[Content note for abuse to women; also I've softened some of the language since abuse is not on topic here; click through to read the original if you wish.]

An article in The Atlantic today recounts:

In December 2012, an Icelandic woman named Thorlaug Agustsdottir discovered a Facebook group called “Men are better than women.” One image she found there, Thorlaug wrote to us this summer in an email, [of an abused woman]. Thorlaug wrote an outraged post about it on her own Facebook page.

Before long, a user at “Men are better than women” posted an image of Thorlaug’s face, altered to appear [injured]. Under the image, someone commented, “Women are like grass, they need to be [assaulted] regularly.” Another wrote: “You just need to be [abused].” Thorlaug reported the image and comments to Facebook and requested that the site remove them.

“We reviewed the photo you reported,” came Facebook’s auto reply, “but found it does not violate Facebook’s Community Standards on hate speech, which includes posts or photos that attack a person based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or medical condition.”

Instead, the Facebook screeners labeled the content “Controversial Humor.” Thorlaug saw nothing funny about it. She worried the threats were real.

Some 50 other users sent their own requests on her behalf. All received the same reply. Eventually, on New Year’s Eve, Thorlaug called the local press, and the story spread from there. Only then was the image removed.

In January 2013, Wired published a critical account of Facebook’s response to these complaints. A company spokesman contacted the publication immediately to explain that Facebook screeners had mishandled the case, conceding that Thorlaug’s photo “should have been taken down when it was reported to us.” According to the spokesman, the company tries to address complaints about images on a case-by-case basis within 72 hours, but with millions of reports to review every day, “it’s not easy to keep up with requests.” The spokesman, anonymous to Wired readers, added, “We apologize for the mistake.”

When a moderator receives a report/flag like these Facebook screeners received, what is their responsibility to the flagger (a human who has just been threatened with real physical harm) to consider the report from the point of view of the flagger?

Threats of violence/abuse are highly gendered, and men do not perceive them with the same urgency. Is it okay for moderators/community managers/screeners (the technology workforce is largely male) to rely on their gut instinct of what is okay, or should they look for confirmation from outside sources?

  • 2
    This question seems a bit broad. The answers could vary based on the platform, policies of the community or laws of the country under which the site operates. Could you focus the question a bit?
    – Andy
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 19:03
  • 1
    Actually young men are statistically more likely to be the victims of violence, but it's not sexually motivated or in a domestic setting. It's likely to be by the hand of other young men and fuelled by alcohol. This is not to diminish the impact that these threats have on their targets.
    – ChrisF
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 19:08
  • @Andy I'm actually thinking of a moral obligation to keep the users from feeling in fear for their lives. I'm not really sure how platform, policies, or laws play into that.
    – Zaralynda
    Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 19:19
  • 2
    Related: moderators.stackexchange.com/q/587/83 Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 0:54
  • 4
    This question is opinion-based. The moderators of every community have the right to decide for themselves what content is acceptable and what isn't as long as it doesn't violate the law. Whether or not the content mentioned here is violating the law is off-topic, because that's for a court to decide.
    – Philipp
    Commented Oct 10, 2014 at 9:02

1 Answer 1


A community manager has a responsibility to remove unlawful content that gets flagged. If he doesn't then that's a valid reason for a law suit.

Otherwise there are no default rules that go for every website and every website can decide for themselves where they draw the lines.

In this case, it's likely a human mistake.

The person reported the post as hate speech. Threats of physical violence to a specific person aren't automatically hate speech. Hate speech is when you attack a group not a single person.

Facebook allows users to report posts because they "target me or a friend" that's a different category than "hate speech". As a result the person who did the reviewing likely didn't notice that the person was a threat to a single person and that it was Thorlaug face instead of the face of a random women.

Then it was human error on part of the reviewer who spend little time on the issue because he has to go through many request per hour.

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