The last two months have not, on the whole, been a good news cycle for men. Luckily, Facebook has been actively moderating comments, and suspending users’ accounts for posting hurtful things about the embattled sex.
The Daily Beast reports that Facebook has suspended accounts for posting comments like “men are scum,” and removing comments like “men ain’t shit,” “all men are ugly,” or “all men are allegedly ugly.”
Comedian Rae Sanni posted a Twitter thread detailing the long saga of Marcia Belsky, who was banned from Facebook for 30 days after posting “men are scum” on a friend’s post.
Training documents for Facebook’s moderation team, leaked in mid-2017, show the mind-bending logic of Facebook’s moderation policies. Facebook’s “protected categories” are sex, race, religious affiliation, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and serious disability or disease. But there are “unprotected categories,” which include things like social class, occupation, continental origin, political ideology, appearance, religion, age, or country. Facebook instructed moderators to ignore comments about “subsets” of users in unprotected categories.
This means derogatory comments about “white men” aren’t allowed on the service (as both race and gender are protected), while derogatory comments about “women drivers” and “black children” are (because occupation and age are unprotected). Thus, saying “all men are scum” would be, technically, against Facebook’s policy.
In a comment to the Daily Beast, a Facebook spokesperson said the company will “look at ways to apply our policies in a more granular way, for instance to take into account the history of oppression with different genders and ethnicities, etc. when reviewing posts. But we are a global platform.”
It’s not a problem only found on Facebook. BuzzFeed writer Katie Notopoulos found herself banned from Twitter for ten days after the alt-right began reporting a reply she tweeted in 2011, “Kill All White People.” Notopoulos appealed the decision, but was eventually forced to delete five tweets to be let back onto the service.
Moderators operate in a vacuum of information, often just seeing the post or comment that’s getting reported, and not the context of that comment. And you’d need a staggering number of people to understand the context of everything posted by Twitter’s 320 million users, much less the 2 billion using Facebook. Combine that with people aggressively using the “report abuse” button in bad faith, and you get platforms where it’s trivially easy to abuse the abuse system.