Facebook is Blocking the March and Black Survivors of Sexual Assault from Desperately Needed Services
I don’t know if you’ve heard but there is a proverbial gag over the mouths of Black women as Facebook violates our First Amendment Rights to freedom of speech, to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.
Since July 4, 2018 the repeated attempt by Black Women’s Blueprint to post an ad, boost the September 29, 2018 DC March for Black Women and the September 30, 2018 rally in New York City have been suppressed. This is having devastating consequences on Black women and survivors of sexual violence, as attempts by organizers to promote ads to raise funds for the March through a Crowdrise campaign, has been disapproved and blocked by the Facebook Administration. The reason Facebook gave for the disapproval: political content will not be boosted or advertised. This comes after Facebook has implemented a number of policies which became effective after the 2016 Presidential Elections and then after the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. These policies ban the use of language by groups on Facebook that are integral to our direct services, our advocacy and are issues which disproportionately impact the lives of African Americans and people of color.
This is a move which violates the First Amendment rights of marchers and organizers of the March for Black Women to freedom of speech, to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.
Since July 4, 2018 repeated attempts by national Black feminist and human rights organization, Black Women’s Blueprint to post an ad and boost the September 29, 2018 DC March for Black Women and the September 30, 2018 rally in New York City have been suppressed. This is having devastating consequences on Black women and survivors of sexual violence, as attempts by organizers to promote a Crowdrise campaign to get survivors to the March have all been disapproved by the Facebook administration. The reason given by Facebook: "political content will not be boosted or advertised."
This comes after Facebook implemented a number of policies effective after the 2016 Presidential elections and after the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica's unethical use of Facebook user data to spread chaos preceding the 2016 elections. These policies further victimize Facebook users. According to a 2017 article in the Washington Post, Zuckerburg’s testimony in front congress earlier this year reveals Facebook policies allowed outside companies to mine user data without user knowledge. These predatory policies were hidden from the public but impacted the public nevertheless. Faulty policies are once again at play.
Facebook's policies ban language integral to direct services and advocacy for and by the most marginalized groups. They ban language representative of issues which disproportionately impact the lives of women, African Americans and other people of color. Groups like Black Women's Blueprint must now seek permission from "big business" to use words like "immigration, abortion, civil rights, education, health, poverty, economy, reform, budget, values among other words inherent to dialogue about people of color and women's lived experiences".
Facebook’s action has badly impacted survivors of sexual assault. As a result of the ban and disapproval of March for Black Women ads, a community of over 20,000 survivors and allies have missed out on access to resources, services, and funds designated to the healing and recovery of survivors across the nation and world within our Facebook network. Because the March for Black Women has not been able to boost our Crowdrise, we are struggling for funds to help bring survivors to the March. By this time last year we already met half our Crowdrise goal and other related fundraising goals.
The March for Black women is meant to empower. It is bringing together a large cohort of healers, children and elders marching to have a voice where few spaces exist. We are being unfairly targeted when Facebook won't let us promote this important event, won't let us boost the March, won't let us raise funds for the March, won't let us post images of girls saying why they march, and won’t let people share the event on the platform. This is tantamount to big Facebook creeping up behind us and putting their hand over our mouths, dragging us out of sight of the public and those who might come to our aid. This is an infringement on our most basic rights to advocate for ourselves. This is a poignant moment, as violence against women is the very problem about which we seek to raise awareness. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expires at midnight on September 30, 2018, the same day we rally in New York City. What we are experiencing is violence at the hands of big business—Facebook. Women of color's bodies and our right to protect ourselves is being sacrificed for big business' bottom line. For every minute our event ad is not promoted, we are being dragged into an alley out of sight, out of earshot, and out of the reach of those who can support us and stand with us.
It is not only our First Amendment rights which are at stake in the hands of big Facebook and big business, it is our right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, an American dream which Facebook seems to be saying was not intended for Black women who are impacted by all the words prohibited by Facebook policies. This strike against the grassroots social justice movement by Facebook should be a wake-up call to how quickly activism can be controlled, silenced and even dismantled.
In this moment, it is not just Black women or Black Women’s Blueprint who should examine and respond to Facebook's new policies for what they are--a declaration of war on the most vulnerable and those at the margins. All social justice activists must begin to band together, recognizing this incident of repression as an evolution of the war of silence, a deafening silence with which Black women are well acquainted.
Silence has always been a strategy against Black women in America. It is an underhanded strategy of erasure which begins with pretending issues impacting Black women do not exist. It is a strategy which continues to distract the world from seeing what is happening to Black women and girls. We are mobilizing all activists, all concerned women and all allies. We are going boots-on-the ground and are deploying our grassroots capabilities. We are having to knock on doors and use fliers. Community, resist and remove the stranglehold of white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy over Black women and demand the March for Black Women be free to peacefully assemble, to build and to organize, not just because these are rights enshrined in the Constitution, but because after all we have given to this nation and its businesses, we deserve to speak and most of all, we deserve spaces to heal.
Please contact us if you have any questions. Help us get the word out.
Farah Tanis: email@example.com
Sevonna Brown: Sevonna@blueprintny.org