Facebook's turning point on sexual violence
May 30, 2013 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
- Facebook agrees to crack down on gender-based hate speech
- Michelle Kinsey Bruns: Site allowed content glorifying rape, other violence against women
- Kinsey Bruns: Move is very significant to women; Tumblr, Twitter, Google+ must follow
Editor's note: Michelle Kinsey Bruns is online manager for the Women's Media Center.
(CNN) -- After a weeklong campaign by a coalition of more than 100 women's groups, Facebook announced Tuesday that it would update its guidelines and moderator training to crack down on gender-based hate speech. This commitment, though only a prelude to effective and consistent implementation, marks a watershed moment in the cultural evolution of the billion-user-strong social media platform -- and perhaps even of the entire internet.
The activist campaign spotlighted a proliferation of content glorifying rape and other violence against women on Facebook. Groups and images with allegedly humorous titles like "Raping a Pregnant B***h and Telling Your Friends You Had a Threesome" have always been only a click away and, under Facebook's content policy until now, stood a better chance of surviving moderator review than photos of breastfeeding babies did.
Michelle Kinsey Bruns
Some have criticized the activist campaign as an attack on free speech, but free speech here is a red herring at best. Facebook is a private enterprise, and the First Amendment quite simply is not the issue.
Facebook makes thousands of decisions a day about what sort of content is acceptable on its site. Soraya Chemaly, one of the founders of this month's campaign along with activist groups Women Action and the Media and Everyday Sexism, told me that Facebook's moderation of ads or content like breastfeeding photos "put them in a position of interpreting this content and deciding what would stay up and what would not. ... It became evident that there was a double standard when it came to gender."
Facebook's IPO: One year later
Army vets take on hackers
Viewed in that light, Facebook's response to the activist campaign signals not a radical change of agenda but rather a refinement to its existing content policies. Yet its significance for women can't be overstated. The acceptability of speech glorifying sexual or other violence against women is a sure measure of the degree to which women's full participation -- on a website, in any public space or in a society -- is welcome.
Facebook is to be commended for committing to take additional steps to ensure that women are as welcome on its service as men. Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and the rest would do well to follow in Facebook's footsteps.
Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.
Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michelle Kinsey Bruns.
Part of complete coverage on
March 10, 2014 -- Updated 1441 GMT (2241 HKT)
Kirk Bloodsworth says DNA cleared him after 9 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. He is living proof, he says,that America's system of capital punishment is broken beyond repair.
March 8, 2014 -- Updated 1406 GMT (2206 HKT)
President Putin's endgame in Crimea is now clear—and the West has only a few days to act, writes Daniel Treisman.
March 8, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Melinda Gates says data is not boring; it is a powerful tool in targeting assistance to women and girls, and making the case to world leaders that empowering women makes a difference.
March 9, 2014 -- Updated 1322 GMT (2122 HKT)
Bob Greene says doctors are distracted by their computer screens when they should be giving patients precious face-to-face time
March 8, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Sandra Fluke says for her generation, issues that matter are gender-related violence, education and economic equality.
March 10, 2014 -- Updated 0300 GMT (1100 HKT)
Aaron David Miller says we've heard a good deal of nonsense and hyperbole about the Crimea confrontation.
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
Adam Lewis says jobs numbers conceal reality of the changing work landscape--human jobs are quickly shifting to computers. Schools must refocus priorities to prepare the next generation.
March 8, 2014 -- Updated 1943 GMT (0343 HKT)
Robin Morgan asks: What if human rights group Amnesty International decided to condone pimping? It happened when an AI document called for legalizing prostitution.
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 1509 GMT (2309 HKT)
Peter Bergen and Tim Maurer say reports of cyberattacks in Ukraine fit a pattern of a new and risky form of warfare.
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Will Cain blasts New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for not allowing a charter school to open in a city building, saying the mayor has condemned the kids to failure.
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 1340 GMT (2140 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the state's law, as written, lets someone take a picture up your skirt in a public place. But don't blame the court for upholding the law, blame the legislators who enacted it
March 7, 2014 -- Updated 1514 GMT (2314 HKT)
John Sutter says the "gay Jim Crow" bills that are popping in up in several states are a step back for the U.S.
March 8, 2014 -- Updated 0529 GMT (1329 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a court rightly sided with a driver stopped while consulting a map on his phone.
March 6, 2014 -- Updated 2227 GMT (0627 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says words and sanctions aren't enough; the U.S. has to ramp up energy production and its military resources
March 6, 2014 -- Updated 0015 GMT (0815 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Putin may be using a similar ethnic justification for his Ukraine incursion, but that's pretty much where Clinton's comparison would have to end
March 6, 2014 -- Updated 1751 GMT (0151 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says that as Russia looks set to slice off a part of Ukraine and keep it for itself, there are important lessons to be drawn; among them, brute force is not thing of the past
March 5, 2014 -- Updated 1743 GMT (0143 HKT)
Eric Liu says a China state media article that used an ethnic slur against U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke revealed stark differences between China and America
March 5, 2014 -- Updated 1351 GMT (2151 HKT)
David Logan says holacracy, an organizational system that gets rid of hierarchy, might work at Zappos.
Today's five most popular stories