Charity adverts on Facebook appeared next to pages glorifying rape

The RSPB considers pulling adverts and Shelter promises to work with the social-networking site to avoid a repeat


The RSPB might stop advertising on Facebook after discovering that its adverts appeared next to pages on the social networking site that glorified rape and violence against women.

The housing and homelessness charity Shelter, which was also told its adverts were appearing next to similar content, says it is working with Facebook to avoid a repeat.

The charities were contacted by Laura Bates, founder of the gender equality website the Everyday Sexism Project. She told them that adverts from these organisations and other household-name charities had appeared next to pages with titles such as "RAPING!", "Drop kicking sluts in the teeth" and "This is why Indian girls are raped".

Jo Coker, head of supporter marketing at the RSPB, said it was impossible at present for "well-meaning" organisations to be certain that their adverts would not appear beside such pages on Facebook.

"We are looking to Facebook for a solution to this problem so that we are not linked with this kind of content again in the future," she said. "Unless they can assure us that they are working out a way to guarantee this kind of thing doesn’t continue, we will be forced to consider our advertising options."

A spokeswoman for Shelter said: "We alerted Facebook as soon as we were aware of this. We are working with them to understand what can be done to avoid something like this happening again and to stop Shelter being associated with these sorts of sites."

Facebook targets adverts at particular users, rather than placing them next to content chosen by the advertiser, so it is impossible for charities to control where their adverts appear.

Facebook advertising allows individuals to be targeted by criteria including age, gender, geographical location and interests. Data from users’ Facebook profiles and information such as their ‘likes’ are used to indicate interests.

Bates said that Facebook had been contacted by members of the public who asked it to remove some of the offending pages, but had refused to do so, saying they did not contravene its terms of use.

However, a Facebook spokeswoman said "several of the pages" highlighted by the Everyday Sexism Project were removed for breaking the rules set out in its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

"There is no place on Facebook for content that is hateful, threatening or incites violence, and we will not tolerate material deemed to be genuinely or directly harmful," she said. "We react quickly to remove reported language or images that violate our terms, and we encourage people to report questionable content using links located throughout the site."

She said that many people at Facebook found the content of many pages abhorrent, but combating prejudice required the freedom to debate issues, rather than simply removing content.

"It is easy to defend views we like, but it is extremely difficult to defend those we despise," she said. "Our belief in the value of openness is really tested only when we’re willing to do the latter.

"As a result, as long as content doesn’t violate our policies, we err on the side of allowing people to express themselves."

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