An internal document outlining Facebook’s in-house policy for handling content containing sex, threats and violence has been leaked to the Guardian - opening up the most detailed look yet at the social media giant’s approach to controversial content.
Stretching to thousands of documents, the trove of papers illustrate the complex web of rules and regulations used to govern what is allowed and what is not; including apparent inconsistencies in approach which treat a threat to kill the US president far more seriously than a similar threats to take the life of an ordinary member of the public.
An overt statement such as ‘someone shoot Trump’ would be deleted by censors for instance while a more generic statement such as ‘I hope someone kills you’ would be given a pass, unless it was found that such statements formed part of a broader ‘plot or design’ rather than an ‘expression of emotion’.
Speaking to the Guardian, Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, said: “[Facebook] is not a traditional technology company. It’s not a traditional media company. We build technology, and we feel responsible for how it’s used.
“We have a really diverse global community and people are going to have very different ideas about what is okay to share. No matter where you draw the line there are always going to be some grey areas.”
The leak comes at a sensitive time for Facebook, which has faced pressure to explain why some content; such as video of a man killing his daughter and the suicide of a 12-year-old girl live-streamed on Live.me - the latter of which remained viewable for close to a fortnight - while identical footage on YouTube was removed almost immediately.
At present Facebook permits videos depicting self-harm but caveats this that there must be an ‘opportunity to help the person’. Videos of suicide meanwhile are banned under any circumstance. A similar approach is adopted for non-sexual child and animal abuse, with footage permitted as a way of raising awareness of the issues as well as drawing help to those affected.