The virtual nurse-in to protest Facebook's ban on breast-feeding photos has taken off, with hundreds hourly joining a group that crept toward 70,000 members Saturday evening.
A real-life, street protest drew fewer placards than photojournalists Saturday, with only a handful turning out to sing, chant and breast-feed in front of Facebook's California headquarters. A handful of peaceful pickets discreetly tucked away in
a University Avenue plaza with placards reading Hey Facebook, Breast-feeding is not Obscene . A member of the Raging Grannies, the Midpeninsula activists who stage various theatrical protests, showed up to proclaim in song that our
breasts aren't porn.
It's hard to say whether either demonstration will move Facebook executives to lift the site's prohibition of breasts displayed on members' profiles and albums. Facebook says the areola, the dark skin around the nipple, violates a policy on obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit
On their Facebook group site, which also serves as an open petition to the company, nursing advocates by Saturday evening had posted more than 10,000 wall comments, two dozen videos and nearly 3,000 photos of breast-feeding, while starting more
than 1,500 discussion threads. Facebook, it seemed, was not removing them.
All this might not have happened had the social networking site simply answered Heather Farley's e-mail asking why the networking giant in October removed photos of her breast-feeding her baby. When she posted another photo and then received a
letter threatening to delete her account, she went public.
Heather Farley, a self described avid user of Facebook with 200 online friends, said she doesn't know how far she'll pursue her protest. She doesn't want to lose her Facebook account, which is the primary way she keeps in touch with high
school and college friends and is the place she and her husband post their family photos.
Still, she's blogged about her disputes with Facebook. And although the company still hasn't answered any of her electronic messages, she's now hearing from people worldwide.
On the Saturday after Christmas the entrance to the headquarters in Palo Alto, California, of Facebook, the social networking site that has 140m users worldwide, was the venue for a supersized nativity scene as breastfeeding mothers gathered in
protest. The so-called nurse-in was held in support of another young mother, Kelli Roman, whose profile picture had been removed by the Facebook moderator because it showed her suckling her baby.
Facebook’s spokesman, Barry Schnitt, says the censorship of Roman’s breastfeeding photo is part of its antinudity policy. He said: Breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful act and we’re very glad to know that it is so
those terms and may be removed. These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children over the age of 13 who use the site. The photos we act on are almost
exclusively brought to our attention by other users who complain.
Facebook also bans pictures showing nipple, areola or gluteal cleft (bum cleavage, as was). Of course, this policy has originated in the United States, where the flash of Janet Jackson’s nipple at the 2004 Super Bowl caused a
national furore. Any child in Britain can get all the areolas he or she wants in the nation’s most popular daily newspaper.
I wonder how many people in Facebook HQ sit on the working committee on nipple exposure. When exactly does a natural and beautiful act become something that endangers the moral wellbeing of 13-year-olds?
More than 100,000 people have now signed an online petition, protesting against the Facebook ban on photographs of women breast-feeding.
Clicking join this group on a Facebook petition page is too easy to carry any weight. People do it for fun, or to pass the time, or by mistake. Large numbers don't make the issue important or newsworthy. One hundred thousand people have
clicked to register their disapproval of the breast-feeding photo ban, but 300,000 have clicked I want my 90's Nickelodeon back.
The breast-feeding petitioners are obviously right, though. What an exasperating, stupid, misguided ban. It comes under the general rule of no fully exposed breasts . Presumably, the person responsible is one of those who can't look at a
nipple, even when it's waiting to feed a baby, without giggling, pointing and making honking noises.
Whoever ruled that a feeding breast would violate the rules on obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit material needs, rather than banning them, to look at as many as possible, until he morphs gradually back from Sid James into someone
who recognises an innocent, sexless human function that a proud mother might like to record in her online baby album.
Censors at Facebook social networking site have removed the cover image of the Sep 11, 2008 issue of the Canadian gay magazine, Xtra, with only a vague explanation: Facebook was trying to protect children from viewing the image.
Julia Garro is the associate editor of the Toronto gay and lesbian newspaper. She uploads each issue's cover image to the Friends of Xtra Facebook group.
But this week, she received a message from Facebook, warning her that one image had been deleted from the Friends of Xtra group:
and trusted environment for all users, including the many children who use the site.
Facebook declined to answer Xtra.ca's repeated attempts for an interview, so we are unable to clarify how the sight of naked breasts might create an unsafe environment for youth.
The social-networking site recently came under fire for deleting pictures of women breastfeeding their children. Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt told the New York Times that the company has no plans to change their strict no-nudity policy: Certainly we can agree that there is context where nudity is not obscene, but we are reviewing thousands of complaints a day.Whether it's obscene, art or a natural act — we'd rather just leave it at nudity and draw the line there.
Worse yet, there's no transparency in Facebook's decision-making process. Facebook typically refuses to elaborate or engage in discussion after it censors an image.
Censors at Facebook have developed semiformal policies like the Fully Exposed Butt Rule, the Crack Rule and the Nipple Rule. In this photo there's no visible areola, he decides, so it stays. After delivering a verdict on 75 of the 438,848
outstanding photos flagged by Facebook users—buff guy soaping up in the shower (OK); girl blowing an epic cloud of pot smoke (he deletes it); an underage user drinking from two liquor bottles at once (ditto)—Axten is off to a meeting. It's just
another day at the office of the world's fastest-growing social-networking site.
Axten is one of 150 people Facebook employs to keep the site clean—out of a total head count of 850. Facebook describes these staffers as an internal police force, charged with regulating users' decorum, hunting spammers and working with actual
law-enforcement agencies to help solve crimes. Part hall monitors, part vice cops, these employees are key weapons in Facebook's efforts to maintain its image as a place that's safe for corporate advertisers.
It's a tricky job: by insisting that users sign up under real names and refrain from posting R-rated photos, Facebook hopes to widen its user base to include professionals, but it's aware that heavy-handed censorship could upset its existing
After having a mastectomy, Sharon Adams decided to raise awareness of breast cancer by posting photographs of her scar on Facebook.
They were accompanied by a description of the mother of four's fight against the disease and encouragement from her for other women to go for regular check-ups.
But within a day, the social networking site removed the photos after describing them as sexual and abusive.
The action triggered a wave of protest, with nearly 900 people joining an online group calling for the ban to be lifted. Supporters set up a site called Get Sharon Adams' Pictures Back on Facebook for Breast Cancer , which attracted
support from across the world.
I put these pictures out on Facebook to put a message out to women - check your breasts regularly and do not ever be ashamed of a mastectomy, said Miss Adams, 45, yesterday: For Facebook to claim they were sexual and abusive was absurd.
Facebook has online groups about sexual positions and some groups which are bordering on racist - but they ban this.
Facebook has admitted that it made a mistake. A spokesman said: Our user operations team reviews thousands of reported photos a day and may occasionally remove something-that doesn't actually violate our policies. This is what happened here.
Facebook routinely deletes from its site photos of breastfeeding. It has labelled them obscene and pornographic. It says that it has rules for what is allowed on its site, but its careless actions show it does not.
Facebook's clueless manner of censoring is not just pointless but harmful. There are other ways to deal with unwanted material than by immature, arrogant, and foolish removal of what one doesn't like, especially when photos of breastfeeding are
claimed to harm children, a claim Facebook has made for years.
Here is a recent photo Facebook removed. Could Facebook have a bad case of nipplephobia?
A charge led by Facebook administrators to delete pictures of breast-feeding moms from its pages may land the social media site in the middle of a class action lawsuit.
There have been rumblings since last December. A lot of people are really eager to call Facebook to task and we're considering whether a class action lawsuit will be viable, said Stephanie Muir, a Canadian administrator for the Facebook
group, Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is Not Obscene! We want to hit them in the pocketbook so they'll actually pay attention. Facebook is getting away with something they would not be able to get away with outside the virtual world. It's
Facebook fired a warning shot recently to show it's serious about taking down the group's page by deleting Muir's personal page as well.
The group is still there. And I have created a different account for myself, said Muir. But everything I previously had is gone, including every single post I've ever made.
Muir said Facebook initially told the group they were in copyright violation and that's why they were going to be removed: One of our administrators in Scotland e-mailed an inquiry and the response said, 'We're sorry, our message was in error.
It's not a copyright violation, it's nudity and explicit sexual content that your group has been removed, They said in their statement it wasn't the breast-feeding, it was the nipples that were the problem. They're very inconsistent, which
is a great source of irritation. They have changed their story a number of times.
We're going to continue to keep a strong presence . It's still a mystery to me how anyone could feel so strongly to interfere with a community of a quarter of a million people. You know, you have options; if you see a breast-feeding
woman (or her picture), you can either harass her or you can use your neck and swivel your head in the other direction. We ultimately just want them to leave breast-feeding pictures alone.
What was supposed to be images celebrating pregnancy and motherhood created by a Courtenay artist are now considered hateful, threatening or obscene by one of largest social networking sites in the world.
Mother and artist Kate Hansen recently created a series of portraits called The Madonna Child Project — images which feature different mothers and babies cuddling their babies while breastfeeding and bottle feeding.
Hansen posted some of the images in a figurative art group on Facebook and discovered the portraits were being deleted around late March.
Hansen noted she initially posted images in groups of three, and all images got deleted. She inquired with the Facebook group administrator, who assured her she had no reason to delete the images. Hansen continued to repost the images, and soon
after, found they were being continually deleted from the site.
content that attacks an individual or group. Continued misuse of Facebook's features could result in your account being disabled.
During a recent interview with CBC Radio, which contacted a Facebook representative, Hansen said the social networking site representative noted they supposedly do not delete breastfeeding images.
She said the entire incident has made her question the overall topic of breastfeeding in society, and the public perception of the act. At least it's gotten people talking about it, noted Hansen: I will continue to post images and risk
my account being deleted; the risk is worth it, she added.
GoTopLess.org is calling for a public protest after an image at the organization's Facebook page depicting the Statue of Liberty with bare breasts was removed by Facebook staff. The disputed image was a photo of a painting by GoTopless member
The incident began when GoTopLess president Nadine Gary received an e-mail from Facebook staff on July 18 explaining the reason for the photo's removal. It read, in part:
Brigitte Boisselier said:
I'm asking all my friends on Facebook and those who believe in equal rights for men and women to post the picture that was taken down, Boisselier said. Some frustrated individuals can't see a nipple without freaking out or
feeling offended, but we've already had enough discrimination against the female body. I'm asking all women on Facebook to stand for equal topless rights by posting this photo to their own pages. And I'm also asking all men who can appreciate a
female body without feeling guilty to do the same.
The female chest is beautiful and children shouldn't be told it's sinful to look at it. That sort of repression causes frustration and guilt that they will experience as adults, which is such a ridiculous waste. Bare female
breasts are seen on all European beaches at this time of year, but as far as I know, incidence of rape and other sexually violent incidents is lower in Europe than in America.
Artist Grabow agrees that Facebook's action was discriminatory and wrong.
Censorship of this painting denies freedom of speech and expression and reflects American prudishness, she said. What's funny is that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French government, and all the French people I
know smile when they see this feminized painting. In fact, Europeans just laugh when they learn that Facebook is censoring innocent images like this one. After all, images of nude statues are displayed everywhere else without protest, including
in school books.
Social networking site Facebook is to allow photographs of a woman who had surgery for breast cancer after it removed them from her profile.
The pictures of Anna Antell from Oxfordshire, were initially deemed to be nudity and taken down.
Facebook now says it supports her right to share her experience and the images of her post-op scars can be published.
Ms Antell, who said it was brilliant news , will again upload the images which she hopes will raise awareness. One of the pictures which was removed depicts Ms Antell covering one breast while showing the scar tissue of the removed breast.
She said: I think it is really good they have realised that it is a valid thing; me showing a bare shoulder and a scar is not offensive.
A breast cancer survivor's Facebook page has been blocked after she published a photo of her reconstructed breasts following her operation.
Melissa Tullett put the picture on the website after she had a double mastectomy. The social networking site blocked her page and removed the image because it said it broke its rules on nudity. Ms Tullett said she had only intended to offer
encouragement to fellow breast cancer sufferers.
and that they were deleting the photo. But they didn't actually tell me they were disabling my account .
Ms Tullett's page has since been reactivated, but she has been told not to repost the picture.
It's been a hectic start to the year for mom Jessica Martin-Weber, founder and editor of the breastfeeding support group The Leaky B@@b.
The group, which offers a space on Facebook for around 5,000 breastfeeding moms to ask questions and offer advice and support, was deleted over the weekend. Facebook claimed that it had violated their Terms of Service, insinuating that
breastfeeding photos posted on the group's page were obscene.
In response to the deletion, breastfeeding supporters, both former members of the group and others, jumped into action, creating two pages on Facebook, Bring Back the Leaky Boob and TLB Support, which together gained more than 10,000 fans.
Martin-Weber released a statement urging Facebook not only to restore the group's page, but to stop considering breastfeeding and any other material and photos related to breast health, obscene.
Shortly thereafter, Facebook reinstated the group's page after 'offending' photos and pages were deleted by Facebook, also vaguely claiming that they were in violation of the company's Terms of Service.
Shortly after Facebook has once again deleted The Leaky B@@b – as well as the Bring Back the Leaky Boob group that had formed in response to its deletion!
