Open Letter to Facebook’s Monika Bickert and Justin Osofsky

Monika Bickert, Facebook’s Head of Global Product Policy and Justin Osofsky, their Vice President of Global Operations co-wrote this letter about Facebook’s Community Standards. Among the principles they claim Facebook is guided by are:

Keeping you safe. We have zero tolerance for any behavior that puts people in danger, whether someone is organizing or advocating real-world violence or bullying other people. Requiring people to use their authentic identity on Facebook helps motivate all of us to act responsibly, since our names and reputations are visibly linked to our words and actions.

Yet after 1,000s of user reports, the Facebook page Families Against Autistic Shooters remains up. The user ID behind the page is “AutismKills” which indicates the position the page takes. It isn’t against “Autistic Shooters” as claimed but against autistics. There are repeated false and inflammatory claims on the page of a causal link between autism and mass murder. The page openly suggests autistics should be feared and implies incarceration or euthanasia of the entire population as a response to mass shootings.

Families Against Autistic Shooters page

And while Bickert and Osofsky claim Facebook’s real name policy protects users, the page is completely anonymous. There is no accountability whatsoever to the person responsible except through Facebook’s community reporting.

And how did that reporting go? Report after report is met with boiler plate text explaining that the page does NOT violate Facebook Community Standards.

  • Nothing on the page is directed at a specific individual so it doesn’t violate the Direct Threat clause.
  • It falls short of qualifying as a criminal or terrorist group so doesn’t rise to the requirements of the Dangerous Organization clause.
  • The Bullying and Harassment clause requires that the actions identify a specific, private individual.
  • The lack of threats to specific individuals does not trigger the Attacks on Public Figures clause.
  • No overt criminal acts are proposed.

Facebook response to reportBut this page and others like it DO serve to make Facebook unsafe for autistic people. It identifies an entire disability population as the pool from which mass murders are produced. It suggests that if we did away with autistics, we will be able to stop mass murder.

Does the page make autistics unsafe?

  • It causes direct emotional harm to autistics who encounter the page.
  • It fosters open hostility towards autistic people far beyond the source page.
  • It emboldens people to take real-life actions against autistics.
  • It diminishes job opportunities for autistic people by implying risk.
  • It perpetuates a climate of sympathy for parents who murder their autistic children.
  • It dehumanizes autistics as unworthy of any basic human rights, especially that of safety.
  • It diminishes the chance for autistics to participate in society at whatever level they are capable.

This last is doubly unfortunate because many in the autistic community make their closest bonds online. Some are non-verbal, others socially anxious to the point of disability. The ability to compose posts at one’s own pace fosters a dialog between autistics, their community, and the rest of the world. If there is one place autistics can function as part of a community, it is online in the digital world.

Except that this is also the venue within which bigots can organize communities of hate against autistics. The truth is that autistics are far more likely to be victims of violence than to perpetrate it. I nearly lost my own life to school bullies on two occasions. They were supported by a climate of acceptance which saw their actions as acceptable. This Facebook page perpetuates and amplifies that very climate of tolerance of violence and discrimination against a vulnerable population.

Ms. Bickert and Mr. Osofsky, you have failed to live up to the promise of zero tolerance for behavior that puts people at risk.

Your policy of narrowly defining risk as that which applies to specific named individuals has utterly failed the autistic community.

Your Real Name policy has failed us by allowing the page administrator to post anonymously with complete immunity from consequences.

Your narrow definition of bullying, hate speech and Zero Tolerance has failed the world’s entire autistic population all at once.

Your Community Reporting Mechanism has failed us this weekend by the thousands.

You say that “our goal is to create an environment where we don’t need a lot of rules, and people on Facebook feel motivated and empowered to treat each other with empathy and respect.”

So long as the administrators of pages like Families Against Autistic Shooters have no incentive to treat others with the promised empathy and respect, then you, personally Ms. Bickert and Mr. Osofsky, have failed us.

As an autistic person whose job prospects and safety both online and off are directly harmed as a result of this page, you have personally also failed me.

