After doing a bit of flip-flopping on issues like beheading videos and drag queen names this past year, Facebook has just updated their Community Standards, effective today, clarifying some of their previous policies regarding hate speech, images of violence, and nudity. As the New York Times Bits blog notes, among the new clarifications are bans on so-called "revenge porn" which Facebook defines as revealing or intimate images “shared in revenge or without permission from the people in the images." Also banned: bare breasts including nipples, though exceptions are made for artworks, as well as "women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring."
Also banned: "Descriptions of sexual acts that go into vivid detail."
Facebook deals with huge volumes of requests both from individuals and from governments to remove images or posts, and to access account data. As part of a new transparency report out today, they also give us some figures on these requests. Per the NYT:
In the report, Facebook says that in the second half of 2014, it restricted 9,707 pieces of content for violating local laws, up 11 percent from the first half of the year. Of those, India requested the most takedowns, with 5,832, and Turkey was not far behind with 3,624. No content was restricted in the United States based on government requests.
The number of government requests for account data increased slightly, to 35,051, compared with 34,946 in the first half. The United States was at the top of the list, making 14,274 requests for information on 21,731 Facebook accounts, with the company agreeing to turn over information in 79 percent of the cases.
Facebook remains intolerant of any form of threats or hate speech, and they clarify all that further here, including hate speech directed at public figures.
In a statement accompanying the new report, Mark Zuckerberg had this to say:
As difficult questions arise about the limits of what people can share, we have a single guiding principle: We want to give the most voice to the most people.
Some people say we should ignore government orders requiring us to restrict people’s voice, even if that means the whole service would be blocked in those countries. I don’t think that’s right. I believe we have a responsibility to the millions of people in these countries who rely on Facebook to stay in touch with their friends and family every day. If we ignored a lawful government order and then we were blocked, all of these people’s voices would be muted, and whatever content the government believed was illegal would be blocked anyway.
It’s tempting to think of free expression and having a voice as black and white either you have it or you don’t. But giving people a voice, like most things in our society, is something that we must make incremental progress towards.