Joint statement on Facebook’s internal guidelines for content moderation
In late May the Guardian released the Facebook Files, leaked internal documents revealing how the company moderates content. Many of us have long called for more transparency around Facebook’s content moderation so we can better understand gender-based violence that happens on the platform and provide feedback. Although Facebook has made some improvements,1 these documents confirm that it’s often one step forward, one step back, as the platform continues to censor women’s agency, especially women of colour2 and especially in relation to activism, while letting harassment flourish.
People facing online violence contact many of us for assistance, and according to their reports, Facebook and Facebook Messenger are by and large the platforms where the most violations take place. The details of Facebook’s content moderation corroborate precisely what women – be they cishet, LGTBQI – and gender-nonconforming people tell us they experience on the platform. Abuse, particularly nonconsensual image sharing, is rampant, and reports are often rejected with an explanation that the abuse did not violate Facebook’s community guidelines even though these leaked documents show they are clear violations. For many users, this is tantamount to being told the abuse experienced did not take place. We know from experience that human rights defenders are frequently silenced by Facebook itself and face a wide variety of abuse from fellow users, such as the creation of imposter profiles that discredit or defame, photo alteration to create fake intimate images, hate speech, threats and doxing.
Facebook’s policies still fail to reflect a full understanding of the experiences of people who face violence. One glaring issue is the use of the term “credible violence,” akin to the popularly derided term “legitimate rape,” which in itself perpetuates violence. Another problem is the policy to allow posts showing violence against minors, which contributes to the young person’s victimisation and the normalisation of violence.4
Clearly, Facebook’s limited consultation with women’s rights groups and activists has not been meaningful enough to create real change. Often, learnings from these interactions appear to stay with the company representatives present, as we have repeatedly experienced that one arm of the company does not talk to the other. Furthermore, the people designing Facebook’s functions need to hear directly from users and advocates, but engineers are never in the room. We question whether or not Facebook monitors the effectiveness of its responses to gender-based violence and other problems on the site. They certainly are not communicating publicly about what they learn despite the wealth of information they possess.
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