I hope that you will consider how Facebook’s Community Standards might be improved to cover bullying and harassment of vulnerable groups in addition to whatever protections are now afforded to individuals.

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12 Responses to Open Letter to Facebook’s Monika Bickert and Justin Osofsky

  1. T.Rob says:

    I’m locking further comments on this post. The first responses seemed to understand that it was intended to be a message from me to people at Facebook. Later comments seem to believe that I *am* Facebook or affiliated with FB other than as a member. The post is less about autism or advocacy as time goes on, and more about Facebook problems. Nothing wrong with that specifically, it’s just off topic here and anyway I can’t do anything to help with specific Facebook issues.

  2. Pellegrino W. goione says:

    I have great respect for those who monitor Facebook to maintain integrity of content. My account has been disabled, unjustly. You have insulted my integrity in which I have had great pride for 81 years. You cast me aside without any explanation and separate me from my friends, who are all I have left for me. Are you there? do you care?

  3. jhen pasaol says:

    good day, i need your help to retrieve my facebook account,jhen pasaol,i thought someone reported me, i need my photos in there

  4. Facebook is losing it’s tenuous hold on sanity as the left infects the administration with twisted logic and insane ideals. I was “suspended for thirty days this last time, conveniently before the 2016 presidential debates, so as to keep my voice from being heard. I’m using other venues for commentary on websites that offer them. Facebook is too unreliable for someone with an opinion on anything to tie it to your own online presence. We need alternatives if free speech is to continue on the internet. Facebook can’t handle free speech. It’s their way or the highway. I’m done with it.

  5. I have reporeported several pages on nudity. Each one came back it does not violate the community standards. This is not true. If you take all ok at the pages you see nothing but nude photos. They are not promoting art but porn. The pages I reported are Jerrika Boyce, Latrine Ward and Nikki’s E Thought. Please take a look at these pages I have reported and see if you would want your parents or husband if you have one to see this on fb. Please monotonous fb closer than you have been doing. No one wants to see naked pics when they scroll on fb.

  6. Hyku Boyd says:

    Facebook arbitrarily discredits certain individuals, while simultaneously allowing others to undergo a barrage of attacks from their opposition. While it is okay to threaten to kill someone; even president Barack Obama and his family, it is not okay to call out such treasonous, domestic terrorists. Such a capricious imposition of arbitrary discrimination has no place in a global forum. Muslims and African-American citizens of the United states are given 24-infinity sanctions of facebook usage, while perpetrators of the very attacks on our person are allowed to vent with unyielding maddness, their own perspectives. THIS must stop!! THIS is not forward thinking. THIS is causation!! Facebook is becoming a direct partner in global annihilation. People are becoming aware of the implications of Facebook as a conduit to a corrupt system of oppression. Monika needs to redress. The drawing board wiped clean. A new understanding of the issues at hand are imperative. Facebook is on notice, and frightfully aware that maybe, just maybe–a better network or networks be produced to abate such duplicitous reasoning.
    Whilst Facebook allows friends, family and like minded people to keep in touch. It must at once understand while squeeky wheel gets the oil, the problem may have been the bearings.

  7. Fan says:

    Thank you

  8. Viv says:

    The page is back up as of 10/16/15. 🙁

  9. I read about this page a while ago but I couldn’t find it on Facebook, so I think (hope!) that they finally removed it! What a disgusting concept! I am not sure why autistic people are specifically being targeted, except that maybe people confuse the characteristics of autism with the characteristics of a sociopath?

    • T.Rob says:

      The page does appear to be down. Part of the problem is that some shooters had an official diagnosis and the media often makes speculative autism diagnoses. But nobody seems to mention that correlation =/= causation. We are massively overrepresented as victims but nobody seems to mention that.

    • The page is back up, unfortunately, so I reported it. It also posted an offensive event, which I reported, too.

      • T.Rob says:

        This time it came back as a community. Still, it has the exact same name which you’d think would be a clue. Hope they ban the admin this time.

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