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When Social Media OKs Violent Messages

Updated on August 17, 2017
Christina St-Jean profile image

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

My Original Message To Facebook

I awoke to find the message sitting in my "message request" area of Facebook Messenger.
I awoke to find the message sitting in my "message request" area of Facebook Messenger.

Trolls Aren't Always Cute

I picked up my very first internet troll yesterday (August 16).

I tend not to sleep well most days, so when I woke briefly in the early hours and was restless, I picked up my phone, like many folks seem to do. I saw that I had a Facebook message request; given I belong to a few writing groups and I don't know everyone in them, I assumed that the message was perhaps from someone involved in writing, as I am.

This is the message I was sent:

"Heterophobic sodomite, leftist terrorist and baby killer."

As many of you might understand, I was really unsettled by this. Firstly, anyone who knows me or has read my writing knows that I am not a heterophobe - not by a long shot. I'm not going to even touch the remaining comments or dignify them with explanations, as again, my readership and people who know me would be probably as stunned as I was to have read this.

I thought I could just turn over and go back to sleep, but nope. I felt icky from the message, and I really felt bullied, for lack of a better term. Now, most people believe that bullying and harassment has to happen multiple times for it to be "true" bullying or "true" harassment, but in reality, while bullying has to generally occur multiple times, harassment can actually be considered such when it happens just once. While harassment might not necessarily have intimidation at its heart, there was a lot of intimidation placed in this message to me, I felt.

So, for some peace of mind, I reported it. The HTML image of my initial report is on this blog post. I also blocked him in hopes that I would not receive further messages. There was also a moment when I realized that the fact that I seem to have picked up a troll meant that there was more than just my friends reading my posts - I still felt sickened by what was sent to me, but I was trying very hard to couch it in more positive terms so I could deal with it.

Within the last hour, I received a response from Facebook. Feeling hopeful, especially in light of the current conflicts and what is being done to stop them in the US, I opened it.

It did not go well.

No Thanks - No Time For Hate On My End


Following Policy Doesn't Mean The Right Thing Has Been Done

According to the email I received from Facebook's Community Operations department, these are their community standards:

"Community standards violations for messages include:

-Direct threats: serious threats of harm to public and personal safety, credible threats of physical harm, specific threats of theft, vandalism, or other financial harm.
-Sexual violence and exploitation: content that threatens or promotes sexual violence or exploitation, including solicitation of sexual material, any sexual content involving minors, threats to share intimate images, and offers of sexual services.
-Bullying or harassment: content that appears to purposefully target a person with the intention of degrading or shaming them, or repeatedly contacting a person despite that person’s clear desire and action to prevent contact."

So, let's look at that last point: "content that appears to purposefully target a person with the intention of degrading or shaming them."

The Community Operations person who responded told me in very polite terms that the message I received "did not go against our Community Standards." I was also told to "Keep in mind that not everything that may be upsetting violates these standards."

So, the question is, what part of "heterophobic sodomite leftist terrorist baby killer" should I not feel degraded or shamed by? How can I not feel "purposefully targeted" when I was the one who received this message request? Truth be told, I know the sort of person I am, and I know that the person who sent this message must have a very small world to be so interested in sending such a hateful diatribe my way, but now I have a problem.

How many people on social media have gotten messages similar to mine and the social media site in question says they can't do anything because terms of service weren't violated?

How many people aren't perhaps as strong minded or as strong willed as I tend to be and are deeply hurt, intimidated or even scared by a message such as the one I received?

There is a serious problem when social media sites are so policy reliant that they can't look at a situation such as the one I found myself in and messages like the one I received are somehow okay. There's a serious problem when I'm told after receiving such a vile, disgusting message as this that "not everything upsetting violates these standards."

So, here's my challenge to you, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and Facebook staffers: you have a reputation for being one of the most innovative tech companies around. I challenge you to take another look at these policies. I challenge you to go through and add policies that will truly combat hate. You want to make a difference? Try and make social media - or at least Facebook and Instagram and any other social media site you own - safer, so that people like me who do their best to express their opinions in such a way as to encourage healthy discourse don't get intimidating messages such as the one I received.

Stand up to hate. Make a difference.


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