But again later restored The Leaky B@@b and the page is currently still available.
Facebook ban all sex related content even if it is not pornographic and is following the published guidelines
Perhaps an issue that will get more important as the internet incorporates more age filtering capabilities. It is easy to see that porn images can be rated 18. But what age classification should be assigned to say non-porn text that acknowledges
and celebrates gay BDSM?
Collared is a series of gay BDSM club nights and social events, and an associated online community
Last week Facebook wrote to Collared to confirm that it was actively enforcing a total ban on all fetish and BDSM content and that all fetish related groups and pages on its site will be subject to deletion without exception.
The Collared page was deleted by Facebook following a complaint from a site user.
The deletion angered and mystified many Collared members and supporters. As a community non-profit organization with a well-known and proven focus on safety and socialization the Facebook page was used merely as a means of communication between
members. There was no explicit imagery or sexual content of any kind and the page was secret . The Page strictly followed the Facebook Terms at and especially condition (3.7):
You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.
Facebook explained that: Any content that is primarily related to sexual activities is deemed to be in breach whether or not the there are any overtly explicit photos on the Facebook page . This applies whether the content is a closed or
open group and whatever the nature of the sexual activity. When it comes to fetish content this is generally regarded as always sexual rather than social in nature and removed from the site.
This apparent policy should concern the entire fetish and BDSM community as it signals a discriminatory and inconsistent application of an unethical policy.
However following extensive communication with senior staff of the company Collared has successfully lobbied the Internet giant to review the ban. Facebook is currently engaged in a wide ranging internal dialogue to clarify the prohibition
and to determine whether a total ban is justified. Collared will be consulted throughout this process. Facebook has reiterated that the review process will not necessarily result in a reversal of the ban. Instead it may focus on creating greater
consistency, clarity and transparency in the enforcement of the prohibition.
New York Academy of Art fires off excellent attack on Facebook censors
"As an institution of higher learning with a long tradition of upholding the art world’s 'traditional values and skills', we, the Graduate School of
Figurative Art, find it difficult to allow facebook to be the final arbiter – and online curator – of the artwork we share with the world".
As the Academy makes its first bold forays into the expanding worlds of social media, we find ourselves reeling from a recent exchange with facebook, and on the edge of an interesting debate.
at the Eden Rock Gallery in St. Barth's.
As an institution of higher learning with a long tradition of upholding the art world's traditional values and skills, we, the Graduate School of Figurative Art, find it difficult to allow facebook to be the final
arbiter -- and online curator -- of the artwork we share with the world.
If facebook is a new online Salon de Paris, where a faceless group of curators determine what artwork the public should see, well then please consider our website the Salon de Refuse's!
And so we now ask: How is FACEBOOK controlling ART?
An Unwritten policy that sometimes allows drawings?
Facebook now says it made a mistake. While the company bans nude photographs, its representatives say the company has an unwritten policy that allows drawings or sculptures of nudes.
We count many amateur -- and some professional -- artists among our employees, and we're thrilled that so many artists share their work on Facebook, Simon Axten, a Facebook spokesman, claimed in a statement: In this case, we
congratulate the artist on his lifelike portrayal that, frankly, fooled our reviewers. [yeah yeah!] Each member of our investigations team reviews thousands of pieces of reported content every day and, of
course, we occasionally make a mistake. We're sorry for the confusion here and we encourage the artist to repost his work.
But this sounds like bollox from from facebook:
A number of other figurative artists say they too have had their work removed by Facebook, and in some cases had their accounts blocked. They say they feel that Facebook is taking aim at their work and accuse it of censorship.
It seems like they have really gone after artists, said John Wellington, an artist in New York who is a graduate of the academy. The images they are taking down are clearly paintings. After one of his paintings was taken down
recently, Wellington said he deleted from Facebook all the images that he had uploaded that showed a nipple, for fear that his account would be disabled.
Richard T. Scott, another graduate of the academy, who lives in Paris, said some images he had uploaded were also removed. He said he knew of more than 50 paintings, including some entered into an online contest of figurative drawings, that were
deleted by Facebook. Scott said he was particularly concerned because Facebook had allowed him to showcase his work and to be discovered by galleries and collectors. For figurative painters, Facebook has been a democratizing force, and it has
been pivotal for my career, he said.
Facebook prudes have picked on acclaimed photographer Renee Jacobs over lesbian imagery.
The issue arose over an advert for an exhibition. This showed two topless women embracing in a modest pose.
Facebook's Terms of Service prevent the posting of anything that is pornographic, contains nudity or is inappropriately sexual.
Jacobs gave the following Statement regarding her removal from the Facebook to SheWired:
Well, we all know that there's been much worse material on Facebook. It's hard to see how this is anything but discriminatory. As a photographer with a background in law, I've tried to adhere strictly to Facebook's Terms of
I believe they have the right to be as prudish and ridiculous as they want, as long as it's applied evenhandedly. This--however--is blatantly discriminatory. The photo does not in any way have nudity (you can barely see the
side of one breast), it's not pornographic (not even under the Supreme Court's nebulous standards of I know it when I see it......
Jacobs, who routinely censors work she puts up on Facebook with strategically placed black bars, is hoping, demanding actually, that Facebook reinstates her original profile, she told SW:
I had more than 1,700 friends and business contacts. If Facebook wants to be taken seriously as a place of business and networking for adults, they need to address this issue.
A Swedish film distributor's attempt to use an image of two women kissing in a Facebook advertising campaign has been rejected by the ever censorial website.
Sweden-based TriArt Film was hoping to use Facebook to publicise the Greek film Attenberg , currently showing in Swedish cinemas.
Our ad for Attenberg, using the poster image of two women touch tongues, has been DISAPPROVED, TriArt said in a statement on its own Facebook page. TriArt went on to suggest that Facebook appears to have a double standard when it comes to
who can be seen locking lips in advertisements running on the site, explaining that their ad for the film Tre , featuring a male-female couple engaged in a deep kiss, was approved.
We're confused, TriArt CEO Eva Esseen Arndorff said in a statement.
Breast-feeding advocates are angry that Facebook has once again removed photos of mothers nursing their babies.
In the latest ludicrous censorship, last month Facebook removed breast-feeding images from Earth Mama Angel Baby's Facebook page.
Babies get hungry, explained a post on Earth Mama's website. And breasts feed babies. We don't consider either photo obscene. Each shows a human baby having lunch.
Peggy O'Mara, editor of Mothering magazine, decried the move in a lengthy blog post that called for readers to post pictures of themselves nursing on their personal Facebook pages if you agree with me that breast-feeding is normal and not
Nirvana's Nevermind album made waves when it was released in 1991 because of its cover art which featured a naked baby boy floating in a pool, has run into censorship yet again, this time on its Facebook page.
Nirvana's Nevermind album made waves when it was released in 1991 because of its cover art which featured a naked baby boy floating in a pool, has run into censorship yet again, this time on its Facebook page.
The band Jane's Addiction posted the cover for their 1988 album Nothing's Shocking on their official Facebook page, along with a few other classic images from their history. But Facebook apparently took offence to the Nothing's
Shocking cover, which features two naked ladies, and removed it.
The band quickly reposted the image, albeit an edited version with Facebook logos covering the girls' modesties, along with a post that said:
In 1988, nine of the 11 leading record chains refused to carry Nothing's Shocking because of its cover. (In 2011, Facebook joined them.)
Ellen Gondola had breast cancer. One day, years later, she stood topless in an artist's studio and allowed her chest to be covered in paint, her cancer scars blanketed with bamboo and butterflies. She'd never felt so beautiful.
Twenty-four other breast cancer survivors have posed topless like she did. Most of their images have been taken down, too, creator and photographer Michael Colanero said, citing puritanical resistance from Facebook users who flagged the
images as inappropriate.
Gondola had joined a cause, the Fort Lauderdale-based Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project, which has a group page on Facebook. Now she's part of a second cause, the Facebook
Facebook have removed pages dedicated to bad taste jokes about rape and sexual violence.
Change.org has been campaigning against the pages for 2 months, and raised a petition of 186,000 signatures against the pages. In addition they ran a twitter campaign and a Facebook page of their own.
One of the target pages, now removed was called : You know she's playing hard to get when... and featured wisecracks such as:
Don't You Hate it When You Punch a Slut in the Mouth and They Suck It
After removing the pages, Facebook's rep told AllFacebook that they take things seriously, and reminded everyone that reporting a Page is how to get offending content reviewed and also said that they've made the social reporting tool totally much
more awesome because they care and stuff.
Facebook has removed several rape joke pages from its social network. However, controversial postings may remain if administrators add a tag stating they are humorous or satire.
Facebook told the BBC:
We take reports of questionable and offensive content very seriously. However, we also want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights and feelings of others.
Groups or pages that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs - even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some - do not by themselves violate our policies. These online discussions are a reflection of those
happening offline, where conversations happen freely.
The statement's formal language contrasts with the firm's previous comments. In August it said: Just as telling a rude joke won't get you thrown out of your local pub, it won't get you thrown off Facebook.
A Limerick woman is leading the battle to have her home village of Effin recognized by social network site Facebook.
Ann Marie Kennedy is taking on the giant corporation which has deemed the village name of Effin to be offensive.
She has also failed in an attempt to launch a Facebook campaign based on a Please get my hometown Effin recognised page on the website. It came back with an error message saying 'offensive,' Kennedy told the Irish Independent.
I would like to be able to put Effin on my profile page and so would many other Effin people around the world to proudly say that they are from Effin, Co Limerick, but it won't recognize that. It keeps coming up as Effingham, Illinois;
Effingham, New Hampshire; and it gives suggestions of other places.
Kennedy has vowed to carry on her battle until Effin gains official status on Facebook.
Facebook has again apologised for crap and arbitrary censorship after it deleted a page showing two little girls pretending to breastfeed their dolls.
Express Yourself Mums, an NHS-backed breastfeeding website, discovered its group had been removed on for a supposed policy violation .
The previous day co-owner Sharon Blackstone had posted a picture of her seven-year-old daughter Maya playing with her doll. She said:
After giving her doll a naming ceremony, Maya told me that her baby needed to be fed. As she's only ever seen me breastfeed her little sister, it was the most natural thing in the world for her to pretend to do it the same way.
Like many mums, I got out my phone and took a picture because I thought it was a sweet moment. I shared it with the 600 other mothers on our Facebook page because I thought it was something they'd like to see. After all, don't millions of people
post cute pictures of their kids on Facebook?
A few minutes later, my business partner Carly Silver also posted a similar shot of her seven-year-old daughter Izzy cradling her baby doll in her arms.
Last Friday afternoon Express Yourself Mums discovered the page (with 600 fans) had been removed. The reason given was a vague list of restrictions including nudity or obscenity.
Under pressure to reinstate the page from more than 400 women who formed a campaigning group, Facebook has now apologised for the error and reinstated the page. Facebook says any complaint is reviewed by its operation team, which then
makes the decision about whether to remove the images or close down the group. A Facebook spokesman said: The group was removed in error. It will be reinstated, and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.
[Presumably the Facebook censorship system is as cheap as possible and gives low grade 'operators' minimal time to make decisions which turn out to be arbitrary. I guess these are re-considered by more senior censors if
a fuss is kicked up. One has to wonder how many people and businesses suffer from equally crap decisions but cannot organise sufficient press coverage to get Facebook to reconsider].
Protesters assembled at more than 30 locations worldwide at 10am yesterday to oppose Facebook's policy regarding the removal of images of breastfeeding from the social networking website.
Irish protesters stood their ground for two hours to highlight the fact Facebook is removing breast feeding photos. Moreover, parents argued that Facebook's censorship reflects a disturbing trend stigmatising breastfeeding in public.
Chris Finn, a representative from Friends of Breastfeeding, an advocacy group in Ireland. said:
Some might ask why would a mother want to post a picture of herself breastfeeding on Facebook. And the only question I can ask you back is, 'Why wouldn't she'?
We're here to stand up and say that our nation's attitude towards breastfeeding needs to change. Why? Because breastfeeding is just the biologically normal way to feed a baby, and the only way to make a change is if we see breastfeeding.
These policies are based on the same standards that apply to television and print media. We agree that breastfeeding is natural and we are very glad to know that it is important for mothers, including the many mothers who work at Facebook, to
share their experience with others on the site.
Recently I posted a sublime, cheeky photo on Facebook. The reaction from my friends was swift: Everyone loved it! Within just a couple of hours it had been liked by more than 100 people and shared by 50. It was very quickly going viral and
from past experience, I know that within three days it would have been liked and shared by more than 1,000 people.
The photo was taken at the Louvre in Paris. Four women with their backs to the camera are standing in front of Henri Regnault's Three Graces -- a painting which features three nude women. In the art gallery three of the four women have
stripped off their clothes to the point where their bottoms are showing. It's very tasteful, and very funny. People described it as delicious, delightful, hilarious. Friends in the art community all across Canada loved it. Reaction from
francophone friends was overwhelming -- the French, of course, have such a strong joie de vivre and appreciation of the finer things in life.
You can imagine my surprise when I logged onto Facebook the next morning and found the picture had been removed due to its violating community standards. Whose community? Whose standards?
