Facebook is banning women for criticizing men, calls it ‘hate speech’

Tech companies still don't have a coherent policy for tackling hate speech.

FILE - In this Monday, June 19, 2017, file photo, a user gets ready to launch Facebook on an iPhone, in North Andover, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
FILE - In this Monday, June 19, 2017, file photo, a user gets ready to launch Facebook on an iPhone, in North Andover, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

Female comedians say they’ve been repeatedly banned from Facebook for violating the social media giant’s “hate speech policies” by responding to male trolls and posting innocuous comments like “all men are scum.”

Over the last month, hundreds of women have reportedly had their posts removed for describing men as “trash”, “useless”, and “the worst”, since apparently this language violates Facebook’s community guidelines — this despite the fact that male trolls could continue to harass them with derogatory and sexist terms and face zero punishment for it.

New York-based comedian Marcia Belsky said several of her posts were removed, including one post featuring a photo of herself as a child with the caption “kill all men.”

“I was like… fine. I get that,” she told the Daily Dot. “If they punish the serious ‘Kill all Muslims’ people then I’m fine with them getting that photo too. Only they don’t punish the ‘Kill All Muslims’ people.”

Comedian Rae Sanni, who is friends with Marcia, posted a Twitter thread about how the ban was fundamentally unfair and ignored the vitriolic abuse that she and other female comedians were receiving.

“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,” Sanni wrote. “After being contacted for the article, FB said her ban was an error. …Lots of our women friends are having their posts deleted or are being banned for talking about this, or repeating ‘men are scum.’ I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but these bans, accidental or otherwise, sure feel targeted.”

Comedian Alison Klemp was also banned from Facebook for spurious reasons.

“I personally posted ‘men are scum’ in November and I received a seven-day ban,” she told the Daily Beast. “It’s still ongoing. Two days and 23 hours left.”

Meanwhile, Boston comedian Kayla Avery said she was banned when she responded to troll flooding her page with abuse. “There was one guy who was threatening to find my house and beat me up,” she said. “I got banned before I could successfully report it.”

The revelations come just two days after Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, wrote an extensive post on the website where said she hoped the #MeToo movement would lead to a “stronger, more equitable workplace culture that treats women with more respect and affords them more opportunities.” Sandberg added that “doing right by women in the workplace does not just mean treating them with respect. It also means not isolating or ignoring them.”

Over the last few months, growing outcry over tech companies’ previous hands-off approach to hate speech on their platforms has seen them swing from one end of the spectrum to the other, in an effort to find a consistent policy for tackling the problem.

Earlier in November, for instance, Twitter caused an uproar by verifying the account of white supremacist Jason Kessler, who organized the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville this summer that left one counter-protester dead. The company then hastily backtracked and de-verified several far right accounts after massive backlash, including Kessler’s and those of like-minded extremists Richard Spencer and Baked Alaska.

Facebook meanwhile, spurred by lawmakers’ talk of regulating the tech giants, has also stepped up its battle against hate speech and fake news, but with mixed results. Despite promising to build up Facebook’s army of moderators from 4,000 to 7,500, internal documents obtained by ProPublica show that Facebook’s hate speech policies are approached in an inconsistent manner. In one example, U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins was able to get away with calling for the slaughter of Muslims, while a post by a Black Lives Matter activist saying “All white people are racists” was taken down, and the Facebook account suspended for a week.