Facebook Rape Jokes Prompt 15 Companies To Pull Ads [Facebook Responds]

Kim LaCapria

In response to Facebook rape jokes and a resultant campaign to raise awareness about the content, 15 companies have removed ads from the social network to varying degrees.

The Facebook rape ad removal campaign began with an open letter from Women, Action & The Media on May 21, calling out specific gender based hate speech found on Facebook. The letter reads in part:

"Specifically, we are referring to groups, pages and images that explicitly condone or encourage rape or domestic violence or suggest that they are something to laugh or boast about. Pages currently appearing on Facebook include Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus, Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won't make you a Sandwich, Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs, Raping your Girlfriend and many, many more. Images appearing on Facebook include photographs of women beaten, bruised, tied up, drugged, and bleeding, with captions such as 'This bitch didn't know when to shut up' and 'Next time don't get pregnant.' "

The letter continues, contrasting with images that have been removed by Facebook due to "offensive content," oftentimes ones that involve mastectomy scarring or breastfeeding and do depict women's bodies -- but do not advocate violence or rape:

"These pages and images are approved by your moderators, while you regularly remove content such as pictures of women breastfeeding, women post-mastectomy and artistic representations of women's bodies. In addition, women's political speech, involving the use of their bodies in non-sexualized ways for protest, is regularly banned as pornographic, while pornographic content – prohibited by your own guidelines – remains."

One of the brands that came under fire in the Facebook rape joke ads flap was Dove -- which positions itself as body positive to a degree and encouraging of general female empowerment.

In a statement, Dove said:

"Dove takes this issue very seriously and does not condone any activity that intentionally insults any audience. We are working with Facebook to prevent our ads from appearing on these pages ... As Facebook advertising targets people, not pages, we cannot select which pages our adverts appear on; in the future, we will be refining our targeting to reduce the chance of any ads appearing on similar pages."

The statement continues:

"We have heard the concerns and are committed to creating a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety."

As of this evening, Women, Action & The Media reports that Facebook has committed to better policing gendered violence on the social network, declaring the Facebook rape ads boycott to be a success and updating in part:

"Today, we are pleased to announce that Facebook has responded with a important commitment to refine its approach to hate speech. Facebook has admirably done more than most other companies to address this topic in regards to content policy. In a statement released today, Facebook addressed our concerns and committed to evaluating and updating its policies, guidelines and practices relating to hate speech, improving training for its content moderators and increasing accountability for creators of misogynist content."

Do you think Facebook has a double standard when it comes to offensive content involving women, as seen in the Facebook rape ads controversy?