We spoke to Kayla, who runs facebookjailed.com, a site that exposes Facebook’s double standards
In 2017, we've found ourselves saying things like “men are trash” more than ever – and with decent reason. Overwhelmingly, it would be fair to think that actually, men might be trash. Facebook disagrees. After being banned from Facebook for ‘hate speech’ 10 separate times for posting things along the lines of fair comments like “men are the worst”, comedian Kayla Avery started facebookjailed.com, a site that collects people’s stories of being banned – while also exposing legitimate hate speech that is allowed to continue on the platform.
Women have been banned for expressing their frustration at men or for sharing their stories in the wake of the #MeToo campaign, with comedian Marcia Belsky being suspended for commenting “men are scum” underneath a friend’s post about her sexual assault. In response to these stories coming to light, a Facebook spokesperson said “we understand how important it is for victims of harassment to be able to share their stories and for people to express anger and opinions about harassment – we allow those discussions on Facebook. We draw the line when people attack others simply on the basis of their gender”.
But Kayla’s website has found a double standard – where Facebook vows to protect people who are being attacked for their race, gender or sexuality, facebookjailed found that users posting threats of lynching, personal attacks on women, and “women are scum” have all escaped being banned. It also found that posts about activism, democracy, and protesting white supremacists do get people banned. The fact that Facebook considers women saying “men are trash” in response to stories of sexual assault hate speech is troubling, too. In light of recent events, a widespread fear and even dislike of men at large is to be expected.
Context is important, too – when we hear about someone being sexually assaulted and say, “men are scum”, maybe we don't actually entirely mean it. I've got a lot of friends who are men, and I would go as far as to say that they individually are not trash. But “toxic masculinity is dangerous and some men abuse their power to assault vulnerable people – some are OK though!” just isn’t as cathartic or easy. For women to express their discomfort with men (who are, bear in mind, for the most part more privileged and powerful than them, so “hate speech” is a questionable term to use here) with something as throwaway and inoffensive as “men suck” and to then be banned from Facebook entirely is nothing short of censorship. And in the current news cycle, you can understand why a woman might be frustrated. There’s a lot worse we could say right now, trust me.
Kayla, whose most recent ban has been reversed, says that this happens to her a lot and that she was recently banned for posting “white dudes are the worst”. She believes that once your account is flagged, Facebook are more likely to take notice of any future posts that they may disagree with. While she created the site, she’s keen not to take credit for the term Facebook jail – a common phrase for people in this predicament. She said that she created the site after she met some other women who have been banned, because “I knew if it was happening to us and people of colour, especially anyone associated with Black Lives Matter, then there were countless others out there needing to get their voices heard”.
On November 24, Kayla and a number of other women posted “all men are scum” in protest against being silenced. Almost every single woman involved in the protest was consequently banned. One woman, Hana Michels, was banned for 24 hours for taking part in the protest – when she posted “I’m back!” after the ban was lifted, she was immediately banned again. Kayla’s ban was recently lifted early, but she says that many women are still banned – Kayla says, “if Facebook is going to admit fault to me, then they better admit fault to every woman who was affected by their bullshit bans”.
She says that “it’s no secret that Silicon Valley is very white and very male”, adding that Uber whistleblower Susan Fowler’s recent experience and the leaked Google memo “shed light on what many women already know, that the tech industry is very misogynistic”. She says that Facebook gives out no information on the demographics of its moderating staff, but that they do deem white men as a “protected class” and she wouldn’t be surprised if the moderators were almost all white men – hence the silencing of women while hate speech and fake news continues to circulate. These bans and Facebook’s double standard when it comes to protecting women and people of colour against hate speech are troubling; especially considering that it was recently discovered that Facebook’s censorship rules protect white men over black children. Sites and protests like these will expose that hypocrisy, and hopefully go some way to changing it.