How are we doing?
No, this isn’t a website questionnaire asking readers of Listening 2 Lesbians if we provide enough material, or a positive attitude, or if all of your questions and concerns are answered by us in a timely manner.
How are WE DYKES ON FACEBOOK doing?
I can ask that question, but I know for sure we are never going to get a 100% response. Why? Because as I type this, dozens of us are serving our time in Facebook jail for daring to call ourselves DYKES. Many of us are on our second or third ban. Some of us got banned again and again, within mere minutes of logging back on for the first time after a recent ban had been lifted. We have had reports that these consecutive bans included posts that lesbians had posted on their own walls days to weeks in the past. Imagine that. Facebook waited for women’s bans to end and then reached back through their wall history to find another post to punish them.
One woman had 12 minutes between the time she sent Facebook an email protesting the bans and logging back into her account, before she was banned for a post on her wall from several days previous. Email, then ban. Weird timing that was. While she was serving out her 24-hour ban she received another pop-up message telling her another 24-hours had been added to her current ban. No explanation why. Now, bans usually happen in a sequence of escalating bans: 24 hours to 3 days to 7 days to 30 days to permanent deletion of account. How did she get two 24-hour bans, one of which was given DURING the first ban? Weird.
A large number of us had posts deleted. Many of us received 24-hour bans. Many lesbians are still saying DYKE all over Facebook. Many non-lesbians are saying dyke all over Facebook. Listening 2 Lesbians is trying to post all of the ones we could get, but frankly, there are only 2 of us and there are too many examples pouring in. We can’t keep up. Also, frankly, I’m pissed. Listening 2 Lesbians’ own Liz was one of those targeted with the consecutive bans and one of the posts that got deleted was a link to our own post! And it wasn’t the content of the post that earned the delete. It was the fact that when she copied and pasted the link onto her status, the word ‘dyke’ was in the URL address! (We can only assume this is the case, because we have only had 1 other report of a post with our linked article being deleted and we can’t see the top of the screen cap where the URL would be.)
What gives, Facebook?!
Last week, Listening 2 Lesbians wrote an article describing what we saw as a ‘perfect storm’ affecting lesbians’ abilities to call ourselves and each other dykes. We talked about the Community Operations Team; those thousands of content reviewers that review posts reported for violating community standards. We talked about the Network of Support; a group of LGBT groups that consult with Facebook on hate speech. We talked about Facebook’s Online Civil Courage Initiative, started in January 2016 by Germany to force Facebook to eliminate terrorist propaganda and hate speech. On June 15, 2017, just a couple of weeks ago, Facebook announced that this new initiative includes an AI (Artificial Intelligent) that trolls Facebook looking for hate speech, groups that talk a lot of hate speech and people that need to be stopped. We were told that these content reviewers (Community Operations Team employees) still looked at all those posts too, to make sure they were evaluated for content. Supposedly, a human being always made the final decision, so when we wrote Facebook’s Hard Questions (as asked), we not only asked about the algorithms, we also asked about what kind of employees are reviewing our content. What do they think about lesbians? About women in general? Are they actually monitored extensively as suggested, or could one (or more) go about banning whomever they don’t agree with? We didn’t get a response.
A couple of days later we were contacted by a radio show in Australia to talk about the bans and ‘dyke’ identity. We were told a Facebook representative was showing up to explain. After hearing the issue, that spokesperson never showed up, instead telling the journalist they would get back to us all on that. We haven’t heard anything back. This is particularly disturbing because a Facebook spokesperson told NPR back in November 2016, “It’s OK to use racial slurs when being self-referential.” So if racial slurs can be used by the community reclaiming the slur, why can’t we?
In another example of comedic timing, the very next day, ProPublica released an amazing article written by senior journalist Julia Angwin entitled, Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men from Hate Speech But Not Black Children. This is a mind-blowing look at the contents of internal documents revealing how Facebook’s algorithms work and how those content reviewers are trained to tell the difference between hate speech and political expression. It looks an awful lot like that perfect storm we were telling you about. WARNING: The results are not good.
Now that we are caught up, I want to discuss what the hell this ProPublica article is saying and how exactly do these algorithms and content reviewer rules apply to us dykes. I’m going to say right now that I can’t see it. Seriously. In a little bit, I’m going to describe to you how Facebook says it works and then I’m going to use examples of posts that lesbians got banned for and ask you, our tech-savvy readers, to tell us what you think. You may want some coffee first.
Oh, Facebook, What Have You Done?
