Apr 172019

Meet: 4pm 25 April 2019, outside Facebook HQ, 1 Rathbone Square, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1FB. See the Event page

Join Disabled People Against Cuts, loud and proud, outside Facebook’s London HQ on 25 April to protest discriminatory treatment of disability-related pages. Last week, Facebook (FB) told Access Ability, in a recorded phone call that their site set up to empower disabled people had been blocked from inviting ‘likes’ by FB algorithms which block anything “that could be disturbing”. When challenged on this the FB employee stated that “some people find it disturbing to see pictures of disabled people”. She also said she had never before come across “a page that promotes disability” and seemed surprised at the idea.

DPAC spokesperson Bob Ellard said: “Facebook may have 21st century tech but they have shown themselves to have 19th century attitudes. The company makes billions in profits yet clearly lacks even basic anti-discrimination training for staff. Technology can change disabled people’s lives, with social media having played an important role in the development of disabled people led campaigns over recent years, but equal access doesn’t just need progressive technology, it needs progressive attitudes too. An algorithm is only as good as the people programming it.”

The protest is being supported by Models of Diversity, an organisation set up to promote equality and diversity in the fashion, beauty and media industries.

Founder, Angel Sinclair, says: “Models of Diversity are saddened by the disgusting treatment of Ability Access by Facebook last week. It is distressing to us that images of those with disability are considered ‘disturbing’ yet videos of ISIS murders and page 3 style nudity is acceptable. As a global organisation it is Facebook’s responsibility to educate its staff and make a stand against this kind of discrimination.”

Since the incident FB has explained the page was blocked because of an image showing a disabled woman who is disrobed. Whatever the reasons in this particular case, what was said by the employee in the telephone call was simply unacceptable. Moreover, other disabled campaigners from around the world have spoken out on twitter about similar difficulties with Facebook.

@Dominickevans, a Polish-American film-maker and activist commented: “They’ve been preventing me from inviting people to disability themed events I plan. Most people rely on me inviting them to know about the events happening, and it’s made me less likely to post events on Facebook.”

Disabled people and our allies want reassurances from FB that adequate steps will now be taken to protect disabled FB users from discrimination, including re-programming of algorithms as required to enable disability-related FB pages to promote their content, and that staff at all levels of the company will receive user led disability equality training.

If you are unable to join us but would like to send a message to Facebook for us to hand in please email mail@dpac.uk.net.

Support the protest on social media using the hashtag #DisabilityNotDisturbing