A lot of attention has been pointed towards Facebook's content policy recently with concerns coming from anti-sexist, various religions groups, LGBT communities, and individuals. Many of these have reached out to Facebook in the past to let them know about the content on the social network. Now Facebook has released a statement explaining their philosophy and polices regarding such content.
Facebook’s mission has always been to make the world more open and connected. We seek to provide a platform where people can share and surface content, messages and ideas freely, while still respecting the rights of others. When people can engage in meaningful conversations and exchanges with their friends, family and communities online, amazingly positive things can happen.
Facebook says to earn this goal they had to make the platform a safe and respectful place for sharing and connection which requires them to make difficult decisions and "balance concerns about free expression and community respect."
We prohibit content deemed to be directly harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial. We define harmful content as anything organizing real world violence, theft, or property destruction, or that directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual (e.g. bullying). A list of prohibited categories of content can be found in our Community Standards at www.facebook.com/communitystandards.
Facebook says they aim to remove content they deem to be hate speech such as serious attacks based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease. However they say instances exist that may be offensive or distasteful humor that they do not class as hate speech, and in these cases they will work to "apply fair thoughtful and scaleable policies." Facebook says this is so that they can defend the principles of freedom of self-expression, however they add that defence of freedom of expression should "never be interpreted as license to bully, harass, abuse or threaten violence." The company says that by working doing the steps below they will help them achieve the goals outlined.
Facebook says that the systems they use to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work and in some cases content is not removed quicly enough and are promising that they will do better by introducing the following:
- We will complete our review and update the guidelines that our User Operations team uses to evaluate reports of violations of our Community Standards around hate speech. To ensure that these guidelines reflect best practices, we will solicit feedback from legal experts and others, including representatives of the women's coalition and other groups that have historically faced discrimination.
- We will update the training for the teams that review and evaluate reports of hateful speech or harmful content on Facebook. To ensure that our training is robust, we will work with legal experts and others, including members of the women’s coalition to identify resources or highlight areas of particular concern for inclusion in the training.
- We will increase the accountability of the creators of content that does not qualify as actionable hate speech but is cruel or insensitive by insisting that the authors stand behind the content they create. A few months ago we began testing a new requirement that the creator of any content containing cruel and insensitive humor include his or her authentic identity for the content to remain on Facebook. As a result, if an individual decides to publicly share cruel and insensitive content, users can hold the author accountable and directly object to the content. We will continue to develop this policy based on the results so far, which indicate that it is helping create a better environment for Facebook users.
- We will establish more formal and direct lines of communications with representatives of groups working in this area, including women's groups, to assure expedited treatment of content they believe violate our standards. We have invited representatives of the women Everyday Sexism to join the less formal communication channels Facebook has previously established with other groups.
- We will encourage the Anti-Defamation League’s Anti-Cyberhate working group and other international working groups that we currently work with on these issues to include representatives of the women’s coalition to identify how to balance considerations of free expression, to undertake research on the effect of online hate speech on the online experiences of members of groups that have historically faced discrimination in society, and to evaluate progress on our collective objectives.