So, after years of Facebook telling us how they rely only (then mostly, then heavily) on users to report posts that might violate community standards, ProPublica reveals that content reviewers “scour the social network deleting offensive speech.” Bam! Finally, they said it. So right away we know that overworked employees, with ethics, social beliefs and political beliefs we know nothing about, are looking for WE THE OFFENDING FACEBOOK USERS. Good to finally know. Also, we kind of already expected this, didn’t we? But here is some more interesting stuff. ProPublica reports:
“One document trains content reviewers on how to apply the company’s global hate speech algorithm. The slide identifies three groups: female drivers, black children and white men. It asks: Which group is protected from hate speech? The correct answer: white men.”
What?! How can this be?
I’m going to try to be brief here, so if it’s too brief, please read the full article. You should be reading it anyway. Really. There’s a slideshow!
Facebook’s algorithms have something called “Protected Categories” (PC) and it is only attacks against these Protected Categories that Facebook will stop.
PC= Sex, religious affiliation, national origin, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, serious disability or disease.
Non-Protected Categories (NPC) = Social class, continental origin, appearance, age, occupation, political ideology, religions, countries.
If someone is two or more of these categories they are a subset. A subset can be a PC or a NPC:
So, for the three examples that were given to Facebook employees, the resulting equations were as follows:
Female (PC) + Drivers (NPC) = NPC
Black (PC) + Children (NPC) = NPC
White (PC) + Men (PC) = PC
Do you want to cry now?
The last bit of information you need is what exactly an ‘attack’ is by Facebook standards. Types of attacks are: calling for violence, calling for exclusion, calling for segregation, degrading generalization, dismissing, cursing, a slur. So, your post will get deleted if you use one of these attacks against a PC. The equation is:
Protected Category (PC) + Attack = Hate Speech
‘Dyke’ is a Slur
So before our Facebook spokesperson hid tail and ran from our radio interview, they told the journalist that Facebook considers ‘dyke’ a slur. Fair enough. It is true that when someone who is not a dyke attacks someone verbally with the word dyke, that person is using that word as a slur. Now, those of us in Dyke Nation (and other minority groups), know that words that can be used to hurt us, are also able to be reclaimed. And just like other groups that have found themselves on the receiving end of this abuse, lesbians have been reclaiming ‘dyke’ for decades. Of course, there are lesbians that don’t want to be referred in this way, just like there are lesbians that don’t want to be referred to as ‘queer’. That is understandable and we should all respect that, but lesbians have been reclaiming dyke from the oppressors for so long we have it on marches, book titles, social clubs, motorcycle clubs, sports teams, plays, blogs, stickers, t-shirts…we even have it trademarked in the U.S.A.! Dyke is out there! And we are damn proud of it! As Liz said on The Informer:
“‘Dyke’ is quite a strong word. It has a strong, evocative feeling, and it’s been taken over by women for decades as a symbol of strength and pride and resistance. It really is, to me, a symbol of women taking up space, like Dykes on Bikes. Everybody loves Dykes on Bikes. It’s about noise, it’s about women unapologetically asserting their existence in the world. That’s not something we see lesbians being able to do very often so I think that dyke is quite significant because of its guttural nature, you know linguistically it’s quite strong, because of its social connotations. And it’s not even a word that some women we were thinking about too deeply when they were using it more recently, It’s just become part of how we talk about ourselves. So, from the personal to the political, it’s quite a strong and important word and to see it removed, to see our capacity to use it removed is very concerning. “
According to our content reviewer training, a ‘slur’ is “a term that combines an attack with a PC, so;
Slur=Attack + PC AND
Slur = Attack
It’s both apparently, at the same time. A slur is a noun and a verb, but unless we are drunkenly slurring our slurs, slur is not a verb. SO, I’m guessing what they meant is just that content reviewers are hunting down that equation: PC + Slur = Hate Speech
(Side note: Also, according to the training slideshow, “Each market has a list of terms that have been labeled as slurs by the Content Policy Team.” We don’t know what those markets are, or what slurs are on each market list, but isn’t that interesting? You can use some slurs in one market and not in others.)
Facebook Thinks Dykes are Bad
Let’s look at some posts that are good examples of what lesbians are being banned for; that Facebook has said violate community standards.
“I love that there’s a band of dykes that plays at the local farmer’s market. Like, how perfect is that?? It’s total perfect.”
We need to remember that Facebook is using ‘dyke’ as a slur, not as a category. So our category is ‘a band’ and the attack is a slur attack called ‘dykes’.
A band of dykes = NPC
A band is not a protected category. Dyke is a slur. But dykes are lesbians so dykes would have to also be considered a protected category too. Doesn’t matter though because either way you get a result of;
NPC+Slur = Not Hate Speech
Hmmm. Next one:
“I LOVE DYKES!!!!”
