- Yesterday, I was alerted that someone had set up a Facebook page to ask whether a friend of mine should be murdered and to advocate changes that would make murdering her legal. About 50 people that I know of, and probably many more, reported the page to Facebook as harassment or as a credible threat of violence. Several hours after it was first reported, all of those people received notices from Facebook saying the page was just fine by their standards.
- From there, those 50 people and a bunch more set out in earnest to get the page taken down. People continued to report the page. Others responded with detailed feedback to Facebook's responses telling them what their own policies were. Some of us, having seen Facebook fail to respond to blatant misogyny in the past until faced with bad publicity, set out to give them some.
- We contacted people involved with the #FBRape campaign. We contacted companies whose advertisements appeared beside incitement to murder. We set up a stink on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook itself. (Pro tip for Facebook: Don't become known for only acting when people hurt your reputation with the public and with your advertisers. You'll only get hurt more often.)
A few hours later, the page was down. Facebook continues to be silent, so we don't know what caused them to change their collective mind on this. But this story isn't about that. It's about what happened when the young woman targeted by the death threat objected to Facebook's treatment.
- Several people retweeted this. Somehow, one of those retweets caught the eye of Mike Shaver, Facebook's Engineering Director.
- He, like any good employee of a company whose stock in trade is the personal data of people who trust that company, immediately alerted the company's PR department.
- Oh. It turns out that's not at all what he did. Instead, he sent a tweet that simultaneously acknowledged that the page had been removed and disputed that it should be. He also, using the thorough training on threat detection that computer engineers receive, decided to speak for Facebook ("our terms") on the topic. Needless, to say, Miri wasn't impressed.
- Did Facebook's Engineering Director take this opportunity to say he was only speaking for himself? Did he suggest that the person targeted by the page might have some idea what she was talking about? Did he take into consideration that someone who had just been threatened with murder and been told that was all cool with Facebook might not really be looking for more hypothetical arguments on her death?
Of course he didn't, or there would be no story here.
- I don't remember any time my parents were called to a meeting of administrators soberly discussing whether I should be murdered. How about you?
Unfortunately, I can all too well remember the last time some guy suggested I would be too stupid to notice if the piece of internet nastiness I was complaining about turned out to actually be a compliment. I'm pretty sure Miri can too. I'm also sure she and I and 50 or so other people would have noticed had the page been arguing for her continued well-being.
- Knowing that he only had only seen the title, Shaver still had to focus on the fact that his ignorance led him to believe Miri was wrong to object to her treatment from Facebook because there was no threat. Remember, that's the tweet that started all this: Miri objecting to Facebook's finding.
Of course, he was wrong about that too, as other people were happy to point out.
- Actually, if someone wants you murdered, you are at a higher risk of being murdered than if no one does. It's not necessarily a big threat that someone wants you murdered, but it's still a threat.
That isn't the dumbest part of this tweet, though, as the reply points out. Either Shaver was saying that Facebook is only allowed to take titles into consideration in their responses to reports, or he was actually arguing that he was right because he was ignorant. Because he didn't see the content that in a single glance said this wasn't about championing the woman who complained about the page, he's completely in the right. He was absolutely justified to tell Miri there was no threat in what he saw because he knew less than she did.
- Someone who has a bit more legal training than your average (or even above-average) computer engineer disagrees.