Facebook has traditionally been rather unclear about what is allowed on its social media site, much to the annoyance of many individuals. However, that now change with the introduction of Community Standards; which sets out guidelines for what content can be posted and shared.
Balancing freedom of speech and offensive content is a problem that all social media sites face, as different parties all push against things that offend them. In recent times Facebook has had to deal with matters of Russian anti-government protests, Islamic State beheadings, and the issue of using real names on profiles. All of which it handled in a way that prevented anyone from knowing what would get taken down.
However, the new Community Standards have come out to clearly spell out what kind of content is banned. This includes posts by terrorist organisations and those who support them, cyber-bullying, direct threats against others, and hate speech among others. It is also taking a more nuanced approach to several matters like nudity and open discussions about public figures.
Facebook is still not automating the policing of posts, and will continue to rely on users to flag content. It notes that taking down content could take time (up to 48 hours) while its team reviews the material, a small problem in the fast moving world of social media. It also notes that content may not be taken down just because something is reported or flagged. Content that does not violate the Community Standards will be allowed to remain up, even if some users find it offensive and report it. Ideally, this is to maintain the freedom of speech of the internet.
Users who continuously post content that violates the Community Standards risk being banned. Facebook notes that it will first warn the user that what the posted content violates the guidelines and it will only resort to banning if the person persists.
Finally, the Community Standards remind users that they are able to control what they see on the News Feed; and shouldn’t report everything they see. The reminder points out that not everyone finds the same things offensive, and the ability to unfollow, hide, and block posts are available to all users to adjust their experience.