Facebook: Threatening to rape women is okay, as long as you don’t mean it

Posted on Feb 6, 2013 in Digital PR

Tonight, Swedish public service channel SVT1 broadcast a show looking into the hate and threats that women in the public eye face. The show began with Julia, a 21 year old woman, who asked on H&M’s Facebook page why they’re selling t-shirts with Tupac Shakur’s face, considering he’s been convicted for sexual assault. This started a flood of comments – the vast majority assaulting and threatening Julia. The commenters told her to commit suicide, they hoped she’d get raped, they offered to degrade her by pissing on her (that comment got 11 likes). Some 2800 comments were left for a month on H&M’s Facebook page. H&M claim they deleted 3000 comments, but the question is when and why they left the other 2800 comments where the ones that were left included the examples above and other colorful threats like “I’m going to rape you and then ask H&M to print a t-shirt with my face on it”

The lesson here for all companies: the digital conversation doesn’t care about your “business hours” or your “shortage of staff”. It happens when it happens, and you need resources to deal with it. I can’t help but feel bad for Miriam Tappert at H&M, who also was my predecessor at Björn Borg, but it does nothing for the fact that in this case, H&M failed miserably.

The strangest moment of them all was when the reporters met Thomas Myrup Kristensen, Chief of Policy at Facebook Nordic, and asked him what Facebook tolerates. Here’s the conversation (click the image for larger version):

Facebook's official stance on whether it's okay to rape women

Myrup Kristensen: “You have to evaluate each case on an individual basis to see where you draw the line”

Reporter: “But can it ever be okay to write ‘I am going to rape you’?”

Myrup Kristensen: “It’s an awful thing to write, it’s not good behavior, but we look into whether such threats have been said in the heat of the moment or if it’s something the person really means. In that case it gets consequences.”

So I guess it’s okay to threaten to rape women on Facebook, as long as you’re doing it in the heat of the moment.

If you want to see the show (it’s in Swedish) you can find it at SVT Play. The interview with Facebook’s Thomas Myrup Kristensen starts at about 45:15.

EDIT: In a twist of irony, Thomas Myrup Kristensen praises the campaign “Stop bullying now!” which he writes that “he is proud that it is supported by Facebook”. He also writes that the campaign is part of the “Safer Internet Day” in Europe. Hat tip to Ole Palnatoke for pointing this out.

Thomas Myrup Kristensen promotes Facebook's work with anti-bullying in a post from January 30, 2013

A quick translation by Google Translate:

Dear all,

Next week is the Safer Internet Day in Europe and in Denmark started a campaign entitled “Stop Bullying Now” on Facebook and other places.

I am proud that Facebook has helped to support the campaign, including through the campaign’s Facebook page. But by far the greatest credit must go to the campaign’s long line of Danish organizations with expertise in helping young people and others who have come out in unfortunate situations on the net. I hope you will “like” campaign page and help to support the message of “Stop Bullying Now”!

Oh the irony.