Human rights campaigners have called for action after a survey revealed that more than half of the reports that women lodge about harassment on Facebook are met with no action from the social media company.
The Survation poll, commissioned by the feminist campaign group Level Up, found that 29% of the 1,000 women who took part had been harassed on Facebook.
A spokesperson for Amnesty International UK said the “extremely worrying” findings were indicative of a “new frontier of human rights abuses” which are often unaddressed: “Time and time again we hear social media companies making pledges that they will do better, but their efforts have not been good enough. Women are still feeling silenced to speak out online for fear of abuse.”
Women reported being sent offensive, graphic or insulting messages or images; having private photos posted without their consent and receiving repeated messages that made them fear for their safety. Fifty-two per cent were ignored or told the behaviour did not breach community guidelines.
Fifty-four per cent of those surveyed said they had little trust in Facebook’s ability to deal with harassment in a compassionate manner, and 72% said it needed more moderators to handle complaints.
The results were particularly stark for young women and women of colour. Fifty-six per cent of women under 25 and 40% of women from a black and minority ethnic (BME) background said they had been harassed at least once on Facebook.
Level Up, which aims to eradicate sexism in the UK, accused Facebook of not taking online harassment seriously. Its campaign director, Janey Starling, said: “Level Up is calling on Facebook to listen to women and move faster to keep us safe online.
“This means firstly updating their harassment policy to recognise the nuances and spectrum that different types of harassment fall on, and secondly: making it easier for victims of harassment to report their abuse.”
Facebook said it had developed features to keep people safe from harassment, alongside their community guidelines.
“We work with women’s safety organisations here in the UK and have developed features that prevent unwanted contact, the option to ignore a messenger conversation, and the ability to hide or delete comments,” a spokesperson said.
“Our community standards do not allow bullying and harassment, and we remove content, profiles and pages when we are made aware of it. If there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety, we remove content, disable accounts, and work with law enforcement.”
A government spokesperson said: “The era of self-regulation is ending and our forthcoming white paper will set out the responsibilities of these companies to keep UK citizens safe, how they should be met and what should happen if they are not.”