Fark has been an established link aggregator and online community since 1999, so founder Drew Curtis’ announcement today that misogynistic language will be banned entirely from the site may seem a little late to the let’s-not-be-horrible-to-each-other party. But taking a public feminist stance is a bold move for Fark, and one that other online communities have deemed unethical (HA!) or logistically too difficult. Earlier today Curtis published this statement on the decision:
Adam Savage once described to me the problem this way: if the Internet was a dude, we’d all agree that dude has a serious problem with women.
We’ve actually been tightening up moderation style along these lines for awhile now, but as of today, the FArQ will be updated with new rules reminding you all that we don’t want to be the He Man Woman Hater’s Club. This represents enough of a departure from pretty much how every other large internet community operates that I figure an announcement is necessary.
There are lots of examples of highly misogynistic language in pop culture, and Fark has used those plenty over the years. From SNL’s “Jane, you ignorant slut” to Blazing Saddles’ multiple casual references to rape, there are a lot of instances where views are made extreme to parody them. On Fark, we have a tendency to use pop culture references as a type of referential shorthand with one another.
On SNL and in a comedy movie, though, the context is clear. On the Internet, it’s impossible to know the difference between a person with hateful views and a person lampooning hateful views to make a point. The mods try to be reasonable, and context often matters. We will try and determine what you meant, but that’s not always a pass. If your post can be taken one of two ways, and one of those ways can be interpreted as misogynistic, the mods may delete it — even if that wasn’t your intent.
Things that aren’t acceptable:
- Rape jokes
- Calling women as a group “whores” or “sluts” or similar demeaning terminology
- Jokes suggesting that a woman who suffered a crime was somehow asking for it
Obviously there’s not much to celebrate about needing an anti-hate speech policy, but Fark’s new guidelines and Curtis’ vocal support for them are important nonetheless, and distinguish the site from other online communities (cough cough, Reddit). If you want an example of why Fark’s new policy might be necessary, or to see several primo examples of the kinds of complaints moderators will likely receive, check out some reactions on Slashdot. Be warned: yonder there be mansplainers.
Given the number of “can’t you take a joke/you’re the sexist ones/possibly Illuminati” complaints a smaller platform like The Mary Sue gets on a daily basis from former commenters, I don’t envy the moderators on Fark wrangling an audience that might not be aware of the site’s new stance. Good luck in the Wild West, Farketeers!