Facebook's Internal Content Rules Revealed

A secretly leaked Facebook document has revealed how users are allowed to call for the death of public figures and can praise mass murders, based on company's own vague definitions of what constitutes a crime. This 300-page Facebook document explains what sentences and phrases are ethically unacceptable to publish on Facebook’s 2.8 billion monthly users’ site.

The guidelines seen by the Guardian show how the company controls its mainly outsourced moderators’ work down to the smallest detail, defining its rules so precisely that contractors are told which emojis constitute “praise” and which count as “condemnation”.

A particular area of contention surrounds what are defined as dangerous individuals and organisations. In the leaked documents dating from December 2020, moderators for Facebook and Instagram are instructed how to define “support” for terrorist groups and other “dangerous individuals”, whether to distinguish between “explaining” and “justifying” the actions of terrorists, and even in what contexts it is acceptable to call for the use of “gas chambers”.

While Facebook’s community guidelines which have in a short report been publicly available since 2018 but these newly leaked 300 page documents are different. 

These much more detailed guidelines explain what the published rules mean in practice. Facebook has long argued that to publish the full documents would be counterproductive since it would let malicious users avoid a ban for deliberately borderline behaviour.

According to the internal guidelines, Facebook bans users from “expressing a belief in the stated goals, methods, etc of an organisation or individual.” According to the company they do protect the public figures in some ways. Any posts which seems to have an extremely severe attack is removed while posts containing threats in which the directed person is tagged is also removed. However, for the private citizens this security goes a lot deeper and further and they are protected in several other ways with greater measures. 

Facebook, which also owns Instagram, has changed its policies in response to the criticism, introducing new rules to cover abuse sent through direct messages and committing to cooperate with law enforcement over hate speech.

These new guidelines say public figures can be targeted in ways that the company bans for those classed as private individuals, although they cannot be tagged in the content and its policy protects them from direct threats of severe physical harmIt comes as social networks face renewed criticism over abuse on their platforms from people in the public eye, including  the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and black sports stars like soccer player Marcus Rashford. 

In response to the Guardian, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We think it’s important to allow critical discussion of politicians and other people in the public eye. But that doesn’t mean we allow people to abuse or harass them on our apps.

“We remove hate speech and threats of serious harm no matter who the target is, and we’re exploring more ways to protect public figures from harassment.... We regularly consult with safety experts, human rights defenders, journalists and activists to get feedback on our policies and make sure they’re in the right place.”

Facebook:    Guardian:      ITV:      Daly Mail:     MacObserver:    Digital Information World:     Image: Unsplash

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