What’s Got 800 Million Users and Loves Rape Jokes?

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“Whats 10 inches and gets girls to have sex with me? my knife.”

“You know she’s playing hard to get when she trys to break out of your van.”

These sayings exist as fan pages on Facebook, with 60 people liking the former and 921 liking the latter. They’re just two among many rape jokes on the social networking site. When asked to remove the offensive content, reports Ms. Magazine, Mark Zuckerberg maintained that the pages will stay put on Facebook and issued this statement:

It is very important to point out that what one person finds offensive another can find entertaining, just as telling a rude joke won’t get you thrown out of your local pub, it won’t get you thrown off Facebook.

Apparently freedom of speech reigns supreme on Facebook…except that the site has an explicit statement of user responsibilities that dictates: “(3.7) You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” And “(5.2) We can remove any content or information you post on Facebook if we believe that it violates this Statement.”

If Facebook were an unpoliced free-for-all, I would shrug my shoulders defeatedly at the stupid rape joke and move on. But it’s a policed community. Facebook regularly monitors and removes content it deems inappropriate to a public forum, including anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, and even I hate my teacher pages. The site is particularly vigilant in removing any promotion of cutting, eating disorders, or drug use. Facebook even yanks photos of breastfeeding mothers.

Furthermore, on its safety center help page, Facebook says: “If you see something that is inappropriate or makes you uncomfortable, speak up and let us know. We take reports from our community very seriously, and work hard to respond quickly.” Yet more than 180,000 people have signed a Change.org petition demanding Facebook remove pages that promote sexual violence–and Zuckerberg has done nothing.

I’m trying hard to wrap my mind around the inconsistencies here. A photo of a baby feeding from an exposed nipple gets pulled as quasi-pornographic, but a page that lets you “like” an illegal crime against women is okay? Thousands of upset users have spoken up against the rape joke pages, exactly as the site says to in its safety center, but Facebook does nothing? Racist material is regularly removed, but misogynistic material is seen as harmlessly “entertaining,” nothing but a “rude joke”? Why is violence against women getting a free pass?

How to put this clearly: The images evoked here–of a woman being raped at knifepoint or struggling to get out of a rapist’s van–are hateful and threatening. They make me–and all the people who signed the petition–uncomfortable, to say the very least. So much more uncomfortable than nursing photos ever could, they aren’t even on the same planet. Please sign the petition to have them removed.

Update 11/8/11: After 186,000 signatures on the Change.org petition and a furious Twitter campaign, Facebook finally began removing some of its rape joke pages, reports ZDNet, including Whats 10 inches and gets girls to have sex with me? my knife. Kudos to Change.org and Ms. for uncompromisingly pursuing the issue. However, other rape pages remain on the social media site, including, You know she’s playing hard to get when she trys to break out of your van and a whole host of variants on the hard to get theme: when she resists the chloroform (114 likes), when you have run out of rope (134 likes), when you use another roll of tape (339 likes), when she gets a restraining order (81,435 likes). Message to Mark Zuckerberg: It’s time to start self-policing the sexual violence pages just as you do racist or pornographic pages.

Source: Ms., ZDNet

Image by Guillaume Paumier, licensed under Creative Commons.

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