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Facebook doesn’t want you to know its censorship policies

Facebook still won’t tell the world what its censorship policies are, despite receiving a slew of criticism from experts and users alike for its ambiguity.

While the controversy of what Facebook allows on its site has been around its entire existence, the criticism turned to uproar last year when the platform censored an iconic picture from the Vietnam war. It subsequently defended its decision, declaring it in line with its policy on nudity.

Eventually, Facebook acknowledged that graphic images for the service of public interest are important enough to remain on the platform. This amended policy came into play last month, when videos of dying Syrian children were marked as sensitive content rather than taken down.

But early this month, a Maltese journalist had his posts exposing government corruption removed and his account suspended. And just last week, Facebook was accused of playing a hand in 2015 Palestinian uprisings — though the lawsuit was dismissed in court.

Facebook: ‘We don’t always share the details of our policies, because we don’t want to encourage people to find workarounds’

On Monday, The Guardian revealed Facebook’s quiet policy standards, and reported that experts were wary of the decisions it was making.

“These companies are hugely powerful and influential. They have given people a platform to do amazing and wonderful things but also dangerous and harmful things. Given the impact of the content decisions they make, their standards should be transparent and debated publicly, not decided behind closed doors,” Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee before UK parliament was dissolved for the upcoming election told The Guardian.

In a response to these reports, Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert described “how and where [Facebook] draws the line.”

The post details how complicated it is to universally implement a censorship policy when every post is unique and comes with its own context. Bickert emphasises that intent behind a post is crucial. She explains that the complexities of deciphering between art and pornography, the incitement of violence and its condemnation, or even suicidal calls for help and exaggerated jokes.

But she also gives a passing comment on why Facebook has been keeping mum on its policies.

“We don’t always share the details of our policies, because we don’t want to encourage people to find workarounds,” Bickert writes.

But these mysterious policies sometimes protect terrorists and child abusers, while punishing journalists.

In The Guardians investigation, it was revealed that Facebook will remove all calls of death to US President Donald Trump, but comments like “To snap a bitch’s neck, make sure to apply all your pressure to the middle of her throat” were not considered real threats. Imagery of animal abuse is allowed to stay on the site, unless it’s very graphic and warrants a “disturbing” warning.

Author | Julia Breakey

Julia Breakey
Julia is a UCT film graduate with a passion for dogs, media, and dog-centric media. If she's not gushing about the new television show that you need to watch, she's rewatching The Good Place (which you need to watch). More

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