Here’s the skinny on Facebook’s new community standards
Facebook seems to continually be finding itself in hot water — for banning artistic nude images, for allowing what many consider to be hate speech, for denying users whose names aren’t “real” enough, including Native American users and transgender users. It’s a big mess.
Well over the weekend, Facebook announced updated Community Guidelines, and clarified the site’s policies on nudity and names. The line their straddling is basically how to make Facebook a safe and inviting space, and also make free speech a real priority.
So what do the updates mean? Here’s the need-to-know.
No revenge porn. This is great news, and comes on the heels of lawsuits brought against Twitter and Reddit. According to Facebook, they will not allow “images shared in revenge or without permissions from the people in the images.” It’s great that victims of revenge porn postings can point to this while attempting to get images or videos taken down, but it’s sad that it took Facebook so long to clarify their stance on what is obviously wrong.
As for nudity, not much change. Facebook’s official policy draws a line between sexual material and artistic expression, and that distinction was repeated during Sunday’s announcement. Nude butts and exposed nipples are going to be banned (not surprisingly), but breastfeeding, post-mastectomy photos, and art are supposed to be safe. Of course, in practice Facebook has already shown it has a flawed filtering system; this month a user in Facebook got in trouble for posting the 19th-century painting l’Origine du Monde, and The Mary Sue shared a tweet from another user who was banned yesterday for posting a 1925 picture of a Zeigfeld Girl.
“Real” names vs “authentic identity.” Facebook’s longstanding policy that requires users to sign up for the site under their own, legal name was updated, and it’s about time. Facebook’s head of global product policy, Monika Bickert, hopes it will clear up, “a lot of confusion from people who thought we were asking them to use what’s on their driver’s license. We want people communicating using the name they actually use in real life.” But the question is whether or not Facebook will (or won’t) allow those with names that don’t “sound real.” In the past, users have been blocked from the site if Facebook doesn’t “like” their name, and that’s not okay.
Of course, a lot of people are leery of the new updates, and with good reason. It’s easy to talk about the way these practices should be implemented, but it’s another for them to actually work as designed. If Facebook is serious about taking down revenge porn and honoring the names users want to use, that’s fantastic. But it’s going to take some time to see how these Community Guidelines updates pan out for users.