Photo Credit: pexel
The good news is that Facebook released – with much fanfare – its new Community Standards. The company claims these revised, revamped and thoroughly vetted rules will make Facebook a much safer place for everyone on the social network. Moreover, Facebook suggests these Community Standards provide a very good roadmap for understanding why and how content is banned from the site. That’s a nice start, of course. But do these new Community Standards really change anything?
Integrity and Authenticity
For example, one of the new Community Standards is called “Integrity and Authenticity.” These rules are designed to help get rid of spam, fake news, and people masquerading as someone else online. But here’s the thing – Facebook doesn’t call it “fake news.” They prefer the term “false news,” which is news that is genuinely intended to misinform, deceive and cause people to pull the wrong lever in a voting booth.
But even Facebook admits that there is a gray area here, because it won’t ban “satire” or related content in that genre. Think about some of the best content on Facebook – it’s satire by late-night comedians or funny joke articles from places like The Onion. That’s technically “fake news” but not “false news” and so it’s OK – is that clear?
And here’s another gray area worth considering – the Community Standards that apply to “Objectionable Content.” This applies to hate speech and cruel and insensitive content designed to cause emotional harm. In theory, this would crack down on say, a group of people trying to cyberbully someone else. Big applause, thank you Facebook!
However, Facebook specifically notes that “bullying policies do not apply to public figures” because this bullying might actually be an acceptable form of political criticism. Let’s call it what it is – if you want to go online and “cyberbully” a politician like Donald Trump by making rude comments about his orange skin and then making a few death threats, hey, it’s all part of the public discourse and Facebook isn’t going to touch it unless there is a real, credible threat to public safety (i.e. you post a photo of yourself with a gun on the White House lawn).
Or, how about sexual content and nudity? This one is always a hot button issue because some forms of nudity are still allowed by Facebook – such as nudity that is artistic in nature or nudity that is used as a form of free speech. Say what? In other words, if you want to show up at a PETA rally and walk around nude and then post photos on Facebook, it might actually be allowed. Just saying.
More shades of gray
So, on the surface, these Community Standards are a welcome first step. They certain check all the boxes and dot all the i’s. As a result, Facebook can turn to regulators and investors and say, “See – we are cleaning up our act! Please come back to Facebook!” But as even a cursory review of these Community Standards show, there is a lot of gray in there. It’s not OK to sell drugs on Facebook, no one sane would argue with that, but what about the Big Pharma companies pushing their opioids with Facebook ads?
Nobody said it was going to be easy. It’s very hard for two people to agree on anything these days. As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once quipped about pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Let’s just hope that Facebook’s team of human curators and AI bots are also able to recognize it (whatever “it” is) when they see it.