Amine Derkaoui, a 21-year-old Moroccan man, is pissed at Facebook. Last year he spent a few weeks training to screen illicit Facebook content through an outsourcing firm, for which he was paid a measly $1 an hour. He's still fuming over it.
It's humiliating. They are just exploiting the third world, Derkaoui complained in a thick French accent over Skype just a few weeks after Facebook filed their record $100 billion IPO. As a sort of payback, Derkaoui gave us some internal
documents, which shed light on exactly how Facebook censors the dark content it doesn't want you to see, and the people whose job it is to make sure you don't.
Whenever Facebook deletes an image it deems objectionable, it refers the offending user to its rambling Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. That policy is vague when it comes to content moderation, and probably intentionally so. If users
knew exactly what criteria was being used to judge their content, they could hold Facebook to them. It would be clear what Facebook was choosing to censor according to its policies, and what amounted to arbitrary censorship.
Well, now we know Facebook's exact standards. Derkaoui provided us with a copy of the astonishingly specific guidelines Facebook dictates to content moderators. It's the public's first look at exactly what Facebook considers beyond the pale, and
what sketchy content it won't allow in videos, images and wall posts. The document is essentially a map of Facebook's moral terrain.
The content moderation team Derkaoui was a member of uses a web-based tool to view a stream of pictures, videos and wall posts that have been reported by users. They either confirm the flag, which deletes the content, unconfirm it, which lets it
stay, or escalate it to a higher level of moderation, which turns the content in question over to Facebook employees.
Example rules defining content for which abuse reports are confirmed and the content is taken down:
Any OBVIOUS sexual activity, even if naked parts are hidden from view by hands, clothes or other objects. Cartoons/art included. Foreplay allowed (Kissing, groping, etc.). even for same sex (man-rnan/woman woman
Naked private parts including female nipple bulges and naked butt cracks; male nipples are ok.
Pixelated or black-barred content showing nudity or sexual activity as above.
The Facebook page, Lovers Of Naked Snow , attracted more than 2,000 followers in the week after it was set up. But it was censored due to the revealing nature of one photograph.
Facebook sent notifications raising 'concerns' over one of the photographs. The page was taken down when the administrators didn't speedily repsond.
Lee Shaw, who also posted his picture on the site, said: It is such a shame that it has been closed down due to a few people not understanding the light-hearted context it was set up for.
A spokesman for Facebook declined to comment on the group itself but said content was removed if it was deemed to have broken the social network's rules. He added photos containing nudity violate Facebook's terms and will be taken down when
But now we can be clear as to the reason. The photo was judged to have transgressed the Facebook prohibition on:
Naked private parts including female nipple bulges and naked butt cracks; (male nipples are ok).
Joanne Jackson had a photo session to commemorate winning her battle with the killer disease after having a mastectomy - and posted them on the social networking site.
But Facebook removed some of the images, which revealed her operation scar, for being offensive.
Joanne has been warned that further abusive breaches will result in her account being shut down.
Angry Joanne said:
There is nothing pornographic or explicit about these pictures. That was not the idea at all. I took breast cancer and the mastectomy in my stride and decided it wasn't going to stop me living my life. It wasn't going to define who I was, and it
didn't make me any less attractive as a woman.
She has no idea who reported the pictures but the warning came out of the blue and lacked any hint of sensitivity. The message said:
Content you shared on Facebook has been removed because it violated Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Shares that contain nudity, pornography and graphic sexual content are not permitted on Facebook. This serves as a warning.
Additional violations may result in the termination of your account.
A Facebook spokesman confirmed that several images had been removed because they breached terms and conditions. He shamefully spouted that Facebook welcomed mastectomy pictures. ..BUT... said that some images may breach regulations.
Facebook have revealed some of their procedures used for responding to complaints about user posted content.
Facebook employs 4 teams based in Menlo Park, Austin, Dublin and Hyderabad. Facebook explained:
Reports of inappropriate content, which users can submit with just a couple of clicks, are directed to one of four support teams.
An Abusive Content Team handles spam and sexually explicit content. Meanwhile, a Safety Team handles threats of vandalism, graphic violence, credible threats of violence and illegal drug use. A Hate and Harassment Team handles, well, reports of
hate speech and harassment. The team that handles hacked and imposter accounts is called the Access Team.
If found to be in violation of Facebook's policies, Statement of Rights and Responsibilities or Community Standards, the content is removed and its publisher warned. Facebook's support teams may also block users who post inappropriate content or
ban them from specific features. A separate team handles appeals.
Sometimes content on Facebook violates not just the company's policies, but the law. Facebook says it will share reports with law enforcement when:
we have a good faith belief it is necessary to prevent fraud or other illegal activity, to prevent imminent bodily harm, or to protect ourselves and you from people violating our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.
Facebook has apologised after it incompetently deleted a free speech group's post on human rights abuses in Syria. The website removed a status update by Article 19, which campaigns for freedom of speech, that linked to a Human Rights Watch
report detailing alleged torture in the Arab country.
Dr Agnes Callamard, the executive director of Article 19, accused Facebook of acting like judge, jury and executioner in the way it removes material from the website.
Facebook told the Guardian that the post was mistakenly removed after being reported as containing offensive content. A spokesman said:
The link was reported to Facebook. We assess such reports manually and because of the high volume, occasionally content that shouldn't be taken down is removed by mistake. We're sorry about this. The organisation concerned should try posting the
Dr Agnes Callamard, the executive director of Article 19, was somewhat underwhelmed by Facebook's censorship procedure. She said:
The deletion shows the looming threat of private censorship. We commend Facebook for creating tools to report abuse, but if your post was wrongly deleted for any reason, there is no way to appeal. Facebook don't notify you before deleting a
comment and they don't tell you why after they have. Facebook act like judge, jury and executioner.
Facebook is now widely recognised as a quasi-public space and as such has responsibilities when it comes to respecting free speech. They can't just delete content without some kind of transparent and accountable system. International law says
that censorship is only acceptable when it is clearly prescribed, is for a legitimate aim -- such as for public health -- and is necessary in a democracy.
An American woman was banned from Facebook for posting an image of her five-year-old daughter pretending to breastfeed her two-year-old sister.
Lauren Ferrari said Facebook took down the image less than 24 hours after she posted and then banned her from the social network for a week, the KOMO reports.
The mother said Facebook told her she had violated community standards but the mother argued the images were not sexual and asked, What is sexual about breastfeeding?
Stefanie Thomas of Seattle Police Department's Internet Crimes Against Children said while the photo was not child pornography it was an example of poor parenting. She said people should think carefully about what they put online and warned that
one an image goes online it is beyond their control:
There's no real way of actually getting that image off the internet. So that's something that this family, that these girls, are going to have to ultimately deal with.
Day of Nude on Facebook , a French protest aimed at challenging Facebook's unnecessary censorship of photos was censored when Facebook took down the event page and suspended the accounts of some involved in the online demonstration.
Launched by French photographer Alain Bachellier, the Facebook event asked its 8,000-plus participants to publish a nude picture on Monday, Le Huffington Post reports. While some chose to post of a photo of their own creation, most instead shared
copies of famous nude works of art.
Coinciding with the final day of the European Festival of Nude Photography, the Facebook event sought to fight against the ridiculous censorship that flouts the basic rules of our freedom of expression in the name of Puritanism or the moral
rules of another age,
A spokesman for Facebook France told the Agence France-Presse that page was closed in the early afternoon.
Facebook authorizes users to mobilize around common causes, included cultural ones, but it can't authorize the cause itself to encourage users to disrespect their conditions of use.
We, the undersigned, are writing to demand swift, comprehensive and effective action addressing the representation of rape and domestic violence on Facebook. Specifically, we call on you, Facebook, to take three actions:
Recognize speech that trivializes or glorifies violence against girls and women as hate speech and make a commitment that you will not tolerate this content.
Effectively train moderators to recognize and remove gender-based hate speech.
Effectively train moderators to understand how online harassment differently affects women and men, in part due to the real-world pandemic of violence against women.
To this end, we are calling on Facebook users to contact advertisers whose ads on Facebook appear next to content that targets women for violence, to ask these companies to withdraw from advertising on Facebook until you take the above actions to
ban gender-based hate speech on your site.
Specifically, we are referring to groups, pages and images that explicitly condone or encourage rape or domestic violence or suggest that they are something to laugh or boast about. Pages currently appearing on Facebook include Fly Kicking Sluts
in the Uterus, Kicking your Girlfriend in the Fanny because she won't make you a Sandwich, Violently Raping Your Friend Just for Laughs, Raping your Girlfriend and many, many more. Images appearing on Facebook include photographs of women beaten,
bruised, tied up, drugged, and bleeding, with captions such as This bitch didn't know when to shut up and Next time don't get pregnant.
These pages and images are approved by your moderators, while you regularly remove content such as pictures of women breastfeeding, women post-mastectomy and artistic representations of women's bodies. In addition, women's political speech,
involving the use of their bodies in non-sexualized ways for protest, is regularly banned as pornographic, while pornographic content - prohibited by your own guidelines - remains. It appears that Facebook considers violence against women to be
less offensive than non-violent images of women's bodies, and that the only acceptable representation of women's nudity are those in which women appear as sex objects or the victims of abuse. Your common practice of allowing this content by
appending a [humor] disclaimer to said content literally treats violence targeting women as a joke.
The latest global estimate from the United Nations Say No UNITE campaign is that the percentage of women and girls who have experienced violence in their lifetimes is now up to an unbearable 70 percent. In a world in which this many girls and
women will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes, allowing content about raping and beating women to be shared, boasted and joked about contributes to the normalisation of domestic and sexual violence, creates an atmosphere in which perpetrators
are more likely to believe they will go unpunished, and communicates to victims that they will not be taken seriously if they report.
According to a UK Home Office Survey, one in five people think it is acceptable in some circumstances for a man to hit or slap his wife or girlfriend in response to her being dressed in sexy or revealing clothes in public. And 36 percent think a
woman should be held fully or partly responsible if she is sexually assaulted or raped whilst drunk. Such attitudes are shaped in part by enormously influential social platforms like Facebook, and contribute to victim blaming and the
normalisation of violence against women.
Although Facebook claims, not to be involved in challenging norms or censoring people's speech, you have in place procedures, terms and community guidelines that you interpret and enforce. Facebook prohibits hate speech and your moderators deal
with content that is violently racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic every day. Your refusal to similarly address gender-based hate speech marginalizes girls and women, sidelines our experiences and concerns, and contributes to
violence against us. Facebook is an enormous social network with more than a billion users around the world, making your site extremely influential in shaping social and cultural norms and behaviors.
Facebook's response to the many thousands of complaints and calls to address these issues has been inadequate. You have failed to make a public statement addressing the issue, respond to concerned users, or implement policies that would improve
the situation. You have also acted inconsistently with regards to your policy on banning images, in many cases refusing to remove offensive rape and domestic violence pictures when reported by members of the public, but deleting them as soon as
journalists mention them in articles, which sends the strong message that you are more concerned with acting on a case-by-case basis to protect your reputation than effecting systemic change and taking a clear public stance against the dangerous
tolerance of rape and domestic violence.
In a world in which hundreds of thousands of women are assaulted daily and where intimate partner violence remains one of the leading causes of death for women around the world, it is not possible to sit on the fence. We call on Facebook to make
the only responsible decision and take swift, clear action on this issue, to bring your policy on rape and domestic violence into line with your own moderation goals and guidelines.
Sincerely, Laura Bates, The Everyday Sexism Project Soraya Chemaly, Writer and Activist Jaclyn Friedman, Women, Action & the Media (WAM!) Angel Band Project Anne Munch Consulting, Inc. Association for Progressive Communications Women's Rights
Programme Black Feminists The Body is Not An Apology Breakthrough Catharsis Productions Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation Collective Action for Safe Spaces Collective Administrators of Rapebook CounterQuo End Violence Against Women
Coalition The EQUALS Coalition Fem 2.0 Feminist Peace Network The Feminist Wire FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture A Girl's Guide to Taking Over the World Hollaback! Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault Jackson Katz, PhD., Co-Founder and
Director, Mentors in Violence Prevention Lauren Wolfe, Director of WMC's Women Under Siege Media Equity Collaborative MissRepresentation.org No More Page 3 Object The Pixel Project Rape Victim Advocates Social Media Week SPARK Movement Stop
Street Harassment Take Back the Tech! Tech LadyMafia Time To Tell The Uprising of Women in the Arab World V-Day The Voices and Faces Project The Women's Media Center Women's Networking Hub The Women's Room.
Recently there has been some attention given to Facebook's content policy. The current concern, voiced by Women, Action and The Media, The Everyday Sexism Project, and the coalition they represent, has focused on content that targets women with
images and content that threatens or incites gender-based violence or hate.
In light of this recent attention, we want to take this opportunity to explain our philosophy and policies regarding controversial or harmful content, including hate speech, and to explain some of the steps we are taking to reduce the
proliferation of content that could create an unsafe environment for users.
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.
To facilitate this goal, we also work hard to make our platform a safe and respectful place for sharing and connection. This requires us 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).
