Facebook moderation is under a fire again following a decision by the company to remove a group campaigning against another, much creepier group.
You might remember a group called “Women who eat on Tubes” that made headlines last month. The group – in a nutshell – is what it sounds like: photos of women eating on the London Underground. What makes it weird is that none of the women pictured have actually consented to having their photo taken.
That’s a bit creepy, right? Needless to add, the comments on the photos were not pleasant either. Astonishingly, at the time of writing the group has over 29,000 members.
Following the outcry, Facebook actually deleted the group, but later claimed it was accidental and reinstated it.
In response to this, a group of women founded a counter-group on Facebook called “Men Who Post On ‘Women Who Eat On Tubes'” to highlight the problems with the group – and call out the men who post on it. As of this morning though, the group has been taken down following a user report for posing a “credible threat of violence”… which it didn’t.
“It’s absurd that Facebook would shut down a group exposing people who are basically being creeps on trains, but not the group full of creeps itself”, said Marianne Baker, who was a regular contributor to the group.
At its peak, this counter group amassed almost 2000 members.
Facebook’s moderation practices are regularly under scrutiny – with previous ‘odd’ moderation decisions including allowing images of blood and gore to remain, whilst censoring pictures of breastfeeding.
What about the arguments for allowing the WWEOT group on free speech grounds? Dr Baker responded by saying:
“It’s not about free speech. Generally we were not requesting the group to be closed, but trying to educate people in why taking their photograph covertly and posting it online without consent to be ridiculed is unacceptable behaviour.
“We set this in the context of women’s everyday lives and the pressures we face, but this was met with dismissals including “well it’s not illegal” – if your sole standard for acceptable behaviour is legality, we definitely still have a problem. Plenty of shocking things were legal – like raping your wife, until 1991. Things change. We’re still catching up in legal terms with what the internet allows in behavioural terms. WWEOT is a violation and that it’s still open when our response has been shut down is baffling.”
It certainly smacks of double standards from Facebook. I’ve reached out to them for comment and will update this post if they respond.
Update (16:56): Whilst we still haven’t heard from Facebook, the group’s creator, Mimi Kempton-Stewart has said the following the former members of the group:
“Hi all, I think we can all agree that we had fun and that feminism’s a great laugh, but as soon as it starts to slightly annoy one man, it should be stopped. I am sorry that “Camembert’s” muesli tasted so salty after all his tears fell in it. This was an error and I regret it. In future I will stick to asking men for permission to be rude about them, as per millennia of patriarchy/Facebook’s Terms and Conditions. Thanks to everyone who helped, Mimi”
Update (9th May, 11:48): Facebook have responded to a report of the original ‘Women who eat on tubes’ group for harassment and found that it didn’t violate their community standards. Hmm.
Dr Baker has also written a detailed blog post outlining her arguments.