Facebook Updates its Community Standards
An area of substantial confusion on Facebook involves what is and what is not allowed in terms of nudity, hate speech, stalking and other content. For example, many women complained that pictures of beheading were allowed, while pictures of breastfeeding were not. In addition, many victims of stalking would complain that nothing was done to protect them. In an effort to resolve these issues, Facebook released new community standards to clarify its position and set out new rules.
Nudity Not Allowed
Nudity is not allowed. This includes images of women’s breasts which include nipples, unless they show breastfeeding or post-mastectomy scars. I am very pleased to see that Facebook has outlawed revenge porn. This is when people post naked images of others for the purpose of hurting them. This sort of thing commonly happens after breakup when in happier times couples took explicit photos or videos together (or separately.) Art work is allowed, though, no doubt, Facebook will have the common problem of determining exactly what art is. I wish it luck in doing so. Satire is allowed as is educational material. Posts that (in words) provide vivid descriptions of sexual acts may be removed as well.
Facebook also decided to get specific about hate speech. No longer will attacks on “race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender and ‘serious’ disabilities” be allowed. I am interested to see how this one will be enforced. I personally reported (as did many of my friends) a Facebook page dealing with “blood libel” and we all received the response that the page did not violate community standards. Given blood libel is based on lies about the Jewish people related to accusations that we killed and sacrificed children, it was clear that such pages violated Facebook’s old terms of service. We will have to see if this very clear violation will be dealt with under these new standards.
Bullying and harassment are serious problems on Facebook. Frequently people will complain about others attacking them, sharing their private information and sharing photos (not necessarily nude) without consent in an effort to cause embarrassment. These things are now not allowed when it comes to private individuals. Public individuals, however, still have to suffer in silence. This is not a surprising distinction, since the law already draws a major distinction between public and private people. Facebook specifically states, “We allow you to speak freely on matters and people of public interest, but remove content that appears to purposefully target private individuals with the intention of degrading or shaming them.” Repeatedly sending unwanted messages or friend requests also violate community standards.
Sexual Violence & Exploitation
Facebook is now defining what it means by sexual violence and exploitation. Exploitation includes use of revenge porn, which I already mentioned under nudity. There is a large focus on protecting children and victims of crimes. Efforts to sell sexual services are also banned. In addition, Facebook notes it will report any of these items to proper authorities when it believes it is appropriate to do so.
Illegal Conduct & Content
Any posts or pages encouraging illegal conduct are verboten. As are efforts to sell illegal products or products that are regulated in such a way that selling them through Facebook would be prohibited. Any products that can legally be sold but are strictly regulated (such as guns) must follow those regulations. Facebook payment tools may not be used to handle the financial transactions of such goods.
Identity, Fraud & Spam
You are required to use your authentic identity. This has always been the case. Users are not to contact people directly for commercial reasons without their permission. Use of spam is not allowed (nor has it ever been.) Fraud might be reported to legal authorities. Efforts to collect followers or shares through misleading information is not allowed.
Control over Facebook accounts of deceased people has long been an issue. This concern was actually addressed a while back, but it is addressed here as well. Once proof of death is received by Facebook it will create a memorial account. In addition, immediate family members may have the account deleted.
Facebook has always been pretty fierce about dealing with violations of Intellectual Property. This is because failure to act could give rise to liability. The new community standards simply make clear that Facebook continues to be concerned about IP and to review the Intellectual Property page.
I am pleased to see many of these changes, but the proof will be in the action. Many of the things Facebook is spelling out now have been impermissible all along, but Facebook has failed to take action when brought problems were brought to its attention. Some of these changes will be difficult to enforce and clearly will require a lot of discretion. The dispassionate and neutral enforcement of these rules will be both important and challenging.
What do you think? Good changes? Bad changes? Useful or useless?