In addition, our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities
www.facebook.com/terms ) prohibits "hate speech." While there is no universally accepted definition of hate speech, as a platform we define the term to mean direct and serious attacks on any protected category of people based
on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease. We work hard to remove hate speech quickly, however there are instances of offensive content, including distasteful humor, that are not
hate speech according to our definition. In these cases, we work to apply fair, thoughtful, and scalable policies. This approach allows us to continue defending the principles of freedom of self-expression on which Facebook is founded. We've also
found that posting insensitive or cruel content often results in many more people denouncing it than supporting it on Facebook. That being said, we realize that our defense of freedom of expression should never be interpreted as license to
bully, harass, abuse or threaten violence. We are committed to working to ensure that this does not happen within the Facebook community. We believe that the steps outlined below will help us achieve this goal.
As part of doing better, we will be taking the following steps, that we will begin rolling out immediately:
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
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
Cuban artist Erik Ravelo's latest project is a personal artwork, unrelated to his career as a creative director at Benetton, has managed to outrage the easily offended.
I had people writing me, threatening me, he said in a phone conversation with the Huffington Post. At first the project was fun but it got a little out of hand.
Los Intocables, which translates to The Untouchables, is what Ravelo refers to as a human installation, featuring a variety of issues plaguing children around the world. Several works features both a child and an adult posed
to demonstrate a contemporary evil, whether it be gun violence, molestation or the threat of nuclear war. Each work features a child being crucified on the back of an adult, each scene attempting to tell a different story about the loss of
The human sculptures are then photographed with the child's face blurred, resulting in images as visually jarring as they are conceptually saddening. It's art, it's communication, Ravelo explained.
Facebook obligingly have censored Ravelo's project. Halting his likes at 18,000, he has been prevented from uploading more images. I am used to governmental censorship from Cuba but with this, he paused, my first reaction was
Facebook took down a photo of two men kissing because it supposedly violated Community Standards.
Of course, it may also have been the fact that the photo was posted by gay porn star, Titan Men exclusive Jesse Jackman, who told sfist.com that in the aftermath of posting the picture of him kissing husband Dirk Caber:
I received multiple public death threats after posting this photo, endured countless homophobic slurs, and received dozens upon dozens of hate-filled messages, and yet Facebook did nothing about those disgusting comments, choosing to censor love
instead of hate... This is a travesty. Hate must not be allowed to prevail in this world.
Jackman also took to Twitter to express his amazement at the censorship for something so sweet as a kiss and then the story went kind of viral, with HuffPo also taking stock.
As usual once a decision is widely criticised, Facebook rescinded the ban with the claim:
As our team processes more than one million reports each week, we occasionally make a mistake, Facebook told the site. In this case, we mistakenly removed content and worked to rectify the mistake as soon as we were notified. We apologize for
the inconvenience caused due to the removal of this content.
Presumably thousands of similar 'mistakes' go unrectified as they lack the clout of Huffington Post in putting things right.
Facebook has announced it is working on new ways to keep users from stumbling across gruesome content such as beheading videos.
Facing sharp criticism from the likes of David Cameron, Facebook issued a statement clarifying that violent videos were only allowed if they were presented as news or held up as atrocities to be condemned.
If they were being celebrated, or the actions in them encouraged, our approach would be different. However, since some people object to graphic video of this nature, we are working to give people additional control over the content they see.
This may include warning them in advance that the image they are about to see contains graphic content.
Facebook banned beheading videos in May but recently lifted the prohibition - a development flagged by the BBC.
Facebook's administrators face constant pressure from interest groups trying to impose their own forms of censorship or fighting to lift restrictions they see as oppressive. Women's rights groups want the company to ban sexy content; others have
ridiculed Facebook's ban on the depiction of female breasts. Some believers have urged the site to ban what they see as blasphemous content.
Sean Gallagher of Index on Censorship said:
Films about beheadings may be deeply upsetting and offensive, but they do expose the reality of violent acts that are taking place in the world today. When trying to draw a line about what should or shouldn't be allowed, it's important to look
at context, not just content.
Facebook has removed a video of a woman being beheaded and updated its policy on graphic violence following a supposed 'public outcry'.
In a move which David Cameron described as irresponsible , Facebook had said that it would be allowing users to upload images and videos of graphic violence so that they could be condemned .
It has now backtracked on that decision, moving to take down a particular video which sparked this week's debate. Entitled only Challenge: Anybody can watch this video? it seemed to show a masked man beheading a woman in Mexico. In a
statement, Facebook explained refinements to its policy on violent content:
When we review content that is reported to us, we will take a more holistic look at the context surrounding a violent image or video.
Second, we will consider whether the person posting the content is sharing it responsibly, such as accompanying the video or image with a warning and sharing it with an age-appropriate audience.
Based on these enhanced standards, we have re-examined recent reports of graphic content and have concluded that this content improperly and irresponsibly glorifies violence. For this reason, we have removed it.
A man was banned from Facebook for being homophobic after posting a comment about his favourite childhood dish which read, I like faggots .
Robert Wilkes was referring to the traditional British meat balls which are usually made from butchers' off-cuts minced together with onion and breadcrumbs but he was blocked from the site for 12 hours after other users complained about his
language, which is used as derogatory term for gay men in the US.
Speaking to The Sun, he said:
It may have a different meaning in America but I used it in a food context. Facebook allows beheading videos, cruelty to animals, stabbing and terrible swear words -- but not this. It's political correctness gone mad.
But this was not a one off mistake by Facebook incompetent censors. The comment was posted in response to a report that Eileen Perrin had her account similarly locked for 12 hours for posting a picture of savoury dish. Eileen said:
A lot of people on the Facebook group found it very funny and started saying things like 'free Eileen'.
Facebook claimed that the word had been misinterpreted.
A cancer sufferer was accused of breaching Facebook anti-porn rules, for uploading before and after mastectomy photos to encourage women to check their breasts.
Tracy Morris lodged a complaint with the site after it blocked the pictures so no one else could see them. Tracy said:
I had a photoshoot done when I was first diagnosed because I wanted a lasting memory of how I had once looked. After my second mastectomy I decided to have another shoot done because I still felt beautiful -- in a different way. Losing my second
breast was traumatic. It made me realise how drastic cancer is. I decided that I had to warn other women, to shock them into checking their breasts before it was too late.
She posted her photos on Facebook and received dozens of positive messages. But then Facebook sent her a message telling her it was investigating the photographs for violating its standards on nudity and pornography. She said:
I am disgusted by Facebook. If one woman checks her breasts after seeing my photos they might save a life. How can that be offensive to anyone?
Tracy tried to re-post the photos but had no success until the Sunday Mirror contacted the site to query their removal. The photos are now visible to everybody.
Another magazine has put a breastfeeding mom on its cover , only to offend the easily offended. Hip Mama magazine opted to feature a self-portrait by Barcelona-based artist Ana Alvarez-Errecalde on the cover of its May issue. In the photo,
Alvarez-Errecalde is seen with a Spider-Man mask on her face, breastfeeding her 4-year-old, who is also clad in Spider-Man garb.
Editor Ariel Gore thought the cover image was gorgeous and she posted the cover to Facebook to let readers know the issue would hit newsstands next month. That's when the trouble started. Vendors told Gore not to send the magazine; they wouldn't
put it on newsstands. Then Facebook banned the image .
Hip Mama's distributor said they wouldn't be able to distribute the magazine to half of their customers unless they changed their cover. It was the artist, Alvarez-Errecalde, who suggested highlighting the censorship on the cover. She
suggested a dot to cover the offending breasts, moving their cover line No Supermoms Here onto the dot to draw attention to the message.
Whether vendors carry the new image or not, Gore said she's buoyed by the support Hip Mama has gotten after the censorship of the breastfeeding mother has gone public.
Hip Mama added extra coverage about the censorship included the comment:
As Ana points out in the updated interview in the magazine, right now this is about an image of an artist breastfeeding on the cover of a magazine, but moms face this every day when they try to feed their children in restaurants or on airplanes
or in other public places -- they are asked to go into seclusion to feed their kids.
Facebook's censorship policies have been thrust into the spotlight after a seemingly innocuous photo of two women kissing was removed on the grounds that it violated the community's standards on nudity and pornography .
To add insult to injury the pic had been uploaded to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia by an Italian woman, Carlotta Trevisan.
It was reported to Facebook, presumably by homophobes. Facebook's cheapo first line censorship crew jumped in to demand that Trevisan remove the image, suspending her account for three days when she failed to comply.
Commenting on the incident Trevisan, a gay rights activist, said:
How can they say a kiss, which is something so loving, is nudity or porn?'
When the ludicrous censorship was escalated to more competent censorship staff, the decision was inevitably reversed. In a statement Facebook said their action had been a 'mistake' and Trevisan's account was now back up and running. A
In an effort to quickly and efficiently process reports we receive, our community operations team reviews many reports every week, and as you might expect, occasionally, we make a mistake and block a piece of content we shouldn't have. We can
understand how people can be frustrated with this when, as in this case, a mistake happens.
Facebook has changed its censorship rules to allow users to post photos of breastfeeding.
The change comes as the wide-ranging #FreeTheNipple online campaign has built pace in its attack against rules used to censor nudity.
Facebook's Community Standards , which outline what users are allowed to post, never included a outright ban on photos of breastfeeding. And for years cheapo Facebook censors have been banning breastfeeding photos. The usual pattern is that the
censorship is usually reversed when the censorship is escalated to higher levels of Facebook censors, who then claim it was all horrendous mistake.
Now, Facebook has ordered its moderators to consider the context of a photo or image, meaning non-sexual photos including female nipples, such as nursing mothers or women with mastectomies, will be allowed on the website.
To test the new rules, US parenting blogger Paala Secor posted a tender photo of her breastfeeding to her 4,655 Facebook followers, in which her nipple was exposed.
Inevitably less than a day later, Facebook unpublished her page and warned it could be deleted. And inevitably once the bad publicity was spotted by Facebook, she received an apology from the website in which a member of the Community Operations
team admitted the page had been accidentally removed.
A Paris court has ruled that it has jurisdiction to judge a case against Facebook, which blocked the account of a French teacher who posted an image of a vagina by 19th century artist Gustave Courbet.
The court ruled that Facebook's clause that forces all users to agree that any litigation must be based in California, where the site is based, was abusive.
Facebook is being sued by a French man whose account was suspended after he posted a photo of a painting by 19th century picture by Gustave Courbet, The Origin of the World , depicting a naked woman's vagina.
The victim of Facebook's censorship filed a complaint in a French court complaining that the site could not differentiate between pornography and art.
In a hearing on January 22, Facebook's lawyer Caroline Lyannaz argued that the site did not fall under French jurisdiction as users have to sign a clause agreeing that only a California court can rule in disputes relating to the firm.
The teacher's lawyer, Stephane Cottineau, said the California jurisdiction claim was an abusive clause as none of the 22 million Facebook users in France can ever take recourse to French legal jurisdiction in the event of a dispute .
Facebook has provided more details about what content can be posted on the site, and what updates will get users banned.
The new guidelines describe exactly what kind of nudity can and can't be shared, as well as including a whole section about dangerous organisations . Previously, the site only provided vague limitations about what couldn't be
The updates now explicitly outlaw fully exposed buttocks and images of female breasts if they include the nipple . The bans affect CGI nudity as well, in addition to text posts that describe sexual acts in vivid detail . The
site has also explicitly banned revenge porn.
The site explicitly says that it will allow pictures of breastfeeding women, or images showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring . Pictures of paintings , sculptures and art depicting nude people is also allowed.
Violent content is still not explicitly banned. The site tells users to warn their audience that updates include graphic violence. Facebook can add those warnings itself, but only when videos are reported.
The site will still rely on users to complain about content, and has said that it has no plans to develop technology to do so automatically.
Facebook's new rules also have special sections for criminal activity, self-injury and bullying, all of which it says it will do more to remove.
Germany has a wide range of opinions on the subject of immigration, and no doubt accepting one million Syrian refugees will be quite a challenge. The German government has been looking to keep the lid on internet comments on the subject.
Unfortunately for the censors, not all of the unwelcome comments have triggered the level of offence/threat/hatred etc set by internet companies that results in comments being removed. So the German government are currently trying to convince
Facebook to be more proactive in acting against comments that the government considers racist.
Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas has warned. In an interview with Reuters, Maas said:
If Facebook wants to do business in Germany, then it must abide by German laws. It doesn't matter that we, because of historical reasons, have a stricter interpretation of freedom of speech than the United States does.
He said that Holocaust denial and inciting racial hatred are crimes in Germany wherever they are found, and that he expects Facebook to be more vigilant in dealing with them on its service.
Maas has also made his views known in a letter to Facebook's public policy director in Dublin, Richard Allan. Maas said that he had received many complaints from German users of Facebook that their protests about racist posts on the service have
been ignored. Maas 'suggested' meeting with Allan in Berlin on 14 September to discuss the matter.
Complying with these kind of local laws is hardly a new problem for US companies that do business in Europe.
One obvious solution--censoring the German-language service and preventing German Facebook users from accessing posts made on other parts of the system--is likely to be unacceptably extreme for users. On the other hand, solutions that only
censor comments made on the German-language service, while leaving those posted elsewhere untouched, will make it easy for German users to circumvent the country's laws. Think global, act local, may be great as an Internet slogan, but
it's really hard to put into practice when it comes to the law.
