Sensitive to the expanding diversity of the online community, the world’s largest social network has taken a step to curb highly contentious postings.
On March 16, Facebook revamped its community guidelines, detailing what is and is not acceptable behavior on the site. With social media playing an ever-increasing role in the news and current events, Facebook’s decision to adopt specific standards is an attempt to balance the freedom to share ideas with its responsibility to protect users from content deemed universally unacceptable.
The new guidelines address everything from hate speech to nudity, making it clear that things like revenge porn, bullying, terrorist affiliations, graphic images of violence, and posts that threaten self-harm or harm to others are explicitly prohibited. Users who engage in these now-prohibited activities run the risk of having their post removed or entire account blocked. Users may also self-regulate content by flagging certain pages, profiles or individual posts by clicking the “Report” link and giving a short explanation about why they think the content violates Facebook standards.
Though these determinations of “unacceptable” content may seem highly subjective – a shared video may be hilarious to one user but offensive to another, etc. – the guidelines go into explicit detail to clarify the differences within each group of prohibited posts. For example, graphic images of nudity for the purpose of sexual exploitation will be removed, but images of a woman breastfeeding or showing post-mastectomy scarring will be allowed on the site to promote breast cancer awareness. Under Facebook’s new guidelines, context matters.
Facebook seems to be following suit with other major social networks – earlier this year, both Twitter and Reddit explicitly banned “revenge porn,” the posting of sexually explicit images of a person without his or her consent.
With Facebook users around the world generating billions of shares and posts every day, the updated guidelines are likely just the beginning of an ever-evolving struggle to create a more inclusive online community.