Facebook’s Confusing Harassment Policies Have Been Leaked


FacebookOne of the ongoing complaints about the biggest social media companies is that they don’t handle reports of harassment especially well, with Twitter getting the brunt of the ire. Some new light has been shed on that topic, though, as German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung has gotten ahold of Facebook’s internal policies when it comes to bullying, hate speech, and so on…but not much light, because they’re pretty confusing. It goes something like this:

  • “PROTECTED CATEGORY + ATTACK = HATE SPEECH.” This is pretty self-explanatory, and the groups are what you would expect: Sex, religious affiliation, nationality, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and serious illness. Facebook does, however, make the distinction between members of a religion and the religion itself. The former is banned, the latter is allowed. So far, so good, but it gets a bit less clear from there.
  • If you combine a protected category with an unprotected category, you get an unprotected category. The explanation is that a negative generalization about “Irish teenagers” does not warrant deletion because teenagers are unprotected, but doing the same about “Irish women” would get you deleted. Even though the teenagers are still part of a protected category. It’s easy to think of examples using race and religion where this policy doesn’t really track.
  • Asking to rate people in order of attractiveness is considered bullying and would be deleted.
  • Photos and videos portraying self-harm are only in violation if they encourage others to do the same. If that’s not the case, you leave the media up so that the user’s friends can see the “cry for help” and make sure the user gets the phone numbers for various mental health hotlines.
  • Public figures, who are less protected, are defined as who “have been elected to public office,” “have more than 100,000 followers on social media,” “are employed by broadcast or news media outlets and make public statements”  and “have been mentioned in news reports five times or more in the past two years.”
  • Uploading an image of someone who is “menstruating, urinating, vomiting, or defecating” is allowed if “there is no bullying context.” This gets subjective, as to whether or not a photo is “humiliating” can be complicated if there’s no caption.

A Facebook spokesperson who spoke to The Verge refused to confirm the authenticity of the handbook images, but did issue this statement:

Facebook is no place for the dissemination of hate speech, racism or calls for violence. We evaluate reported content seriously and do our best to get it right. And as we learn from experts, we continue to refine the way we implement our policies to keep our community safe, especially for people that may be vulnerable or under attack.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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