A Change.org petition is urging Mark Zuckerberg to support freedom of expression in India by unblocking an atheist Facebook group with over 13,000 members titled Indian Atheists Debate Corner.
Facebook, the petition said, had not given any reason for the blockade. One day users in India who tried to visit the site were simply hit with a message that the content was unavailable. This was not the first time a Facebook page for
atheists had been censored.
As usual, when shoddy Facebook censorship obtains sufficient publicity then Facebook hold up their hands, claim it was all ghastly mistake, and restore the site. Of course victims unable to raise the required publicity stay censored.
Presumably the atheist groups were flagged by Facebook users who disagree with the website. According to Facebook's transparency report released earlier this week, it censored the postings of thousands of Indian Facebook users because they were
anti-religious or was deemed to be hate speech that could cause unrest and disharmony within India.
Facebook would only say that the Indian Atheists Debate Corner was blocked after a reviewer found it violated Facebook rules. After examining the page again as a result of an inquiry, Facebook decided the page did not violate its rules.
It's a reminder that Facebook censors, as The Economist wrote last year, operate under a cloak of anonymity, with no accountability to users. It is often unclear why one piece of content is removed, while another is not. But in failing to
better scrutinize take-down requests and their legal underpinnings, Facebook has unwittingly contributed to a long-standing culture of religious persecution and censorship in India.
A judge at the French Supreme Court has ruled that Facebook is accountable to French law.
The ruling was made after a teacher sued the website for banning an image that he had posted of Courbet's The Origin of the World which contravened Facebook's censorship rules on nudity. The court ruled that the case comes under its
jurisdiction and it is now due to be heard by a civil court in France on 21 May.
Facebook's lawyers had argued that all users agreed to use the courts in California for litigation when they joined the site. Le Journal des Arts said that the judge called this clause abusive , while the teacher's lawyer noted that if it
were enforced, none of France's 22 million Facebook users would have recourse to French legal jurisdiction in the event of a dispute .
Facebook has also announced a change to its censorship rules to permit Photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures .
The culturally iconic comicbook Viz has had its brand page censored by Facebook .
The almost 40-year-old Viz, a parody of titles like Beano but with frequently risque language and humour, tweeted that Facebook has blocked its page. The message from Facebook warned that if the publisher makes an unsuccessful appeal to have the
page reinstated, it could face being permanently deleted.
Ian Westwood, group managing director at parent Dennis Publishing , said that Facebook has not said what content violated its content rules.
The question is what is, and isn't acceptable to Facebook, he said. We have had that Facebook page for five years. We have had correspondence with them before about stuff they haven't liked and we've taken it down. This time they have just
blocked the page and won't tell us what we've violated. We can appeal, but we don't know what we would be appealing about, we put up a significant number of posts from the print brand to social media each day.
Update: Facebook hangs its head in shame and apologises for censoring Viz
Facebook has apologised for blocking Viz magazine's brand page in 'error' . A spokeswoman for Facebook UK implied that Viz's frequently risque language and humour had triggered the content block, but that should not have been grounds for
removing the Facebook page. She unconvincingly claimed:
We want Facebook to be a place where people can express their opinions and challenge ideas, including through satire and comedy. Upon further review we found that the Viz page had been removed in error. We have now restored it and would like to
apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Offsite Comment: Mark Zuckerberg and his unfeasibly strict censorship
The US Senate Commerce Committee has sent Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a letter requesting that he answer questions about the recent allegations regarding the social media site's Trending Topics feature.
Gizmodo published a report May 3 alleging that Facebook's news curation team intentionally avoids selecting stories to promote from certain news outlets, including World Star Hip Hop, Breitbart and TheBlaze.
The committee request comes the same day comedian and conservative pundit Steven Crowder announced that he has filed a legal motion seeking answers from the social media giant. The motion, posted on the Louder with Crowder talkshow host's
website Tuesday, alleges that Crowder's blog was among Facebook's blacklisted sites and that his accounts were unfairly targeted.
In the letter, Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune asks Zuckerberg to make Trending Topics curators available to answer questions about how the feature works. Questions include:
What steps is Facebook taking to investigate claims of politically motivated manipulation of news stories in the Trending Topics section? and If such claims are substantiated, what steps will Facebook take to hold the responsible individuals
Thune also asks that the Trending Topics team provide a list of all news stories removed from or injected into the Trending Topics section since January 2014.
Update: Trending bollox, it's just news selected by Facebook
Leaked documents show how Facebook , now the biggest news distributor on the planet, relies on old-fashioned news values on top of its algorithms to determine what the hottest stories will be for the 1 billion people who visit the social network
The documents show that the company relies heavily on the intervention of a small editorial team to determine what makes its trending module headlines -- the list of news topics that shows up on the side of the browser window on Facebook's
desktop version. The company backed away from a pure-algorithm approach in 2014 after criticism that it had not included enough coverage of unrest in Ferguson , Missouri, in users' feeds.
The guidelines show human intervention -- and therefore editorial decisions -- at almost every stage of Facebook's trending news operation, a team that at one time was as few as 12 people:
Facebook commented about issues related to showing violence, or its aftermath, on the live video streaming service, Facebook Live:
Live video allows us to see what's happening in the world as it happens. Just as it gives us a window into the best moments in people's lives, it can also let us bear witness to the worst. Live video can be a powerful tool in a crisis -- to
document events or ask for help.
We understand the unique challenges of live video. We know it's important to have a responsible approach. That's why we make it easy for people to report live videos to us as they're happening. We have a team on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a
week, dedicated to responding to these reports immediately.
The rules for live video are the same for all the rest of our content. A reviewer can interrupt a live stream if there is a violation of our Community Standards. Anyone can report content to us if they think it goes against our standards, and it
only takes one report for something to be reviewed.
One of the most sensitive situations involves people sharing violent or graphic images of events taking place in the real world. In those situations, context and degree are everything. For instance, if a person witnessed a shooting, and used
Facebook Live to raise awareness or find the shooter, we would allow it. However, if someone shared the same video to mock the victim or celebrate the shooting, we would remove the video.
Live video on Facebook is a new and growing format. We've learned a lot over the past few months, and will continue to make improvements to this experience wherever we can.
Facebook's first line of censorship is handled by cheap worldwide staff armed with detailed rules prohibiting nearly all forms of nudity. If bad decisions get sufficient publicity then the censorship task is escalated to employees allowed a
little more discretion. These senior censors than have to laugh off the previous crap decision by saying it was all some silly mistake and that it couldn't possibly be a reflection of Facebook censorship policy.
And so it was Facebook's censorship of an iconic Vietnam war photo featuring a naked girl in the aftermath of napalm attack.
Norway's largest newspaper published a front-page open letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, slamming Facebook's decision to censor the historic photograph of nine-year-old Kim Phuc running away from a napalm attack and calling on the CEO to
live up to his role as the world's most powerful editor .
Facebook initially defended its decision to remove the image, saying:
While we recognize that this photo is iconic, it's difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others.
On Friday, following widespread criticisms from news organizations and media experts across the globe, Facebook reversed its decision, saying in a statement to the Guardian:
After hearing from our community, we looked again at how our Community Standards were applied in this case. An image of a naked child would normally be presumed to violate our Community Standards, and in some countries might even qualify as
child pornography. In this case, we recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.
Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been
What Facebook has to do now is think very hard about what it really means to be a publisher, said Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. If they don't, she warned, this is going to
happen to them over and over again. 'We need more than just algorithms'
Whether Facebook and media executives like to admit it, the social media site now plays a vital role in how people consume news, carrying an influence that is difficult to overstate. Studies have repeatedly found that Facebook has become the
primary news source for many people, and that publishers' revenues have been hit hard as a result.
Facebook wants to have the responsibility of a publisher but also to be seen as a neutral carrier of information that is not in the position of making news judgments, said Jim Newton, a former Los Angeles Times editor who teaches
journalism ethics at the University of California, Los Angeles. I don't know how they are going to be able to navigate that in the long term.
Bell said Facebook was a spectacularly well resourced and brilliant organization from a technological perspective -- and that its editorial efforts should start to reflect that rigor and dedication. Some have called for someone responsible
for tough newsroom decisions to take over: an editor in duties and title.
Facebook is notoriously terrible when it comes to censorship of the naked human body, especially when it comes to pieces of the female anatomy. So it's not surprising that a non-profit's breast cancer awareness video was taken down because it
featured stylised female nipples.
So the Swedish Cancer Society countered with a replacement ad, which featured square breasts instead of round ones. The organization posted the video earlier this week, but it was removed because, as Facebook said the:
Ad can not market sex products or services nor adults products or services.
The organization wrote up an open letter to Facebook, in which it introduced the shape-based compromise:
We understand that you have to have rules about the content published on your platform. But you must also understand that one of our main tasks is to disseminate important information about cancer -- in this case breast cancer.
After trying to meet your control for several days without success, we have now come up with a solution that will hopefully make you happy: Two pink squares! This can not possibly offend you, or anyone. Now we can continue to spread our
important breast school without upsetting you.
Facebook later apologized for its crap censorship rules being found out:
We apologize for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ads.
Facebook's VPs Joel Kaplan and Justin Osofsky wrote in a blog:
In recent weeks, we have gotten continued feedback from our community and partners about our Community Standards and the kinds of images and stories permitted on Facebook. We are grateful for the input, and want to share an update on our
Observing global standards for our community is complex. Whether an image is newsworthy or historically significant is highly subjective. Images of nudity or violence that are acceptable in one part of the world may be offensive -- or even
illegal -- in another. Respecting local norms and upholding global practices often come into conflict. And people often disagree about what standards should be in place to ensure a community that is both safe and open to expression.
In the weeks ahead, we're going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest -- even if they might otherwise violate our standards. We will work with our community and partners to
explore exactly how to do this, both through new tools and approaches to enforcement. Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them.
As always, our goal is to channel our community's values, and to make sure our policies reflect our community's interests. We're looking forward to working closely with experts, publishers, journalists, photographers, law enforcement officials
and safety advocates about how to do better when it comes to the kinds of items we allow. And we're grateful for the counsel of so many people who are helping us try to get this right.
The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is another reprehensible trade agreement seeking to put big corporations ahead of the people when it comes to the law of the land.
Tisa's latest wheeze is to suggest that censorship procedures adopted by social networks should be granted impunity from criticism, reproach or even legal control via the law of the land.
Under leaked proposals from TiSA, social networks and other online services could be granted legal immunity when censoring any content, as long as it's deemed harmful or objectionable.
The measure is one of several internet-related proposals being advanced by TiSA, according to a leaked section of the agreement published by Greenpeace and the German digital rights blog Netzpolitik .
The draft proposal, which is dated September 16, 2013, effectively guarantees online services' ability to censor such content in Europe without needing to accept any legal liability or public accountability--whether that curation is done by a
human or an algorithm.
At a time when there is so much debate about whether Facebook over censors or under censors, or that it somehow controls the thought of zombie masses, gullible to a few lies, enabling the subversion of western democracy, it seems strange to
consider granting the orgnisation impunity from law.
Of course our politicians rather prove how easy it is to overrule rational thinking with a few bullshit claims about how granting big corporations immense power, will magically right all the wrongs of our failing economies.
Facebook has outlined its approach to 'fake news' in a blog post:
A few weeks ago we previewed some of the things we're working on to address the issue of fake news and hoaxes. We're committed to doing our part and today we'd like to share some updates we're testing and starting to roll out.
We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves, so we're approaching this problem carefully. We've focused our efforts on the worst of the worst, on the clear hoaxes spread by spammers for their own
gain, and on engaging both our community and third party organizations.
The work falls into the following four areas. These are just some of the first steps we're taking to improve the experience for people on Facebook. We'll learn from these tests, and iterate and extend them over time.
We're testing several ways to make it easier to report a hoax if you see one on Facebook, which you can do by clicking the upper right hand corner of a post. We've relied heavily on our community for help on this issue, and this can help us
detect more fake news.
We believe providing more context can help people decide for themselves what to trust and what to share. We've started a program to work with third-party fact checking organizations that are signatories of Poynter's International Fact Checking
Code of Principles. We'll use the reports from our community, along with other signals, to send stories to these organizations. If the fact checking organizations identify a story as fake, it will get flagged as disputed and there will be a link
to the corresponding article explaining why. Stories that have been disputed may also appear lower in News Feed.
It will still be possible to share these stories, but you will see a warning that the story has been disputed as you share. Once a story is flagged, it can't be made into an ad and promoted, either.
We're always looking to improve News Feed by listening to what the community is telling us. We've found that if reading an article makes people significantly less likely to share it, that may be a sign that a story has misled people in some way.
We're going to test incorporating this signal into ranking, specifically for articles that are outliers, where people who read the article are significantly less likely to share it.
We've found that a lot of fake news is financially motivated. Spammers make money by masquerading as well-known news organizations, and posting hoaxes that get people to visit to their sites, which are often mostly ads. So we're doing several
things to reduce the financial incentives. On the buying side we've eliminated the ability to spoof domains, which will reduce the prevalence of sites that pretend to be real publications. On the publisher side, we are analyzing publisher sites
to detect where policy enforcement actions might be necessary.