I = PC or NPC, but, let’s say “I” is the protected category ‘lesbian’.
I (the lesbian) love dykes.
PC + Slur = Hate Speech
She really just said she loves herself in this example. She attacked herself with love using a slur that also identifies who she is. I’m just trying to figure out what the reviewers were thinking.
“When dyke marches were still for dykes.”
(With picture of very first Dyke March)
Here the category is dykes, but since dyke is considered a slur and not a category, what does the algorithm do? Does it switch to say that dyke is the protected category, making it both protected and a slur?
PC + slur = Hate Speech
I need a mathematician…according to the equation, is there even a category in this statement?
“People need to quit rewriting history. Dykes do things. #visibilitymatters”
(With historical image of Storme DeLaverie, a lesbian)
Dykes do things. The slur is a noun again and it’s doing things. Things are NPC.
“Does self identifying as a DYKE get you banned on Facebook experiment.”
This is just another version of “I am a dyke.”
“I” can be PC or NPC again, because technically she could have lied, so;
PC+Slur = Hate Speech
NPC+Slur = Not Hate Speech
The reviewers would have had to assume she was telling the truth.
“Dyke dyke dyke dykety dyke dyke dyke!!”
LOL! I really do love dykes!
I’m sure there are smarties out there that are going to figure this out, but can you imagine what it’s like for content reviewers who are like most of us with average logic and math skills? Human beings that have 10 seconds to figure out this equation? It just seems totally arcane and it makes me think that there are other separate rules out there for dykes. If just the word alone could get you banned, then wouldn’t those content reviewers scouring Facebook have a treasure-trove of dyke posts to choose from?
Is that the ultimate goal? To find all of our posts and punish us? What is the end-game here?
Angwin explains in her article that Facebook does not follow American law, “which permits preferences such as affirmative action for racial minorities and women for the sake of diversity or redressing discrimination.” Basically, Facebook has designed it’s algorithm to defend everyone equally (not with equity). Danielle Citron, a law professor and expert on information privacy at the University of Maryland, tells Angwin, that the result of this approach will “protect the people who least need it and take it away from those who really need it.”
This sounds really familiar. One lesbian reported referencing herself as a dyke and she was reported and her post deleted. She was then called a ‘cunt’ for using the word and when she reported the attack, Facebook said it did not violate their community standards. So dyke is a slur, but cunt is not. Facebook also sent dykes a “We’re Glad You’re Here Video” in which Facebook picked images from user profiles for a “book” appreciating us as users. Guess what? That video included images of posts that lesbians had been, or could be banned for! There was a great risk taken once you hit the publish button. Don’t we call that entrapment?
I’m left with way more questions than answers for the dyke community. Facebook is all over the place with how it is allowing content reviewers and algorithms to work on its lesbian users. It is plainly obvious that some people are being targeted over and over again and it is hard to say how this is actually happening when content reviewers are supposed to be so well-trained and algorithms so perfectly designed to protect everyone. It really does look like discrimination and it’s obvious that no one at Facebook is protecting dykes, that’s for sure. And it is most certainly not Facebook’s place to tell the lesbian community that identifying as dykes is wrong. Dyke is our word.
Facebook, start going after the people that want to kill us. The ones that want to rape us and hurt us. The ones that are calling on all their friends to report us in mass reportings just because they hate us and can use Facebook’s flawed censorship machine to kick us off the platform. Start actually looking for employees that have a suspiciously high number of bans and deletions against lesbians. Stop over-reacting to the call from European countries to punish hate speech.
We lesbians, we DYKES, love ourselves. It’s not hate speech when we say it, it is love speech. And we are not going to be silenced by your hate.
On June 27, 2017, Facebook’s Hard questions said this in a statement on how it monitors hate speech:
“On other occasions, people may reclaim offensive terms that were used to attack them. When someone uses an offensive term in a self-referential way, it can feel very different from when the same term is used to attack them. For example, the use of the word “dyke” may be considered hate speech when directed as an attack on someone on the basis of the fact that they are gay. However, if someone posted a photo of themselves with #dyke, it would be allowed. Another example is the word “faggot.” This word could be considered hate speech when directed at a person, but, in Italy, among other places, “frocio” (“faggot”) is used by LGBT activists to denounce homophobia and reclaim the word. In these cases, removing the content would mean restricting someone’s ability to express themselves on Facebook.”
Facebook: We are NOT a hashtag!
We are a CULTURE.
We are a COMMUNITY.
We are a SISTERHOOD.
We are a MINORITY.
We are a FAMILY.
We are DYKES.
REJECT Facebook’s rule that we must hashtag our IDENTITY to stay on their platform. This is DISCRIMINATION.
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