Facebook has publicly released its most complete community guidelines to date after many years keeping the specific rules its moderators used to govern the platform secret. The update tacked over 5000 more words onto the already unwieldy document, which now includes highly specific examples of banned or heavily regulated content.
Is any of it at all surprising? Well, yes. Most platforms have rules that outline common-sense genres of content they’d rather not be liable for – harassment, hate speech, gore, child endangerment, etc. – and these are no different. But as a reflection of its size and global reach, Facebook’s guidelines include some of the most granular examples of what not to do online. Cannibalism is off limits. “Sexualized massages” are specifically barred. Staged animal fights won’t fly, and neither will videos of animals being processed for food. Images of buttocks or an anus are a no-go, “unless photoshopped on a public figure.”
Facebook may be the only platform (at least that I’m aware of) to specifically flag “crisis actor” conspiracies peddled by malicious wingnuts that target the victims of mass tragedies – an example one hopes other social sites follow.
It’s unfortunate that we’re only seeing this information as part of Facebook’s desperate campaign to win back goodwill after the Cambridge Analytica scandal thrashed user trust. And it’s more unfortunate still that these guidelines are nowhere to be found on the site’s front page, and that if someone happens to navigate to the Community Standards, these rules are divided into 22 separate pages housed within six subsections. So we reprinted them all below where they’re easily searchable:
Every day, people come to Facebook to share their stories, see the world through the eyes of others, and connect with friends and causes. The conversations that happen on Facebook reflect the diversity of a community of more than two billion people communicating across countries and cultures and in dozens of languages, posting everything from text to photos and videos.
We recognise how important it is for Facebook to be a place where people feel empowered to communicate, and we take our role in keeping abuse off our service seriously. That’s why we have developed a set of Community Standards that outline what is and is not allowed on Facebook. Our Standards apply around the world to all types of content. They’re designed to be comprehensive – for example, content that might not be considered hate speech may still be removed for violating our bullying policies.
The goal of our Community Standards is to encourage expression and create a safe environment. We base our policies on input from our community and from experts in fields such as technology and public safety. Our policies are also rooted in the following principles:
Safety: People need to feel safe in order to build community. We are committed to removing content that encourages real-world harm, including (but not limited to) physical, financial, and emotional injury.
Voice: Our mission is all about embracing diverse views. We err on the side of allowing content, even when some find it objectionable, unless removing that content can prevent a specific harm. Moreover, at times we will allow content that might otherwise violate our standards if we feel that it is newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest. We do this only after weighing the public interest value of the content against the risk of real-world harm.
Equity: Our community is global and diverse. Our policies may seem broad, but that is because we apply them consistently and fairly to a community that transcends regions, cultures, and languages. As a result, our Community Standards can sometimes appear less nuanced than we would like, leading to an outcome that is at odds with their underlying purpose. For that reason, in some cases, and when we are provided with additional context, we make a decision based on the spirit, rather than the letter, of the policy.
Everyone on Facebook plays a part in keeping the platform safe and respectful. We ask people to share responsibly and to let us know when they see something that may violate our Community Standards. We make it easy for people to report potentially violating content, including Pages, Groups, profiles, individual content, and/or comments to us for review. We also give people the option to block, unfollow, or hide people and posts, so that they can control their own experience on Facebook.
The consequences for violating our Community Standards vary depending on the severity of the violation and a person’s history on the platform. For instance, we may warn someone for a first violation, but if they continue to violate our policies, we may restrict their ability to post on Facebook or disable their profile. We also may notify law enforcement when we believe there is a genuine risk of physical harm or a direct threat to public safety.
Our Community Standards, which we will continue to develop over time, serve as a guide for how to communicate on Facebook. It is in this spirit that we ask members of the Facebook community to follow these guidelines.
Violence and Criminal Behaviour
1. Credible Violence
We aim to prevent potential real-world harm that may be related to content on Facebook. We understand that people commonly express disdain or disagreement by threatening or calling for violence in facetious and non-serious ways. That’s why we try to consider the language, context and details in order to distinguish casual statements from content that constitutes a credible threat to public or personal safety. In determining whether a threat is credible, we may also consider additional information like a targeted person’s public visibility and vulnerability. We remove content, disable accounts, and work with law enforcement when we believe there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety.
Do not post:
The following threats:
• Credible statements of intent to commit violence against any person, groups of people, or place (city or smaller). We assess credibility based upon the information available to us and generally consider statements credible if the following are present: A target (person, group of people, or place) and; Bounty/demand for payment, or; Mention or image of specific weapon, or; Sales offer or ask to purchase weapon, or; Spelled-out address or named building, or; A target and two or more of the following details (can be two of the same detail): Location; Timing; Method; Any statement of intent to commit violence against a vulnerable person (identified by name, title, image, or other reference) or vulnerable group, including (but not limited to) heads-of-state, witnesses and confidential informants, activists, and journalists
• Calls for violence or statements advocating violence against the following targets (identified by name, title, image, or other reference): Any vulnerable person or group including (but not limited to) heads of state, national elected officials, witnesses and confidential informants, activists, and journalists; Public individuals, if credible as defined above; Groups of people or unnamed specific person(s), if credible; Places, if credible; Where no target is specified but a symbol representing the target or a visual of weapons is included
… Read the rest
• Aspirational and conditional statements of violence against: Any vulnerable groups; Public individuals, if credible (unless the individual is convicted of certain crimes or is a member of a dangerous organisation); Vulnerable person(s), if credible; Groups of people or unnamed specific person(s), if credible.