It's important to us that the stories you see on Facebook are authentic and meaningful. We're excited about this progress, but we know there's more to be done. We're going to keep working on this problem for as long as it takes to get it right.
Offsite Article: Fake news detection on the cheap
The Guardian investigates how Facebook's trumpeted 'fake news' detection relies on unpaid volunteers.
Facebook has once again drawn sharp criticism over its censorship policies after the social media giant reportedly blocked a photo of the historic naked statue of the sea god Neptune that stands in the Piazza del Nuttuno in Bologna, Italy.
Local writer Elisa Barbari said she chose a photograph of the 16th century 3.2-metre high bronze Renaissance statue of the sea god holding a trident to illustrate her Facebook page titled, Stories, curiosities and views of Bologna.
However, Facebook reportedly objected to the nude image of the iconic statue. In a statement, the social media company told Barbari:
The use of the image was not approved because it violates Facebook's guidelines on advertising. It presents an image with content that is explicitly sexual and which shows to an excessive degree the body, concentrating unnecessarily on body
Inevitably when sufficient bad press is generated by Facebook's ludicrous aversion to trivial nudity, the company admitted that it had again made a ghastly mistake and grovelled:
Our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads. This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologise for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ad.
An Austrian appeals court has ordered Facebook to remove political criticism of an Austrian politician. the court ruled that posts calling Green Party leader Eva Glawischnig a lousy traitor of the people and a corrupt klutz are
somehow hate speech.
The ruling by the Austrian court doesn't just require Facebook to delete the offending posts in Austria, but for all users around the world, including any verbatim repostings. That would be an aggressive precedent to set, since Facebook has
historically enforced country-specific speech laws only for local users.
Facebook has removed the posts in Austria, which were posted by a fake account. It has yet to remove the posts globally because it is appealing the case.
American legal experts speaking to The Outline called the ruling troubling, and warned of the potential ramifications Facebook and its users could face as a result. Daphneth Keller, director of intermediary liability at the Stanford Center
for Internet and Society, told The Outline that the ruling sends a signal to other countries that they too can impose their laws on the rest of the world's internet. She asked:
Should Facebook comply globally with Russia's anti-gay laws, or Thailand's laws against insulting the king, or Saudi Arabia's blasphemy laws? Would Austria want those laws to dictate what speech its citizens can share online?
Thousands of pages of internal documents from Facebook have been leaked, revealing the censorship rules used to identify user content that is to be censored.
Among the rules detailed in documents obtained by the Guardian are those covering nudity, violence and threats.
A threat to kill the US President would be deleted, but similar remarks against an ordinary person would not be viewed as credible unless further comments showed signs of a plot.
Other rules reveal that videos depicting self-harm are allowed, as long as there exists an opportunity to help the person. Videos of suicide, however, are never allowed.
Film of child and animal abuse (as long as it is non-sexual) can remain in an effort to raise awareness and possibly help those affected.
Aside from footage of actual violence, Facebook must also decide how to respond to threats of it, what they call credible threats of violence. There is an entire rulebook for what is considered credible and what is not. Statements like someone
shoot Trump will be deleted by the website, but comments like let's go beat up fat kids, or I hope someone kills you will not. The leaked documents state that violent threats are most often not credible, until specific statements make it clear
that the threat is no longer simply an expression of emotion but a transition to a plot or design.
Facebook's rules regarding nudity now makes allowance for newsworthy exceptions. like the famous Vietnam War photo of a naked young girl hit by napalm, and for handmade art. Digitally made art showing sexually explicit content is not allowed.
Theresa May has urged world leaders to do more to censor online extremism, saying the fight against so-called Islamic State is moving from the battlefield to the internet.
Speaking about counter-terrorism at the G7 summit in Sicily, the PM said more pressure should be put on tech companies to remove extreme material and to report such content to the authorities. She led a discussion on how to work together to
prevent the plotting of terrorist attacks online and to stop the spread of hateful extremist ideology on social media.
She said that the industry has a social responsibility to do more to take down harmful content. She acknowledged that the industry has been taking action to remove extremist content, but said it has not gone far enough and needs to do more.
She called for an international forum to develop the means of intervening where danger is detected, and for companies to develop tools which automatically identify and remove harmful material based on what it contains, and who posted it.
Norway is considering introducing uniformed police profiles which would patrol Facebook looking for criminal activity.
Kripos, Norway's National Criminal Investigation Service, is reportedly examining the legal aspects of how police accounts could be given access to areas of Facebook that are not open to the public. It would mean police gaining access to closed
groups and interacting with members as they search for evidence of criminal activity.
Police in Norway and elsewhere have previously used fake Facebook profiles to investigate crimes including smuggling alcohol and tobacco.
Facebook is launching a UK initiative to train and fund local organisations it hopes will combat extremism and hate speech. The UK Online Civil Courage Initiative's initial partners include Imams Online and the Jo Cox Foundation.
The recent terror attacks in London and Manchester - like violence anywhere - are absolutely heartbreaking. No-one should have to live in fear of terrorism - and we all have a part to play in stopping violent extremism from spreading. We know we
have more to do - but through our platform, our partners and our community we will continue to learn to keep violence and extremism off Facebook.
Last week Facebook outlined its technical measures to remove terrorist-related content from its site. The company told the BBC it was using artificial intelligence to spot images, videos and text related to terrorism as well as clusters of fake
Facebook explained that it was aiming to detect terrorist content immediately as it is posted and before other Facebook users see it. If someone tries to upload a terrorist photo or video, the systems look to see if this matches previous known
extremist content to stop it going up in the first place.
A second area is experimenting with AI to understand text that might be advocating terrorism. This is analysing text previously removed for praising or supporting a group such as IS and trying to work out text-based signals that such content may
be terrorist propaganda.
The company says it is also using algorithms to detect clusters of accounts or images relating to support for terrorism. This will involve looking for signals such as whether an account is friends with a high number of accounts that have been
disabled for supporting terrorism. The company also says it is working on ways to keep pace with repeat offenders who create accounts just to post terrorist material and look for ways of circumventing existing systems and controls.
Facebook has previously announced it is adding 3,000 employees to review content flagged by users. But it also says that already more than half of the accounts that it removes for supporting terrorism are ones that it finds itself. Facebook
says it has also grown its team of specialists so that it now has 150 people working on counter-terrorism specifically, including academic experts on counterterrorism, former prosecutors, former law enforcement agents and analysts, and engineers.
One of the major challenges in automating the process is the risk of taking down material relating to terrorism but not actually supporting it - such as news articles referring to an IS propaganda video that might feature its text or images. An
image relating to terrorism - such as an IS member waving a flag - can be used to glorify an act in one context or be used as part of a counter-extremism campaign in another.
Facebook has revealed new plans to censor supposed 'fake news'. It has announced that any pages which are flagged for hosting stories that are considered unpolitically correct will be banned from buying advertising to publicise themselves.
A group of third party fact checkers will be tasked with highlighting these pages.
In a statement, Satwik Shukla and Tessa Lyons, who are both product managers, wrote:
Currently, we do not allow advertisers to run ads that link to stories that have been marked false by third-party fact-checking organizations. Now we are taking an additional step.
If Pages repeatedly share stories marked as false, these repeat offenders will no longer be allowed to advertise on Facebook.
This update will help to reduce the distribution of false news which will keep Pages that spread false news from making money.
Russia will block access to Facebook next year if the websites refuses to comply with a law requiring websites to store personal data of Russian citizens on Russian servers so as to facilitate state snooping. Russia's internet censor,
Roskomnadzor, told reporters that either Facebook abides by the law or the social network will cease to work on Russian territory.
Roskomnadzor blocked Russian access to LinkedIn last November as a result of the social media company being found guilty of violating the same data storage law. Since then, foreign internet companies have been under pressure to comply or risk
losing their service in the country. Twitter has told Roskomnadzor that it aims to localise the personal data of its users by mid-2018. Companies including Google and Alibaba have already complied .
Meanwhile on the other side of the iron curtain, Facebook said it will turn over to the United States Congress Russian-linked ads that may have been intended to sway the 2016 US election. The social network revealed that it identified around 500
fake accounts with ties to Russia that purchased $100,000 worth of ads during the campaign, as well as $50,000 ad purchases from Russian accounts.
We support Congress in deciding how to best use this information to inform the public, and we expect the government to publish its findings when their investigation is complete, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.
On 11th November, thousands of people marched in the streets of Warsaw, Poland, to celebrate the country's Independence Day. The march attracted massive numbers of people from the nationalist or far right end of the political spectrum.
The march proved very photogenic, with images showing the scale of the march and also the stylised symbology proved very powerful and thought provoking.
But the images caused problems for the likes of Facebook, on what should be censored and what should not.
Once could argue that the world needs to see what is going on amongst large segments of the population in Poland, and indeed across Europe. Perhaps if they see the popularity of the far right then maybe communities and politicians can be spurred
into addressing some of the fundamental societal break downs leading to this mass movement.
On the other hand, there will be those that consider the images to be something that could attract and inspire others to join the cause.
But from just looking at news pictures, it would be hard to know what to think. And that dilemma is exactly what caused confusion amongst censors at Facebook.
Quartz (qz.com ) reports on a collection of such images, published on Facebook by a renowned photojournalist in Poland, that was taken down by the social media's content censors. Chris Niedenthal attended the march to practice his craft, not
to participate, and posted his photos on Nov. 12, the day after the march. Facebook took them down. He posted them again the next day. Facebook took them down again on Nov. 14. Niedenthal himself was also blocked from Facebook for 24 hours. The
author concludes that a legitimate professional journalist or photojournalist should not be 'punished' for doing his duty.
Facebook told Quartz that the photos, because they contained hate speech symbols, were taken down for violating the platform's community standards policy barring content that shows support for hate groups. The captions on the photos were neutral,
so Facebook's moderators could not tell if the person posting them supported, opposed, or was indifferent about hate groups, a spokesperson said. Content shared that condemns or merely documents events can remain up. But that which is interpreted
to show support for hate groups is banned and will be removed.
Eventually Facebook allowed the photos to remain on the platform. Facebook apologized for the error, in a message, and in a personal phone call.
Just a bit of background from Thailand explaining how internet is priced for mobile phones, it rather explains how Facebook amd Youtube are even more dominant than in the west:
We give our littl'un a quid a week to top up her pay as you go mobile phone. She can, and does, spend unlimited time on YouTube, Facebook, Messenger, Skype, Line and a couple of other social media sites. It's as cheap as chips, but the rub is
that she has just a tiny bandwidth allowance to look at any sites apart from the core social media set.
On the other hand wider internet access with enough bandwidth to watch a few videos costs abut 15 quid a month (a recently reduced price, it used to be 30 quid a month a few months ago).
Presumably the cheap service is actually paid for by Google and Facebook etc with the knowledge that people are nearly totally trapped in their walled garden. Its quite useful for kids because they haven't got the bandwidth to go looking round
where they shouldn't. But the price makes it very attractive to many adults too.
Anyway Summer Lopez from PEN America considers how this internet monopoly stitch up is even more sensitive to the announced Facebook feed changes than in the west.
Frederic Durand-Baissas, a primary school teacher in Paris, has sued Facebook in French court for violating his freedom of speech in 2011 by abruptly removing his profile.
Durand-Baissas' account was suspended after he posted a photo of Gustave Courbet's The Origin of the World , a painting from 1866 that depicts female genitalia.
The case was heard on Thursday. His lawyers have asked a Paris civil court to order Facebook Inc. to reactivate the account and to pay Durand-Baissas 20,000 euros ($23,500) in damages. Durand-Baissas also wants Facebook to explain why his account
Lawyers for Facebook argued the lawsuit should be dismissed on a technicality, that Durand-Baissas didn't sue the right Facebook entity. The teacher should have sued Facebook Ireland, the web host for its service in France, and not the
California-based parent company, Facebook Inc., they claimed. Facebook Inc. can't explain why Facebook Ireland deactivated Mr. Durand-Baissas' account, lawyer Caroline Lyannaz said in court.
Facebook's current policy appears to allow postings such as a photo of the Courbet painting. Its standards page now explicitly states: We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.
The civil court's ruling in Durand-Baissas' case is expected on March 15.
Cases of art censorship on Facebook continue to surface. The latest work deemed pornographic is the 30,000 year-old nude statue famously known as the Venus of Willendorf, part of the Naturhistorisches Museum (NHM) collection in Vienna. An image
of the work posted on Facebook by Laura Ghianda, a self-described artivist, was removed as inappropriate content despite four attempts to appeal the decision.
The NHM reacted to Ghianda's Facebook post in January, requesting that Facebook allow the Venus to remain naked. There has never been a complaint by visitors concerning the nakedness of the figurine, says Christian Koeberl, the director general
of NHM. There is no reason to cover the Venus of Willendorf and hide her nudity, neither in the museum nor on social media.
A teacher wins a rather symbolic court victory in France over Facebook, who banned Gustave Courbet's 1866 painting L'Origine du monde (The Origin of the World).
After a seven year legal battle, a French court has ruled that Facebook was wrong to close the social media account of educator Frédéric Durand without warning after he posted an image of Gustave Courbet 's 1866 painting The Origin of the World .
