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Last week, GLAAD’s constituents contacted us about a Facebook event page created to honor teens who recently took their lives in response to anti-gay bullying. The event page, named “R.I.P. ;; In memory of the recent suicides due to gay abuse, wear purple”, calls for supporters to wear purple on October 20, 2010. As the page quickly grew in popularity, it was flooded with messages of support for the teens and condemnation of anti-gay bullying. Unfortunately, the page also became a forum for anti-LGBT hateful speech, images and violent messages.
GLAAD reached out to Facebook on Oct. 6 immediately after we were alerted to the violent images and hateful comments posted to the event page. Facebook responded that they would begin to monitor the page closely for violations of their terms of service.
At that point, almost 100,000 Facebook users responded that they will “attend” this event. One week later, the event has around 700,000 RSVPs. As the number of attendees on the event page grew, so did the number of incident reports sent to GLAAD regarding the hateful speech and images posted to the page.
The event page calls October 20 “Spirit Day,” and the event description reads:
It’s been decided. On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the 6 gay boys who committed suicide in recent weeks/months due to homophobic abuse in their homes and at their schools. Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality. Please wear purple on October 20th. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and schools. RIP Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Seth Walsh, Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase and Billy Lucas. You are loved.
Join this event and invite everyone on your friends list. Don’t let their deaths be for nothing. Let it mean something, and let’s do something to change this country for once.
Hateful comments posted to the page included “god hates f*gs theyre b*tches i hope they all die” and “f*ggots deserve a good old lynching.”
Over 1,800 emails were sent to GLAAD calling for Facebook to monitor the content or remove the Spirit Day page. Because the event page is currently functioning as a community memorial with an outpouring of support for the families of those teens as well as youth who might be facing similar anti-gay bullying, GLAAD’s digital team continued to work with Facebook and call for a solution.
Today, Facebook told GLAAD that new measures have been put in place to respond more quickly to the hateful comments and troll activity.
“Educating people about the lasting and damaging impacts of ignorant and hateful comments is a responsibility shared by parents, educators, organizations like GLAAD, and services like Facebook.
"We take our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities very seriously and react quickly to reports of inappropriate content and behavior. The goal of these policies is to strike a very delicate balance between giving people the freedom to express their opinions and viewpoints–even those that may be controversial to some–and maintaining a safe and trusted environment,” said Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes. “We have policies that prohibit hateful content and we have built a robust reporting infrastructure and an expansive team to review reports and remove content quickly.
"In addition to responding to reports, we have automated systems that use a number of factors to flag content that might violate our policies, so we can review and take it down as quickly as possible and before it’s reported.”
“This violent, hateful speech has no place in our media–whether it in print, on the airwaves or online,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “Facebook has taken an important first step in making social media a place where anti-gay violence is not allowed.
"Our community needs to continue to be vigilant and report instances of hateful comments and images across the site to Facebook moderators as well as post messages of support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.”
GLAAD we will continue to monitor the Spirit Day event page for anti-LGBT comments and images, and we ask that you do the same.
Your reports will be sent to Facebook’s monitoring team, and they will remove violations of the terms of service–which include threats of violence and graphic photos.
If you find words or images that are incorrect or troubling, but are not violations of Facebook’s terms of service, we encourage you to post responses that educate others about anti-gay bullying and other issues facing the LGBT community. Tell them that you support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and have your friends and families speak out with messages of support as well. To see GLAAD’s resources on talking to people about LGBT issues, check out our Talking About series.