The social media giant needs to respond to authentic complaints, and not trolls.
The social media giant needs to respond to authentic complaints, and not trolls.

How Facebook helps trolls silence you

TODAY the Facebook trolls won, but the social media giant was complicit in their victory.

For three years, a group of angry keyboard warriors have been trying to silence me for exposing violence against women and children.

This unwarranted bullying includes daily threats of violence and death; publishing defamatory material about me; encouraging others to complain that I am an "unethical" journalist to my editors; and organising mass reporting posts and comments on my Facebook pages.

My undoing came in the form of the latter activity.

Mass reporting is when individuals and organisations encourage their followers to mark material on Facebook as being against community standards.

This is acceptable when material is offensive - for example memes inciting racism.

Mass reporting is not against Facebook rules but clever tech heads push the envelope even further by writing tiny computer programs - known in the social media biz as bots - that they sneakily install on any Facebook page without the owner's knowledge.

These hack bots are programmed to report every comment and post on the targeted site - and there is nothing you - or I - can do about it.

The campaign of hate against me has been led by one particular shady character who operates under multiple profiles.

I have blocked him every time he has harassed me, but he just makes new profiles and continues on his merry way.

He has been reported to police and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network.

However, this proved useless, with authorities saying their hands were tied because he can't be tracked down as he hides behind fake emails, dodgy identification and overseas computer servers.

In frustration, I emailed Facebook almost two weeks ago with a bunch of evidence showing my nefarious nemesis in action.

But instead of my anonymous stalker being held to account, the social media giant gave me the boot.

Facebook banned me for seven days, saying my decision to share screenshots of these insidious cyber bullies, who are encouraging others to harass me, was "hate speech".

It also banned any activity on my anti-violence site, that has more than 50,000 female followers from across the country.

You might say it is good for people to take a break from their socials from time to time, but this ban means I cannot do what I do best - helping women in crisis.

The ban is dead wrong.

Sure I have been known to drop the F-bomb online, but I never say anything that is disrespectful or demeaning of people due to their gender, race, sexuality and so on.

What I do talk about a lot is violence against women and kids.

Sometimes I even discuss men being the main perpetrators of violence, but this is not hate speech - it is an actual fact backed up by every reputable researcher in the world.

I do not wear gender blinkers - I have no issue talking about female violence (on men or otherwise) but let's face it, if you are murdered your killer will most likely be male.

With 123 Australians allegedly killed by blokes in 2018 (compared to 23 allegedly killed by women), it is clear we need to talk about male violence.

And we need to have this conversation without Facebook and social media trolls censoring us because the discussion makes them feel bad.

The ban I copped is the latest example of what appears to be Facebook gender policing its audience.

Almost daily, I see female friends kicked off their social network for posts showing breastfeeding mums or talking about rape and violence perpetrated by blokes.

Yet Facebook is often criticised for turning a blind eye to users who share rape jokes, memes depicting violence against women and children and material that is racist, homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic.

Facebook has even banned #metoo posts by women talking about their experience of sexual violence.

American comedian Marcia Belsky was kicked off the platform for her tongue-in-cheek comment  "men are scum" on a post outlining horrific violence against women.

Early this year Facebook banned people for sharing photos of female nipples because they breached its "safety policy  "exploited women".

It's a laughable response for a company that allows people to operate hardcore bondage and porn sites on its platform. 

I am all for open social media discourse, but I draw the line at people sharing material that demeans others or incites violence or hate in any form.

Facebook needs to reconsider what hate speech really constitutes -  there is a massive divide between memes depicting rape and women talking about violence.

It also needs to remove persistent trolls like the guy who has spent three years of his life trying to ruin mine.

Forty-eight hours after banning me, Facebook re-instated my access and revealed it had removed the user accounts that were behind the mass trolling.

"We process millions of reports each week, and sometimes we get things wrong," a Facebook spokesman said.

"In this instance, we misunderstood that the content being shared from this account was aiming to raise awareness of important issues, and not condone or promote it.

"As soon as we identified what happened, we restored the account since it does not violate our community standards and have apologised to Ms Moody." 

News Corp journalist Sherele Moody is the recipient of the 2018 BandT Women in Media Social Change Maker Award and 2017 Clarion and Walkley Our Watch journalism excellence awards for her work reducing violence against women and children.

She is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign and the creator of the Femicide Australia Map.



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