While the court agreed that Facebook was at fault, the social media giant does not have to pay damages. The court ruled that there was no damage because Durand was able to open another account.
Durand was not impressed, he said:
We are refuting this, we are making an appeal, and we will argue in the court of appeal that, actually, there was damage.
Durand's lawyer, Stéphane Cottineau, explained that when the social network deleted Durand's account in 2011, he lost his entire Facebook history, which he didn't use for social purposes, but rather to share his love of art, particularly of
street art and the work of contemporary living painters.
One of the more understated but intriguing statements in Zuckerberg's Vox interview this past Monday was his public acknowledgement at long last that the company uses computer algorithms to scan all of our private communications on its platform,
including Facebook Messenger. While users could always manually report threatening or illegal behavior and communications for human review, Zuckerberg acknowledged for the first time that even in private chat sessions, Facebook is not actually a
neutral communications platform like the phone company that just provides you a connection and goes away -- Facebook's algorithms are there constantly monitoring your most private intimate conversations in an Orwellian telescreen that never turns
The company emphasized in an interview last year that it does not use mine private conversations for advertising, but left open the possibility that they might scan them for other purposes.
In his interview this week, Zuckerberg offered that in cases where people are sending harmful and threatening private messages our systems detect that that's going on. We stop those messages from going through. His reference to our systems detect
suggested this was more than just humans manually flagging threatening content. A spokesperson confirmed that in this case the first human recipients of the messages had manually flagged them as violations and as large number of users began
flagging the same set of messages, Facebook's systems deleted future transmission of them. The company had previously noted that it uses similarity detection for its fake news and other filters, both matching exact duplicates and highly similar
content. The company confirmed that its fingerprinting algorithms (which the company has previously noted include revenge porn, material from the shared terrorism database and PhotoDNA) are applied to private messages as well.
An almost theological question for, what will AI make of religion? What will it make of people who proclaim peace whilst inciting violence; who preach tolerance whilst practising intolerance; and whose hypocrisy about sexuality is simply
Anyway, Facebook have excelled themselves by banning an image of Jesus Christ on the cross in a context of religious education.
A post on the Franciscan University blog explains:
We posted yesterday a series of ads to Facebook to promote our online MA Theology and MA Catechetics and Evangelization programs.
One ad was rejected, and an administrator of our Facebook page noticed this rejection today. The reason given for the rejection?
Your image, video thumbnail or video can't contain shocking, sensational, or excessively violent content.
Our ad was rejected because it contained:
excessively violent content
What was the offending image?
And indeed, the Crucifixion of Christ was all of those things. It was the most sensational action in history: man executed his God.
It was shocking, yes: God deigned to take on flesh and was obedient unto death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8)
And it was certainly excessively violent: a man scourged to within an inch of his life, nailed naked to a cross and left to die, all the hate of all the sin in the world poured out its wrath upon his humanity.
Although the university owned up to the 'violent' image Facebook then decided that of course the image wasn't violent and yet again issued a grovelling apology for its shoddy censorship process. So do you think AI censorship process will be any
We're often asked how we decide what's allowed on Facebook -- and how much bad stuff is out there. For years, we've had Community Standards that explain what stays up and what comes down. Three weeks ago, for the first time, we published
the internal guidelines we use to enforce those standards. And today we're releasing numbers in a Community Standards Enforcement Report so that you can judge our performance for yourself.
Alex Schultz, our Vice President of Data Analytics, explains in more detail how exactly we measure what's happening on Facebook in both this Hard Questions post and our guide to Understanding the Community Standards Enforcement Report . But it's
important to stress that this is very much a work in progress and we will likely change our methodology as we learn more about what's important and what works.
This report covers our enforcement efforts between October 2017 to March 2018, and it covers six areas: graphic violence, adult nudity and sexual activity, terrorist propaganda, hate speech, spam, and fake accounts. The numbers show you:
How much content people saw that violates our standards;
How much content we removed; and
How much content we detected proactively using our technology -- before people who use Facebook reported it.
Most of the action we take to remove bad content is around spam and the fake accounts they use to distribute it. For example:
We took down 837 million pieces of spam in Q1 2018 -- nearly 100% of which we found and flagged before anyone reported it; and
The key to fighting spam is taking down the fake accounts that spread it. In Q1, we disabled about 583 million fake accounts -- most of which were disabled within minutes of registration. This is in addition to the millions of fake account
attempts we prevent daily from ever registering with Facebook. Overall, we estimate that around 3 to 4% of the active Facebook accounts on the site during this time period were still fake.
In terms of other types of violating content:
We took down 21 million pieces of adult nudity and sexual activity in Q1 2018 -- 96% of which was found and flagged by our technology before it was reported. Overall, we estimate that out of every 10,000 pieces of content viewed on Facebook, 7
to 9 views were of content that violated our adult nudity and pornography standards.
For graphic violence, we took down or applied warning labels to about 3.5 million pieces of violent content in Q1 2018 -- 86% of which was identified by our technology before it was reported to Facebook.
For hate speech, our technology still doesn't work that well and so it needs to be checked by our review teams. We removed 2.5 million pieces of hate speech in Q1 2018 -- 38% of which was flagged by our technology.
As Mark Zuckerberg said at F8 , we have a lot of work still to do to prevent abuse. It's partly that technology like artificial intelligence, while promising, is still years away from being effective for most bad content because context is so
important. For example, artificial intelligence isn't good enough yet to determine whether someone is pushing hate or describing something that happened to them so they can raise awareness of the issue. And more generally, as I explained two
weeks ago, technology needs large amounts of training data to recognize meaningful patterns of behavior, which we often lack in less widely used languages or for cases that are not often reported. In addition, in many areas -- whether it's spam,
porn or fake accounts -- we're up against sophisticated adversaries who continually change tactics to circumvent our controls, which means we must continuously build and adapt our efforts. It's why we're investing heavily in more people and
better technology to make Facebook safer for everyone.
It's also why we are publishing this information. We believe that increased transparency tends to lead to increased accountability and responsibility over time, and publishing this information will push us to improve more quickly too. This is the
same data we use to measure our progress internally -- and you can now see it to judge our progress for yourselves. We look forward to your feedback.
One moment Facebook's algorithms are expected to be able to automatically distinguish terrorism support from news reporting or satire, the next moment, it demonstrates exactly how crap it is by failing to distinguish hate speech from a profound,
and nation establishing, statement of citizens rights.
Facebook's algorithms removed parts of the US Declaration of Independence from the social media site after determining they represented hate speech.
The issue came to light when a local paper in Texas began posting excerpts of the historic text on its Facebook page each day in the run up to the country's Independence Day celebrations on July 4.
However when The Liberty County Vindicator attempted to post its tenth extract, which refers to merciless Indian savages, on its Facebook page the paper received a notice saying the post went against its standards on hate speech.
Facebook later 'apologised' as it has done countless times before and allowed the posting.
The Flemish Tourism Board has responded to Facebook's relentless censorship of nudity in classical paintings by Peter Paul Rubens
In the satirical video, a team of Social Media Inspectors block gallery goers from seeing paintings at the Rubens House in Antwerp. Facebook-branded security--called fbi--redirect unwitting crowds away from paintings that depict nude figures. We
need to direct you away from nudity, even if artistic in nature, says one Social Media Inspector.
The Flemish video, as well as a cheeky open letter from the tourism board and a group of Belgian museums, asks Facebook to roll back its censorship standards so that they can promote Rubens. "Breasts, buttocks and Peter Paul Rubens cherubs
are all considered indecent. Not by us, but by you, the letter, addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, says. Even though we secretly have to laugh about it, your cultural censorship is making life rather difficult for us.
The Guardian reported that Facebook is planning to have talks with the Flemish tourist board.
And today's daily act of censorship is to take down 652 accounts and pages connected to Russia and Iran that published political propaganda.
Facebook said in a blog post that the errant accounts were first uncovered by the cybersecurity firm FireEye, and have links to Russia and Iran. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said:
These were networks of accounts that were misleading people about who they were and what they were doing. We ban this kind of behavior because authenticity matters. People need to be able to trust the connections they make on Facebook.
In July, FireEye tipped Facebook off to the existence of a network of pages known as Liberty Front Press. The network included 70 accounts, three Facebook groups, and 76 Instagram accounts, which had 155,000 Facebook followers and 48,000
Instagram followers. Not exactly impressive figures though. And the paltry $6,000 spent since 2015 rather suggests that these a small fry.
Liberty Free Press also was linked to a set of pages that posed as news organizations while also hacking people's accounts and spread malware, Facebook said. That network included 12 pages and 66 accounts, plus nine Instagram accounts. They had
about 15,000 Facebook followers and 1,100 Instagram followers, and did not buy advertising or events.
Iran-linked accounts and pages created in 2011 shared posts about politics in the Middle East, United Kingdom, and United States. That campaign had 168 pages and 140 Facebook accounts, as well as 31 Instagram accounts, and had 813,000 Facebook
followers and 10,000 Instagram followers. Again the total advertising spend was just $6,000.
Russian accounts taken down in the Facebook action were focused on politics in Syria and Ukraine, but did not target the United States.
Facebook has confirmed that it has started scoring some of its members on a trustworthiness scale.The Washington Post revealed that the social network had developed the system over the past year.
The tech firm says it has been developed to help handle reports of false news on its platform, but it has declined to reveal how the score is calculated or the limits of its use. Critics are concerned that users have no apparent way to obtain
their rating. The BBC understands that at present only Facebook's misinformation team makes use of the measurement.
Perhaps the scheme works on 1 to 5 scale with the bottom rating of 1, being as trustworthy as Facebook, a lowly score of 2 for being twice as trustworthy as Facebook, whilst top of the scale is 5 times as trustworthy as Facebook.
Facebook objected the scale being described in the Washington Post as being a 'reputation' score. Facebook said that this was just plain wrong claiming:
What we're actually doing: We developed a process to protect against people indiscriminately flagging news as fake and attempting to game the system. The reason we do this is to make sure that our fight against misinformation is as effective as
No doubt armies of Indian SEO workers will now redirect their efforts at improving website's Facebook reputation ratings.
Meanwhile Warwick University research suggests that anti refugee troubles are worse in German towns where Facebook usage is more than the national average. Facebook are taking a lot of stick lately but it seems a little much to start blaming them
for all the world's ills. If Facebook were to be banned tomorrow, would the world suddenly become a less fractious place? What do you think?
yesterday, journalist and bestselling author Salena Zito reported that Facebook seemed to be censoring a story she wrote for the New York Post detailing why many Trump supporters won't be shaken by the Paul Manafort conviction or the Michael
Cohen plea deal.
Some of her readers reported that it was being marked as spam. Others told her that Facebook was reporting that the article did not follow its Community Standards.
Then, suddenly, the posts reappeared. In both instances there has been no satisfactory explanation from Facebook for its censorship.
The French President, Emmanuel Macron has announced a plan to effectively embed French state censors with Facebook to learn more about how to better censor the platform. He announced a six-month partnership with Facebook aimed at figuring out how
the European country should police hate speech on the social network.
As part of the cooperation both sides plan to meet regularly between now and May, when the European election is due to be held. They will focus on how the French government and Facebook can work together to censor content deemed 'harmful'.
It's a pilot program of a more structured engagement with the French government so that both sides can better understand the other's challenges in dealing with the issue of hate speech online. The program will allow a team of regulators, chosen
by the Elysee, to familiarize [itself] with the tools and processes set up by Facebook to fight against hate speech. The working group will not be based in one location but will travel to different Facebook facilities around the world, with
likely visits to Dublin and California. The purpose of this program is to enable regulators to better understand Facebook's tools and policies to combat hate speech and, for Facebook, to better understand the needs of regulators.
Mark Zuckerberg has been publishing a series of articles ddressing the most important issues facing Facebook. This is the second in the series. Here are a few selected extracts
The team responsible for setting these policies is global -- based in more than 10 offices across six countries to reflect the different cultural norms of our community. Many of them have devoted their careers to issues like child safety, hate
speech, and terrorism, including as human rights lawyers or criminal prosecutors.
Our policy process involves regularly getting input from outside experts and organizations to ensure we understand the different perspectives that exist on free expression and safety, as well as the impacts of our policies on different
communities globally. Every few weeks, the team runs a meeting to discuss potential changes to our policies based on new research or data. For each change the team gets outside input -- and we've also invited academics and journalists to join
this meeting to understand this process. Starting today, we will also publish minutes of these meetings to increase transparency and accountability.
The team responsible for enforcing these policies is made up of around 30,000 people, including content reviewers who speak almost every language widely used in the world. We have offices in many time zones to ensure we can respond to reports
quickly. We invest heavily in training and support for every person and team. In total, they review more than two million pieces of content every day. We issue a transparency report with a more detailed breakdown of the content we take down.
For most of our history, the content review process has been very reactive and manual -- with people reporting content they have found problematic, and then our team reviewing that content. This approach has enabled us to remove a lot of harmful
content, but it has major limits in that we can't remove harmful content before people see it, or that people do not report.
