Facebook only understands English? How do you address the cultural and language complexities of the non-English speaking World? When hate pages filled with filth and abuse written in non-English continued to exist, it just meant, Facebook cannot read anything other than English and it does not care for other languages and cultures.
Opinion | Inji Pennu
India, where I grew up is an extremely orthodox country where women cannot publicly drink or even wear a pair of jeans without being ridiculed as a slut. Recently for the past couple of years, with the internet boom and the slow advent of computers, women have started to utilize this new found freedom to express. And Facebook is a big hit among these women who finally has a distraction in their lives. To us Indian women where we are not safe even in broad daylight, to walk a mile without being groped or flashed, where even being born a female is by extreme luck, Facebook is a welcome distraction. We all loved Facebook. We finally had a place where we could gather around with other women and tell the world, I do not want men to grope me while going to school, I do not want men to tell me what to do at offices, I do not want my parents to give me off in a wedding. The few women who got lucky enough to start using Facebook screamed in such loud voices other women started to listen, they brought in their friends. We finally had a space. We started to exist.
Now, let me tell you my story.
I came into this exciting virtual world starting from the year 2006 in an extremely low point in my life, where after medical procedures after procedures, I was dead in soul and body. I found this new world of freedom where I could start to write and express. I was a naive newbie and I had an opinion about everything I read, saw and thought about. I expressed them in a democratic way, in a passionate way respecting the disagreements.
One time I wrote about my interest to eat beef, group of men came and threatened me in my blog that they will kill me for insulting the cow.
One time when I wrote about copyrights for pictures, a group of men, traced me down, called me at my home, put up my email id and details in a porn website. I frantically complained to the police and the police informed me, they cannot do much about it since the perpetrators are in a different country and using proxies. Or they said, I would have to approach a lawyer. I called up a lawyer and even before speaking to him, I was asked to put in 500 dollars just for consultation. I do not have that kind of money. I left it like that.
But then I became careful and extremely careful about my privacy. I have even asked online media newspapers that carried my interviews to take down my pictures and erase my details. I started to guard my privacy diligently, because only then I had the freedom to speak. To speak about issues women like me undergo daily.
I am not a physically or emotionally strong woman. But I want to be a strong woman. I do not want to deal with police or lawyers or the state just to express my opinion. Threats like these affect me emotionally and physically. But I stay up because I know this is a fight I have to do.
I used Facebook the same way. I had more than thousand friends and a more than thousand followers just because we shared similar views about a progressive and free society. I took part in protests with them in Facebook, took part in public campaigns in Facebook, shared a thousand stories, learned a lot about women and a zillion other interests through Facebook. Everyday morning, even before a cup of coffee I checked Facebook. It was a lifeline to a world, which doesn”t exist for me in real.
Last week I read a post where a woman was being ridiculed and insulted and called a prostitute for what she was standing up for. There was a hate page with a thousand like, that had misused her own picture as a fake profile, her child”s picture strewn across with obscenities. All she did was she had the guts to question a misogynist remark in her post. She didn”t budge. Her name is Preetha G Nair. I was impressed by her guts and grit. I wrote about her in Global Voices, where I file stories from 2011.
Immediately the perpetrators turned towards me, issued threats to take down my family, to choke me at Miami beach. I was not afraid. But then Facebook now threatens me by taking down my Facebook account asking me for verification because they are now siding with the trolls and perpetrators who would have reported my profile. Facebook is now trying to violate my basic rights to privacy and trying to infringe into my rights.
These are the questions I have for Facebook.
1. How does the Facebook algorithm work? If a woman starts to have a opinion, a thousand men can report her page? Then Facebook takes down the victim”s page, asks for the victim”s identification, corrects her profile to her original legal name and throws the victim into the hands of the perpetrators? To use her name, look her up in a phone book and to harass her again? To google her address details and frighten her? Is this public shaming part of the Facebook service we women and other minorities should be aware of?
2. In a country like India where a woman cannot even walk to a police station safe, where there is absolutely no technology to trace harassment or even a legal standing to trace across countries, how does Facebook promise to protect me? Even when after 4 or 5 days of reporting of a hate page, when the hate page was not taken down, Preetha “s profile was taken down, Arundhathi”s profile taken down for standing with Preetha, my profile taken down for standing with her and many more.
3. If there is a verification, every new account should be verified before they start a Facebook account. Facebook doesn”t do this, so that they can lure the users in, then make them stay so you can expand your user base and sell to advertisers?. Then later, you throw a wrench and ask for verification. People in order not to lose their accounts, give in. This is coercion.
4. The trolls or the people who want to threaten create new pages day after day (4 hate pages were created within days and one still exits against Preetha G Nair — that literally calls her a mother fucker in the profile name itself — even after reporting against it) without any issues to their identity. Nothing happens to them. It only happens to us, women again. We are asked to shut up by a US corporate because they do not believe in the rights of victims.
5. Facebook only understands English? How do you address the cultural and language complexities of the non-English speaking World? When hate pages filled with filth and abuse written in non-English continued to exist, it just meant, Facebook cannot read anything other than English and it does not care for other languages and cultures.
6. Is Facebook sensitive to other cultures, where public shaming and continuous harassment to women, destroy their lives completely forever? In some of our cultures, after a public shaming there is no existence for women. There is no victim or witness protection programs, there is no support from anywhere even from our own families. We have to stop existing.
7. Many of us women are here to escape from patriarchy forced down upon our throats by marriage, by family, by caste, by religion. We are shunning all this to exist. as a human. Yet Facebook is throwing us back into the dark dungeons asking us to stay where we were. Does Facebook think we rightfully belong there? This is exactly how patriarchy seeps into our societies. By denying us the basic right to exist as we are.
Preetha existed just as Preetha, the way she liked it. When she was brutally harassed, Facebook took her down, forced her to have her legal name which she doesn”t want to carry and throws her back into whatever she was trying to escape from. This is her detailed note on that.
8. Even If I submit my proof of legal existence, How does Facebook verify proof from countries like India where anyone can forge an identity easily online with a certificate template? Does Facebook cross check our passports and other identity with a Government Agency? How else does Facebook verifies this information? So is this social media network Facebook is building is to leak our information into State”s hands? Do you sell us into advertisers by filtering us with our date of birth?
9. If I submit my proof to get an entry into to your social media network, why do you have to display my identity to the World? Even a passport verification with the immigration officers when you are cross borders is treated with utmost privacy. They do not immediately announce the name and date of birth to the World. Why cannot Facebook verify us and then let us have a private life? Why do you have to drag our lives to be violated because Facebook cannot come up with an intelligent algorithm to stop online harassment or to verify profiles?
10. We pass on our legal information to the Government because they give us services in return. We provide our information to places where money is involved so there is verification for our own protection. What protection or services does Facebook provides it”s users in exchange of our privacy?
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO writes about Leaning In. Is this how Facebook is asking millions of women to lean in? You are asking us to lean out. You are pushing us out of Facebook. You are asking us to quit using Facebook and our space. We have a hundred other choices and options these days in social media world. Why should we stick on Facebook If we cannot use it in a democratic and modern way?
>Thank you for pushing us out since Facebook cannot come up with culturally and minority sensitive policies, since Facebook vision of social existence is skewed, since Facebook is only motivated by greed.
I refuse to cow down by a U.S conglomerate. The freedom I exercise is hard earned. You cannot buy me.
Courtesy : Inji Pennu Version 2.0