We just had a really productive conversation with Facebook. I can’t believe I just typed that, but it is true. In a 45-minute discussion with a spokesperson who works with the Communications Team on content policy issues, we laid everything out on the table, and we were treated with respect and given answers to questions we have been asking repeatedly for the last few weeks. It’s okay if you are skeptical. We were very skeptical going into this. As most of you know, neither Liz nor I, are pushovers. So, if this spokesperson did a classic corporate number on us, she is very good. But we don’t think that’s what happened.
On July 5th, 2017 we sent our Facebook contact a 51-page PDF filled with screencaps of deleted posts and banned women. This contact also suggested a conference call for a few days later to discuss the bannings and all of the questions and concerns we have been raising at Listening 2 Lesbians. In the interim, she worked through the list and women slowly started to see deleted posts reappear with apology, and bans end early. In the meantime, she was also reading our articles and our response to Facebook Hard Questions, which she said had been read and discussed by multiple people at Facebook. Basically, she came into the discussion with an understanding of what our concerns were and a desire to work with us to address these issues. We believe she came to this discussion in good faith. Immediately prior to our conversation we sent her an additional PDF with more screencaps.
How the Deletions and Bans Happen
Our discussion started with a clarification of how the Community Operations Team really works, the role of the new AI and what has been happening these past several weeks with regards to the word “dyke”. To start, Facebook does not consider “dyke” a banned word, but admits that the content reviewers are making major mistakes with understanding the importance of the word “dyke” to the lesbian community and the proper context for its usage.
There are two ways a post is flagged: it is reported by another Facebook user, or it is flagged by the AI. Either way, the spokesperson says an actual human being, the content reviewer, reviews the post and makes the decision on whether or not it violates community standards. We asked about suspiciously quick deletions/bannings and questioned how a content reviewer could get to them so fast and she said she did not know and needs to examine specific instances to determine what happened. We will continue to follow up on that.
Facebook is aware that users have been testing their system by just typing “dyke” or typing it over and over again. While they understand our desire to do this, their spokesperson said these particular kinds of posts are too void of context for their reviewers. They are not always able to tell if the word is directed AT someone, or a group, or if it is a positive pronouncement. We had been thinking about this ahead of her mentioning it, and felt that this was a reasonable concern that we, as users, might consider going forward. So, while Facebook is admitting that it has been struggling with how to continue the positive pro-dyke communications, we may want to reevaluate using it with absolutely no context at all.
What is Facebook Doing about It?
As Facebook has been getting more information from us they have been working on ways to fix the problem. According to the spokesperson, her team has been examining the posts we send them, they have been gathering data and retraining content reviewers on how to appropriately evaluate the word “dyke” in a post. They are also bringing in “subject matter experts” to specifically address the use of reclaimed words, not only in the lesbian community, but in other communities as well. She also restated that Facebook is hiring 3000 more content reviewers to better handle the load.
We talked quite a bit about the new AI used to locate hate speech in user posts. She told us that when the AI flags a post it is not deleted right away. It is first sent to a content reviewer for evaluation. Facebook is now saying that the AI is not ready to be used alone. They are now looking at the issues being raised with their use of Protected and Unprotected Categories. She said they are aware of the problems and are working on it.
What about the Petition?
We made three demands of Facebook in our petition and we feel that Facebook is now attempting to meet those demands.
- We are asking for everyone’s support in calling on Facebook to end their discriminatory practice of banning women for using the word “dyke” in a self-referential manner and/or as a positive expression of our culture. We also reject the idea that we must use a hashtag in front of our identity in order to not get banned. We demand they follow their own stated policy, and allow us to use our own word in order to avoid restricting our ability to express ourselves on Facebook.
The Facebook spokesperson has said they have not banned the word “dyke” and hold only the intention of targeting actual hate speech. They are working to put policy into proper practice.
- We are also calling on Facebook to do an investigation into the practices of their Community Operations Team, the content reviewers responsible for answering reports, scanning user posts, and carrying out bans and deletions. We demand that Facebook determine if any of their employees responsible for judging user content are showing a bias against women and lesbians. We call on Facebook to terminate the employment of any individual that has intentionally targeted women and lesbians for their beliefs and/or because they hate women and lesbians. We believe this investigation should also be conducted with regards to other minority groups as well.
