Glen Canning and Facebook’s Moral Compass

Reblogged from

I’ve written recently about the ongoing campaign against Facebook’s content policy; you know, the one that takes down pages and images of breastfeeding, but allows pages and images of women being beaten or raped? Or Klansmen in watermelon fields? At the very least there should be consistency, yes? If you link on any of the following pages there may well be images that provoke triggers so click at your own risk…

There are many amazing women working on this campaign such as Soraya Chemaly of Huffington Post, Jacklyn Friedman of Woman, Action and the Media, and Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism Project, as well as Rosie of Make Me A Sammich, Amazing Susan (with links of related articles) and Clementine Ford who wrote a piercing article even going so far as to reference Facebook’s origin story (remember how they were working on a site so that people could rank women’s attractiveness?.

This work is relentless, or so it seems.

Tuesday I saw an article by Glen Canning, the father of Rehtaeh Parsons, a beautiful and amazing girl who committed suicide because of being bullied through social media after a rape. I’ve written about Rehtaeh before here, here, and here and can easily see the relationship between a culture of bullying and what’s going on with Facebook.

Facebook has pages up that hurt people. People complain. Nothing is done because the pages seemingly don’t violate standards. How then can pages around breastfeeding be considered violations? It’s the most backwards upside down inside out set of policies I can imagine, but it’s part of the American nightmare. Violence, callous cruel humor, sick “jokes” and all of the isms connected to various oppressions-those are fine. Pleasure, health, beauty? Not so fine.

It’s why movies like Saw and Hostel get R ratings but movies like Blue Valentine (with a consensual scene of oral sex and pleasure on a woman) fought hard to not get an NC17.

I digress, but that very hypocrisy is important to me and it’s part of the problem.

Mr. Canning wrote an impassioned letter to Facebook, one I cannot imagine having the strength to write after such trauma in their family. I commend him for standing up for those who might be suffering, for fighting back against a culture that yes, seems relentlessly focused on consumption, profit and callous disregard for the feelings of individuals, and for doing this work during what must be the darkest time in his life.

“Facebook, one of the most popular and successful companies in the world, has images plastered all over its web site advocating anti-semitism, racism, homophobia, and various other forms of hate speech and ignorance. Unbelievable isn’t it? Attention getting to say the least.

Ask yourself how outraged you’d be if that were true? But Facebook, the company that was founded to be cool, to make the world a better place, to make people more empathetic, would never allow hate speech like that. It would never fly on a web site that connects families and friends the world over and promises a new age in communication.

Thus my bewilderment. How is it possible they tolerate that kind of ignorance and hate to be directed at women? At half of their users? At mothers, sisters, and daughters?

Are there no fathers working at Facebook? No brothers or husbands? Where are the men and why are they silent about a company policy that jokes about rape and violence against women are not wrong so long as they appear in the humour section? Have they no love in their hearts? Have they never felt the full hug of a little girl?

I can’t image working for a company that would allow for something as sick as rape jokes. Not in my position. Not after seeing what rape did to my beautiful, talented daughter. I can still hear her cry and see the hurt on her face. Far too many parents can say the same thing.”

His words are powerful and potent, and I would love to hear a response from Zuckerberg, an honest one, not a carefully crafted PR statement about “working hard to resolve these issues,” but a response from his heart and his truth. I hope he’s been shown the piece. He should be made to read it.

We may be Facebook’s product, they certainly don’t seem to think of us as their customers. But we still have the right and the responsibility to call out the badness we see in the world and in their business and to do something about it; more and more of us are doing just that.

Glen Canning is lighting a candle and leading the way, as are all the writers I’ve linked and listed above. Each of them has multiple links in their own feeds for more and more articles, more and more action steps, more and more updates. Go into it. Feel how powerful this is and needs to be.

He so eloquently said this in his piece:

“So man up, Facebook. Do women and women’s rights groups really need to launch letter writing campaigns targeting your advertisers before you wake up and take notice? What the hell does that say about your company’s moral compass?”

Apparently we do need to do these things, and we’ve been doing it. Men need to join with us and keep the pressure on. Advertising companies need to take notice that there is a groundswell of women and men who will not support this kind of free for all nastiness anymore (especially combined with a kind of puritanical repression of actual sex education and images of health).

I want Zuckerberg to answer Canning’s question. Is the moral compass of Facebook pointed at making the world a better place through connection, education, using the internet to close the distance between people with empathy and intimacy, or is it about money at all costs? Money can help the former, perhaps that is true, but what’s going on right now is creating pain and distance, callous disconnect and the very opposite of coolness. I hope Zuckerberg will think about that.

Thank you Mr. Canning for doing this work. Let’s signal boost his letter to Zuckerberg through the roof.