Accuracy is also an important issue. Our reviewers work hard to enforce our policies, but many of the judgements require nuance and exceptions. For example, our Community Standards prohibit most nudity, but we make an exception for imagery that
is historically significant. We don't allow the sale of regulated goods like firearms, but it can be hard to distinguish those from images of paintball or toy guns. As you get into hate speech and bullying, linguistic nuances get even harder --
like understanding when someone is condemning a racial slur as opposed to using it to attack others. On top of these issues, while computers are consistent at highly repetitive tasks, people are not always as consistent in their judgements.
The vast majority of mistakes we make are due to errors enforcing the nuances of our policies rather than disagreements about what those policies should actually be. Today, depending on the type of content, our review teams make the wrong call in
more than 1 out of every 10 cases.
Proactively Identifying Harmful Content
The single most important improvement in enforcing our policies is using artificial intelligence to proactively report potentially problematic content to our team of reviewers, and in some cases to take action on the content automatically as
This approach helps us identify and remove a much larger percent of the harmful content -- and we can often remove it faster, before anyone even sees it rather than waiting until it has been reported.
Moving from reactive to proactive handling of content at scale has only started to become possible recently because of advances in artificial intelligence -- and because of the multi-billion dollar annual investments we can now fund. To be clear,
the state of the art in AI is still not sufficient to handle these challenges on its own. So we use computers for what they're good at -- making basic judgements on large amounts of content quickly -- and we rely on people for making more complex
and nuanced judgements that require deeper expertise.
In training our AI systems, we've generally prioritized proactively detecting content related to the most real world harm. For example, we prioritized removing terrorist content -- and now 99% of the terrorist content we remove is flagged by our
systems before anyone on our services reports it to us. We currently have a team of more than 200 people working on counter-terrorism specifically.
Some categories of harmful content are easier for AI to identify, and in others it takes more time to train our systems. For example, visual problems, like identifying nudity, are often easier than nuanced linguistic challenges, like hate speech.
Our systems already proactively identify 96% of the nudity we take down, up from just close to zero a few years ago. We are also making progress on hate speech, now with 52% identified proactively. This work will require further advances in
technology as well as hiring more language experts to get to the levels we need.
In the past year, we have prioritized identifying people and content related to spreading hate in countries with crises like Myanmar. We were too slow to get started here, but in the third quarter of 2018, we proactively identified about 63% of
the hate speech we removed in Myanmar, up from just 13% in the last quarter of 2017. This is the result of investments we've made in both technology and people. By the end of this year, we will have at least 100 Burmese language experts reviewing
Discouraging Borderline Content
One of the biggest issues social networks face is that, when left unchecked, people will engage disproportionately with more sensationalist and provocative content. This is not a new phenomenon. It is widespread on cable news today and has been a
staple of tabloids for more than a century. At scale it can undermine the quality of public discourse and lead to polarization. In our case, it can also degrade the quality of our services.
ur research suggests that no matter where we draw the lines for what is allowed, as a piece of content gets close to that line, people will engage with it more on average -- even when they tell us afterwards they don't like the content.
This is a basic incentive problem that we can address by penalizing borderline content so it gets less distribution and engagement. By making the distribution curve look like the graph below where distribution declines as content gets more
sensational, people are disincentivized from creating provocative content that is as close to the line as possible.
The category we're most focused on is click-bait and misinformation. People consistently tell us these types of content make our services worse -- even though they engage with them. As I mentioned above, the most effective way to stop the spread
of misinformation is to remove the fake accounts that generate it. The next most effective strategy is reducing its distribution and virality.
Interestingly, our research has found that this natural pattern of borderline content getting more engagement applies not only to news but to almost every category of content. For example, photos close to the line of nudity, like with revealing
clothing or sexually suggestive positions, got more engagement on average before we changed the distribution curve to discourage this. The same goes for posts that don't come within our definition of hate speech but are still offensive.
This pattern may apply to the groups people join and pages they follow as well. This is especially important to address because while social networks in general expose people to more diverse views, and while groups in general encourage inclusion
and acceptance, divisive groups and pages can still fuel polarization. To manage this, we need to apply these distribution changes not only to feed ranking but to all of our recommendation systems for things you should join.
One common reaction is that rather than reducing distribution, we should simply move the line defining what is acceptable. In some cases this is worth considering, but it's important to remember that won't address the underlying incentive
problem, which is often the bigger issue. This engagement pattern seems to exist no matter where we draw the lines, so we need to change this incentive and not just remove content.
Building an Appeals Process
Any system that operates at scale will make errors, so how we handle those errors is important. This matters both for ensuring we're not mistakenly stifling people's voices or failing to keep people safe, and also for building a sense of
legitimacy in the way we handle enforcement and community governance.
We began rolling out our content appeals process this year. We started by allowing you to appeal decisions that resulted in your content being taken down. Next we're working to expand this so you can appeal any decision on a report you filed as
well. We're also working to provide more transparency into how policies were either violated or not.
We are Google employees. Google must drop Dragonfly.
We are Google employees and we join Amnesty International in calling on Google to cancel project Dragonfly, Google's effort to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market that enables state surveillance.
We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months. International human rights organizations and investigative reporters have also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on
Google to cancel the project. So far, our leadership's response has been unsatisfactory.
Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China: we object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be. The Chinese government certainly isn't alone in its readiness to stifle freedom of expression, and
to use surveillance to repress dissent. Dragonfly in China would establish a dangerous precedent at a volatile political moment, one that would make it harder for Google to deny other countries similar concessions.
Our company's decision comes as the Chinese government is openly expanding its surveillance powers and tools of population control. Many of these rely on advanced technologies, and combine online activity, personal records, and mass monitoring to
track and profile citizens. Reports are already showing who bears the cost, including Uyghurs, women's rights advocates, and students. Providing the Chinese government with ready access to user data, as required by Chinese law, would make Google
complicit in oppression and human rights abuses.
Dragonfly would also enable censorship and government-directed disinformation, and destabilize the ground truth on which popular deliberation and dissent rely. Given the Chinese government's reported suppression of dissident voices, such controls
would likely be used to silence marginalized people, and favor information that promotes government interests.
Many of us accepted employment at Google with the company's values in mind, including its previous position on Chinese censorship and surveillance, and an understanding that Google was a company willing to place its values above its profits.
After a year of disappointments including Project Maven, Dragonfly, and Google's support for abusers, we no longer believe this is the case. This is why we're taking a stand.
We join with Amnesty International in demanding that Google cancel Dragonfly. We also demand that leadership commit to transparency, clear communication, and real accountability. Google is too powerful not to be held accountable. We deserve to
know what we're building and we deserve a say in these significant decisions.
Facebook has added a new category of censorship, sexual solicitation. It added the update on 15thh October but no one really noticed until recently.
The company has quietly updated its content-moderation policies to censor implicit requests for sex.The expanded policy specifically bans sexual slang, hints of sexual roles, positions or fetish scenarios, and erotic art when mentioned with a sex
act. Vague, but suggestive statements such as looking for a good time tonight when soliciting sex are also no longer allowed.
The new policy reads:
15. Sexual Solicitation Policy
Do not post:
Content that attempts to coordinate or recruit for adult sexual activities including but not limited to:
Filmed sexual activities Pornographic activities, strip club shows, live sex performances, erotic dances Sexual, erotic, or tantric massages
Content that engages in explicit sexual solicitation by, including but not limited to the following, offering or asking for:
Sex or sexual partners Sex chat or conversations Nude images
Content that engages in implicit sexual solicitation, which can be identified by offering or asking to engage in a sexual act and/or acts identified by other suggestive elements such as any of the following:
Vague suggestive statements, such as "looking for a good time tonight" Sexualized slang Using sexual hints such as mentioning sexual roles, sex positions, fetish scenarios, sexual preference/sexual partner preference, state of arousal,
act of sexual intercourse or activity (sexual penetration or self-pleasuring), commonly sexualized areas of the body such as the breasts, groin, or buttocks, state of hygiene of genitalia or buttocks Content (hand drawn, digital, or real-world
art) that may depict explicit sexual activity or suggestively posed person(s).
Content that offers or asks for other adult activities such as:
Commercial pornography Partners who share fetish or sexual interests
Sexually explicit language that adds details and goes beyond mere naming or mentioning of:
A state of sexual arousal (wetness or erection) An act of sexual intercourse (sexual penetration, self-pleasuring or exercising fetish scenarios)
Comment: Facebook's Sexual Solicitation Policy is a Honeypot for Trolls
Facebook just quietly adopted a policy that could push thousands of innocent people off of the platform. The new " sexual solicitation " rules forbid pornography and other explicit sexual content (which was already functionally
banned under a different statute ), but they don't stop there: they also ban "implicit sexual solicitation" , including the use of sexual slang, the solicitation of nude images, discussion of "sexual partner
preference," and even expressing interest in sex . That's not an exaggeration: the new policy bars "vague suggestive statements, such as 'looking for a good time tonight.'" It wouldn't be a stretch to think that asking
" Netflix and chill? " could run afoul of this policy.
The new rules come with a baffling justification, seemingly blurring the line between sexual exploitation and plain old doing it:
[P]eople use Facebook to discuss and draw attention to sexual violence and exploitation. We recognize the importance of and want to allow for this discussion. We draw the line, however, when content facilitates, encourages or coordinates sexual
encounters between adults.
In other words, discussion of sexual exploitation is allowed, but discussion of consensual, adult sex is taboo. That's a classic censorship model: speech about sexuality being permitted only when sex is presented as dangerous and shameful. It's
especially concerning since healthy, non-obscene discussion about sex--even about enjoying or wanting to have sex--has been a component of online communities for as long as the Internet has existed, and has for almost as long been the target of
governmental censorship efforts .
Until now, Facebook has been a particularly important place for groups who aren't well represented in mass media to discuss their sexual identities and practices. At very least, users should get the final say about whether they want to see such
speech in their timelines.
Overly Restrictive Rules Attract Trolls
Is Facebook now a sex-free zone ? Should we be afraid of meeting potential partners on the platform or even disclosing our sexual orientations ?
Maybe not. For many users, life on Facebook might continue as it always has. But therein lies the problem: the new rules put a substantial portion of Facebook users in danger of violation. Fundamentally, that's not how platform moderation
policies should work--with such broadly sweeping rules, online trolls can take advantage of reporting mechanisms to punish groups they don't like.
Combined with opaque and one-sided flagging and reporting systems , overly restrictive rules can incentivize abuse from bullies and other bad actors. It's not just individual trolls either: state actors have systematically abused Facebook's
flagging process to censor political enemies. With these new rules, organizing that type of attack just became a lot easier. A few reports can drag a user into Facebook's labyrinthine enforcement regime , which can result in having a group page
deactivated or even being banned from Facebook entirely. This process gives the user no meaningful opportunity to appeal a bad decision .
Given the rules' focus on sexual interests and activities, it's easy to imagine who would be the easiest targets: sex workers (including those who work lawfully), members of the LGBTQ community, and others who congregate online to discuss issues
relating to sex. What makes the policy so dangerous to those communities is that it forbids the very things they gather online to discuss.
Even before the recent changes at Facebook and Tumblr , we'd seen trolls exploit similar policies to target the LGBTQ community and censor sexual health resources . Entire harassment campaigns have organized to use payment processors' reporting
systems to cut off sex workers' income . When online platforms adopt moderation policies and reporting processes, it's essential that they consider how those policies and systems might be weaponized against marginalized groups.
A recent Verge article quotes a Facebook representative as saying that people sharing sensitive information in private Facebook groups will be safe , since Facebook relies on reports from users. If there are no tattle-tales in your group, the
reasoning goes, then you can speak freely without fear of punishment. But that assurance rings rather hollow: in today's world of online bullying and brigading, there's no question of if your private group will be infiltrated by the trolls
; it's when .
Did SESTA/FOSTA Inspire Facebook's Policy Change?
The rule change comes a few months after Congress passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA/FOSTA), and it's hard not to wonder if the policy is the direct result of
the new Internet censorship laws.
SESTA/FOSTA opened online platforms to new criminal and civil liability at the state and federal levels for their users' activities. While ostensibly targeted at online sex trafficking, SESTA/FOSTA also made it a crime for a platform to
"promote or facilitate the prostitution of another person." The law effectively blurred the distinction between adult, consensual sex work and sex trafficking. The bill's supporters argued that forcing platforms to clamp down on all
sex work was the only way to curb trafficking--nevermind the growing chorus of trafficking experts arguing the very opposite .
As SESTA/FOSTA was debated in Congress, we repeatedly pointed out that online platforms would have little choice but to over-censor : the fear of liability would force them not just to stop at sex trafficking or even sex work, but to take much
more restrictive approaches to sex and sexuality in general, even in the absence of any commercial transaction. In EFF's ongoing legal challenge to SESTA/FOSTA , we argue that the law unconstitutionally silences lawful speech online.
While we don't know if the Facebook policy change came as a response to SESTA/FOSTA, it is a perfect example of what we feared would happen: platforms would decide that the only way to avoid liability is to ban a vast range of discussions of sex.
Wrongheaded as it is, the new rule should come as no surprise. After all, Facebook endorsed SESTA/FOSTA . Regardless of whether one caused the other or not, both reflect the same vision of how the Internet should work--a place where certain
topics simply cannot be discussed. Like SESTA/FOSTA, Facebook's rule change might have been made to fight online sexual exploitation. But like SESTA/FOSTA, it will do nothing but push innocent people offline.