According to our contact who works on the team responsible for investigating Community Operations Team practices and content policy issues, they are investigating what has happened, why so many mistakes were made and ways to fix those mistakes so they don’t happen again. They are determining if any content reviewers need retraining and that retraining is already occurring. She has asked us all to continue the dialog with her through this process and to continue to bring forward evidence of deletions and bans that should not have happened.
- Finally, we are calling on Facebook to fix their hate speech algorithms to recognize the importance of the word “dyke” in the lesbian culture and to strengthen their approach to recognizing and addressing actual hate speech against lesbians. While we are just one minority group affected by these policies, we feel other minority groups are similarly affected. We ask for your support in settling this dispute with Facebook.
According to the spokesperson, Facebook is aware of this ongoing issue and is working on the algorithms to find ways that do not punish minority groups that use reclaimed words.
At this time, we believe Facebook is making efforts to rectify the dyke ban situation. We believe that our contact engaged with us in good faith and is truly interested in working with us to improve policy and procedure at Facebook. WE WILL REMAIN VIGILANT. Listening 2 Lesbians will continue discussions with Facebook about issues the lesbian community encounters on their platform. We will also try to foster new lines of communication between Facebook and the lesbian community who use their platform
At this time, we ask that women continue to send in a screen cap of posts they had deleted for the use of the word “dyke” along with their profile url. Please send those to email@example.com. She will be sending those to Facebook regularly. We also encourage all lesbians to research and find paths of communication with Facebook. If requested, we will assist in this process as much as possible.
At this time, Listening 2 Lesbians believes we have received satisfactory answers to our demands. We will continue to monitor the situation and we hope you do too.
We thank everyone for their support! Petition signers, sharers, law experts, human rights advocates, journalists, agitators; you all helped make this happen! We extend a special thank you to those that took extra steps to push this issue forward. We could not have done any of this without all of you!
Lisa & Liz
Listening 2 Lesbians
I hope they address their protected groups categories so that women (actual women) appears. This will feed into community standards in relation to reporting porn and sexual violence.
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And great work, you deserve the lesbienne legion of honeuse
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Thank you, Spider!
Lisa and Liz, you are amazing, and you have mad skills. Thank you for putting them to work for dykes.
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Thank YOU for helping make all this happen.
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I would like to suggest that FB give us all the benefit of the doubt when we type ‘dyke dyke DYKE etc.’ They should remove a post with the word ‘dyke’ and consider it hate speech only when the context shows affirmatively that it is hate speech, not when the context is neutral. It’s our word, it’s a lovely word, and it doesn’t hurt us. On the other hand, when the violent misogynistic rape and death threats are allowed to pass and women are told they ‘don’t violate community standards,’ that is clearly hate speech and harmful to women.
So they really need to deal with the problem of who their algorithm and policies empower, and who they disempower, as exposed by the ProPublica article. That needs to be fixed and it won’t be solved by retraining content reviewers.
I am also looking forward to what they discover about how immediate removals happened, which occurred to me twice.
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WinterSun, thank you for your thoughtful response. If those posts that were immediately removed involved dyke posts, would you be willing to send Ari@listening2lesbians.com the details on what happened? Facebook is interested in these occurrences, but they need exact examples.
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I’m currently on a 30day Ban, it was during Pride month so that is an overt message from Facebook I feel. I’ve been on more 30 day bans this year than able to post. I’ve basically had to abandon my FB profile b/c I’m Gay. It’s mostly for saying outloud I’m a Lesbian. I feel they target anyone that has/had a rainbow filter that is a Woman. The double standard with which I’ve been treated by facebook there is no way to convince me at this point it is not specifically b/c I’m openly Lesbian. I reported a posted pic of a penis they refused to take down, yet I was banned for discussing it. That has happened twice. Once I commented about a Pedophilic post of a naked man photoshopped next to a child celebrity and was banned for it. It’s absurd and overtly bigoted. I know it is b/c of my rainbow profile b/c many of the things I’m banned for are just simply not wanting to have my eyes assaulted by images of naked men that people post. That you have their attention is amazing and a PR move on their part, but whatever works. Thanks for your advocacy for our small important voices. I sent you a screenshot of my profile to the email provided. Let me know what else I can do to support you, I just found out about your actions b/c I was well on a fb ban.
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Thank you SO much for doing this for all of us.
Some of us have an additional problem, which is a stalker who goes through every post we have ever made (in my case, going back to 2010) and then reports us for describing male violence (in one case where I was reported, I had written in a thread about a man on a trail who bragged to our hiking group about giving his poor female dog an STD), or, most common, for using the word tranny. That is even though I erased every time I had used that word in the past and the reports are about recent posts.
