How Facebook decides on violent, explicit content

Bryan Strickland
May 22, 2017

The leaked rules land not only at the height of election season in the United Kingdom, but also follow politicians of all stripes attacking Google, Twitter, and Facebook for failing to effectively police the content posted on their ad-stuffed services.

Leaked Facebook policies that guide moderators on what content users can and cannot post about several topics could cause an worldwide debate about the company's standards.

Are threats of violence credible? There is no question that how Facebook decides to police certain type of content will have an impact on many walks of life - from politics to music and everything in between.

The livestream video feature on the social platform, called Facebook Live, allows any user to stream a live video capture to its almost 2 billion users around the world.

However, criticism has been levied against Facebook since the launch of the platform as the livestreaming service has not only been used for benign videos but also to broadcast a number of violent incidents. Videos showing abortions are fine as well, so long as there is no nudity.

Facebook's head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, said it was always going to be hard to create standards when things aren't necessarily black and white.

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According to its slideshows, Facebook told staff that any threats made against heads of state, such as U.S. president Donald Trump, will be taken down as soon as possible.

When addressing content that features child abuse, Facebook's policies state: "We do not action photos of child abuse". But Facebook can find statements that many may find disturbing to be non-credible threats, like: "To snap a bitch's neck, make sure to apply all your pressure to the middle of her throat". Yet one slide is a bit perplexing because it advises moderators to ignore content depicting animal abuse when it's a photo but mark it as disturbing when it's a video. "Not all disagreeable or disturbing content violates our community standards", the Guardian quoted Facebook as saying (this statement is actually a part of their tystandards" community standards page). Animal cruelty is treated similarly; "celebrating" is not allowed, but it is otherwise acceptable to raise "awareness" of the issue.

"Generic" or "not credible" threats - and it was not clear how Facebook arrived at a definition of "not credible" - included "I hope someone kills you".

The Guardian talked to overwhelmed moderators and said it saw more than 100 internal training manuals, spreadsheets, and flowcharts that form the blueprint for how Facebook moderates issues such as violence, hate speech, terrorism, racism, revenge porn, and self-harm.

Facebook can not keep control of its content.

The rules appear to reflect the scars of legal and public relations battles Facebook and other social media platforms have fought over the last decade.

Other reports by GlobalViralNews

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