Facebook clarifies rules for content, including definition of nudity

Facebook has released a new version of its community standards, defining in detail what it means by offensive content on issues such as nudity, bullying and hate speech.

The move by the social networking company comes shortly after its peers including Twitter and Reddit have changed their policies to curb content such as stolen nude photos and revenge porn on their sites.

“Today we are providing more detail and clarity on what is and is not allowed. For example, what exactly do we mean by nudity, or what do we mean by hate speech?” wrote Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management and Chris Sonderby, the company’s deputy general counsel, in a blog post Sunday.

The executives said that the new guidelines aim to meet people’s request for greater clarity and do not change the company’s policies and standards.

Facebook, for example, provided graphic details of the kind of content it would remove under its prohibitions against nudity. It said, for example, that it removes “photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks,” and explicit images of sexual intercourse.

The company said it was restricting the display of nudity because some audiences in its global community could be sensitive to such content, more so because of their cultural background or age. Facebook had 1.39 billion monthly active users at the end of December, with over 82 percent of its daily active users located outside the U.S. and Canada.

The website also said it would remove content that appears designed to target persons “with the intention of degrading or shaming them.” It referred, for example, to pages that identify and shame private individuals, the use of modified images to degrade a person and the repeated targeting of people with unwanted friend requests or messages.

Social media is under increasing pressure to moderate content on their sites after several instances of posting of material that was found to be defamatory or aimed to harass and bully people.

Twitter modified its policies last week to prohibit the posting of intimate photos and videos taken without a person’s permission. Users can have their accounts locked until the offensive material, which will remain hidden from public view, is removed, the company said.

Reddit has also banned the posting of stolen nude photos and revenge porn on its site.

Facebook also addressed in detail its insistence that people sign up on the social network with their authentic identities, threatening to ask users to close down additional profiles, and removing profiles that impersonate other people. While a Facebook presence for say a favorite pet or games character is allowed, it will have to be through a page on Facebook rather than a profile.

The social network had to back down last year when its demand for real names was objected to by drag queens and the larger LGBT community. The company clarified that its policy was not to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name, but that they should use the authentic name they use in real life.

While the site continues to ban hate speech, and includes the same list of banned topics, it now clarifies that people should be allowed to share examples of others’ hate speech to raise awareness of the issue, but they must indicate their intent clearly.

Facebook also reiterated its earlier stand that it may take down or restrict access to content if it violates the law in a particular country, even if the content does not violate its community standards. It said it will contest government requests for take downs if they are found to be “unreasonable or overbroad.” But if the content is found to be illegal in that country, it may restrict access to it in that country, but may not necessarily remove it from Facebook entirely, according to the blog post.

The company also released its report on government requests for content removal and account data, and U.S. national security requests under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and National Security Letters. The content restricted for violation of local laws went up to 9,707 items in the second half of 2014, up by 11 percent from the previous half. Turkey and Russia were among the countries that saw increases in demand for content restriction, while Pakistan had a decline.

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