen allot of what I would call racist comments on posts on popular Facebook meme pages lately, but havent reported anything because to be honest I had no idea how to. One of the pages I was following "Welcome to the Internet" (which has 2.6 million followers) posted the following image because of its optical illusion effect. Here it is to just see what you guys think to it and so you can see this was not a meme or joke post:

I looked at the many comments on this image and was shocked to see how many were actually about the race of the man in this photo. What I saw was blatant racist comments with plenty of 'likes'. Although one of these posts came from an obvious troll with no real name or photo, the rest were just normal profiles. I know when it comes to jokes it can fall into a grey area with reporting but thought this was pretty clear and must be against site rules.

First I clicked to hide a comment from my view hoping this might alert the page owner to this comment. I almost missed the tiny text that appeared where the hidden comment was. It gave the option to report the post to Facebook. Now let me make this clear why I was reporting these comments. They would say things like "Still just a N****" or "Look its two N*****" or just straight to the point "N****!" I have starred the N-word here but it was typed for all to see and it was not posted by anyone who was black themselves. I reported five different people who had posted these blatant racist comments. After reporting I was told the comments would be reviewed by Facebook and they would get back to me with an update.

You wont believe what Facebook said...

I got several emails confirming the comments had been seen and this was the result. They did not consider any of the comments to be racist and none of the comments were not even removed!

"Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the comment you reported for containing hate speech or symbols and found it doesn't violate our Community Standards."

Safe and welcoming environment? For who the Nazi party? So what exactly are these standards? Here is what they say about hate speech:

"Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition."

Confused? Me too. I understand that people make jokes but in the country I live in jokes about someones race especially using a well known highly offensive racist name are not acceptable! You just cant say things like this any more, its 2014! That aside the comments I reported were not remotely 'humorous' in their tone or in the context! I am still totally stunned by Facebook and their lazy 'standards'. I have written them some feedback not that im sure anyone is even checking this stuff. I mean I wouldnt want them to dip into their BILLIONS of profit they made in the last couple of years and actually pay someone to moderate the service they offer!


So is racist abuse perfectly acceptable on Facebook?

I have asked them what exactly would they consider a racist comment if the N-word is okay? The message they are sending out load and clear is that its perfectly acceptable to say and post these things, please just go ahead kids! The Facebook logo is starting to look allot like a broken swastika right now... No wonder people feel so confident to post this shameless stuff with their full name and their photo next to it and have no fear of any repercussions. Mind boggling!

My opinion on what we will see more and more in the next few years as the net slowly turns into one single website is that its not the anonymity of the internet that needs removing to make it safer. Its moderating reported comments on their websites. We also need to look at how people abuse the 'it was only a joke' loophole that appears to be cleverly built into the Terms of Service of some well known sites. You can pretty much do and say anything under this so some clearer guidelines need to be made. Where do we draw the line?

UPDATE: I just wanted to update people that a few weeks later I checked the status reports of the reports id made and saw some had since been changed. Several of the pictures had been removed by Facebook but not all. I am not sure why they changed their mind, if it was my complaint or if it was this blog but im glad they actually did something and that I am not crazy.

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