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Trans activists call for Facebook to do more to tackle Neo-Nazi hate

The attack on trans cartoonist Sophie Labelle is just the latest example of why Facebook needs to do more to stop hate speech, say activists

Trans activists call for Facebook to do more to tackle Neo-Nazi hate
Jessica Durling

Sophie Labelle, the Canadian trans cartoonist behind the Assigned Male webcomics, was forced into hiding after groups of neo-Nazis attacked her on social media and hacked her website.

Jessica Durling, another Canadian transwoman and LGBTI rights activist, is not new to this type of harassment either.

A friend of Labelle’s, Durling first met her when she gave a speech at a trans march in Montreal. Since then, the two have been allies and collaborators.

When the harassment began, Labelle was forced to hide her Assigned Male Facebook page from public viewing. Anyone who said anything to stand up for her, including Durling, instantly became part of these attacks.

Assigned Male Comic

‘We really pissed off the Neo-Nazi crowd. Resisting Nazis, as Canadian as maple syrup,’ Durling says.

Labelle and Durling both endured threats of violence during this time. Labelle was also doxed, having her personal address posted online to various forums. Because of this, she has been forced to move to a new location.

This attack has threatened her livelihood as well, since the Assigned Male comics are her main source of income. Labelle had to cancel her Halifax book launch due to violent threats being sent to her as well as to Venus Envy, the host of the event.

Sophie Labelle

Sophie Labelle

‘Personally I would have gone forward with the event because I don’t believe the threats or those internet trolls would actually go out of their basements to face the sunlight,’ Labelle said.

‘But since trans people are a very vulnerable group in society, many people didn’t feel safe going anymore and I would rather cancel the event than to have them be potentially traumatized.’

This is just the latest example of Facebook not doing nearly enough to protect marginalized users, including LGBTI individuals.

‘Facebook tries to stop hate speech, but all the transmisogynystic groups show it isn’t as effective as it should be,’ Durling tells GSN.

‘I think Facebook needs to start taking reports seriously in regards to transphobia, and help protect our community from harassment. Giving them space to organize only encourages these harassment campaigns.’

‘Facebook clearly has—and has had for a while—a problem with content moderation. It’s been criticized for removing a post about the Orlando shooting, and a meme about Brock Turner (which was later restored),’ writes Libby Watson for Gizmodo.

‘And on the other end of the spectrum, it’s been criticized for not removing racist content; in Germany, government ministers have pressured Facebook to act more pro-actively to remove racist content.

‘It’s also received criticism for not acting quickly enough to remove graphic content, like a graphic photo of a murdered woman or recent murders broadcast on Facebook live.’

Earlier this month, lawmakers in the UK accused Facebook and other tech giants of not doing enough to tackle hate speech.

Presented with the criticism, Facebook said it was working to improve, with policy director Simon Milner commenting to CNN, ‘that there is more we can do to disrupt people wanting to spread hate and extremism online.’

The social network also announced it was recruiting a further 3,000 staff to monitor content.

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