Facebook’s rules and policies have long been a cryptic mess. We’ve all heard stories about POCs expressing frustration with white supremacy who had their own posts deleted while actual hate speech stays online. Or the platform’s forcing of Native Americans to prove their names are “authentic.” Or telling lesbians they can’t call themselves “dykes.” But today the (almost) complete Facebook community standards guide was finally published for all to see. Forgive us if we find ourselves scratching our collective head at some of the decisions.
If you’re curious, you can find the complete Facebook community standards guide here — minus the sections on terrorism, lest those sections give actual terrorists ideas on how to circumvent Facebook’s community standards. For the most part, it’s what you’d expect to see — don’t post sex, violence or hate speech. But when you dig into the particulars, things get a little weird.
For example, in the graphic violence section, while it urges users not to post videos of “victims of cannibalism,” photos of cannibal victims are permitted, albeit behind a content warning screen. (While the cannibalism reference is flashy and grabs the attention, the Facebook community standards are also fine with people who are charred or burning, or have had their throats slit — again, with a warning screen.)
Facebook has also said it allows “False News,” explaining, “We want to help people stay informed without stifling productive public discourse. There is also a fine line between false news and satire or opinion. For these reasons, we don’t remove false news from Facebook but instead, significantly reduce its distribution by showing it lower in the News Feed.” Considering that such articles have led to concrete harm, we find Facebook’s hedging on this issue irresponsible.
While Facebook is definitely making a step in the right direction by finally sharing its guidelines, as the ACLU says, “More needs to be done. Users need a meaningful, robust right to appeal the removal of any post — and before it is removed.” And the ACLU should know — they were themselves a victim of Facebook’s baffling decisions.
We can only hope Facebook realizes this is but a baby-step, not a solution.