It doesn’t matter that I’ve deleted years of work from the groups I moderate or that I have spent weeks saving over 700 pages of comments and threads in our groups so they would not be lost, the stalker (I’m told there is a hired team) reports me as soon as I’m back. I’m into my 6th month of lockout.
I’ve gone to the Facebook headquarters and have written over and over about the stalker. I have never gotten a response that wasn’t like a form letter. (“If you have a stalker, tell us who it is.”) The point is I can’t tell them or I would have blocked the stalker. They know who it is and I don’t. The stalker has even cloned my page, which they would think would be taken seriously, but no, they will not block them from having access to me.
Once you have been locked out a few times, then it seems easier to do it.
I’m guessing a lot of feminists are having this problem. Certainly it’s almost destroyed our fb groups, though we persist.
Does anyone have an idea of how to deal with this?
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Wow. How has it turned out?
Thank you so much for working so hard for US DYKES!!!You are some true blue DYKE SISTERS, AND YESI TOO WAS BANNED LAST WEEK FOR USING DYKE, and got an apology.
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Thanks for yr hard work. You are awesome dykes! xx
I’m still banned I’ve been banned since the 26th of june for commenting on the S.F DYKE MARCH PAGE, those women &a bi woman, who claimed to have been in it since it started said that i was transphobic, and nasty for not agreeing that transdykes were women ! this is what FB banned me for … :(( “The word Queer is AMBIGUOUS, Women ,Dykes are CERTAIN of what and who they are ! Leso’s Lesbians Dykes ! Muff Munchers, femmes butches tomboys and studs androgenous.
Wow.. Dykes are being targeted by trans, pans, & bi’s ! The CLUE is in the the word DYKE.. Women exclusively loving women and who are sexually attracted to other WOMEN !
How is that phobic towards any other group.. Just stop and think before you start attacking ,antagonising others about theirs , Dykes sexuality … This about women born women Dykes always has been always will be .
In solidarity from Australia . Have a great DYKEalicious DAY Warrior women !
my FB Page 4 days later was unavailable to me and told i was on a 30 day ban. i believe someone on that page reported me I have to wait until the 26th july2017, and im in Sydney Australia, others i heard on that page were also banned, and yet they still allowed that page to still be up and running but because i disagreed with trans being in the dyke march, I’m blocked .. and i also noted that the page also blocked me from commenting, I am an Actual Dyke who travelled over 1500000kms to be in the march in 2015.,
This stuff has left a very bad taste in my mouth , as a Dyke, ive been to the USA and contributed , economically,finacially socially, thousands of my hard earned, and this is the treatment online. very disappointing.
Thankyou . Glad you were able to help so many women.
Btw , This is my second 30 day ban with 2.2 months , i was banned before from a site called centering women, by a straight guy, who had issues with women.denigrating the women and the page, because i used the word tranny.
Well done Lisa & Liz, thanks for handling that complicated issue with such grace and commitment.
Dykes rule 🤣
I have read your account in the Globe and Mail newspaper here this week, and came over to have a look. Facebook’s policies are frustrating in many, many ways, including their lack of accountability and appeals. I am currently in the latter half of a 30 day suspension for a remark that heckled a misogynistic woman hating pig. The remark never came anywhere near to violating their “community standards”, which has been the case before when I’ve been suspended. On the other hand, the vast majority of the time when I report a remark that comes from a white supremacist, racist, homophobe, or general bigot, remarks that do violate that standard, 99% of the time I get the automatic reply “this does not violate our standards.” To the point where I’ve just decided that the Facebook organization is full of bigots.
Several weeks ago I reported a comment in a Facebook discussion about a sexual assault case. The comment was “well, who wouldn’t rape her?” If any comment would be way over the line, that was it. But Facebook found it perfectly acceptable.
It’s completely hypocritical. They suspend people without cause, and give a free pass to real hatred.
Thank you for all your hard work on this. I was banned for both having the word dyke in my feed and on my page and also because I changed my name to contain it. I was completely beyond fed up when I took that action since they were banning me already. No offense but fuck facebook – I am never going back as it’s too misogynistic and lesphobic.
We need to build our own platform.
Thank you so much, like seriously thank you for sharing and doing what you did ❤. Great read as well! I have a lesbian blog I just started please check it out!