Facebook’s guidelines to censor hate speech have resulted in lesbians being blocked and banned for referring to themselves as “dykes”.
Waterhouse posted screenshots of removed Facebook posts featuring positive uses of the word “dyke” that – according to the social network – “didn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards”.
Waterhouse told the ABC the term “dyke” had evolved from a slur to a term lesbians use in everyday conversation with each other.
She called on Facebook to investigate any biases in the practices of its content reviewers, stressing the importance of minority communities having unimpeded access to social media platforms.
“[For] women who may not get any kind of validation or support or advocacy in their area, it can be quite critical for them to see that it is possible to be positive about being a lesbian, it is possible to change social attitudes,” she said.
Dykes on Bikes Queensland President Julz Raven told the ABC the group’s Facebook page had also been deactivated in the past, with a message saying it didn’t meet Facebook’s Community Standards.
On Twitter, many users brought attention to the issue over the past month with the hashtag “#facebookdykeban” and screenshots of the messages they’d received from Facebook.
Unbelievable. Just got a 30-day ban by Facebook for pro-LGBT content. DURING PRIDE MONTH. pic.twitter.com/fV0Fmtuf5n
— Facebook-Banned Dyke (@sarahlicity) June 30, 2017
— MishytheDykeXX (@mishytheDyke) July 4, 2017
— Tina Minkowitz (@TinaMinkowitz) July 4, 2017
— Listening2Lesbians (@Listen2Lesbians) July 6, 2017
Facebook’s Community Standards say they remove hate speech, including that attacks people based on their sexual orientation.
Public Policy Vice President Richard Allen told the ABC the context and intent of the words used is considered, but conceded mistakes are made.
“Our mistakes have caused a great deal of concern in a number of communities, including groups who feel we act — or fail to act — out of bias,” he said.
“We are deeply committed to addressing and confronting bias anywhere it may exist.”
Mr Allen said Facebook was experimenting with ways to harness artificial intelligence to filter “toxic language” in comments.
“But while we’re continuing to invest in these promising advances, we’re a long way from being able to rely on machine learning and AI to handle the complexity involved in assessing hate speech,” he said.