Facebook revises guidelines over banned content

Social media network clarifies its stance on nudity, self-harm, terrorist threats, violence, graphic content

Facebook has created a rule book that tells users the sort of content they can and cannot post on the site, including a ban on images of buttocks.

The social network has been criticised in the past for inconsistency when it comes to user-published content. While images of breast- feeding have been tightly clamped down on, videos of beheadings have made it onto newsfeeds on more than one occasion.


Now, the social media hub has clarified its policies with a new community standards section of the website. This includes clarification that some nudity is allowed for artistic purposes, but images of genitals or buttocks will be taken down.

Facebook’s had of global policy management, Monika Bickert, said in a blog post: “Billions of pieces of content are shared on Facebook every day. We hope these updates help provide more clarity about the standards we have, whether they are our own community standards or those imposed by different laws around the world.”

On the subject of direct physical threats, Facebook said it reviews all reports of threats to identify those which are credible to public and personal safety. “We remove credible threats of physical harm to individuals. We also remove specific threats of theft, vandalism or other financial harm.”

The site said it also factors in location when evaluating threats, including the status of the part of the world a threat has come from.

Another key area to be addressed is self-harm, with the promotion of self-harm or suicide not allowed. Facebook states it will remove content that “promotes or encourages suicide or any other type of self-harm, including self-mutilation and eating disorders”.

The site adds that it will not allow any content that identifies victims or survivors of self-harm or suicide and targets them.

The guidelines also say that Facebook does not allow any organisations to have a presence on the site that engage in terrorist activity, organised crime, or promoting hate against others. It says it will also remove content expressing support for any groups involved in such behaviour. This comes in the wake of increased social media activity from organisations such as Islamic State.

On nudity, it said its policies can “sometimes be more blunt than we would like”, highlighting that while some nudity may be for a campaign or artistic purpose, some users in different parts of the world may be be sensitive to this content.

As a result, Facebook said: “We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.

“Restrictions on the display of both nudity and sexual activity also apply to digitally created content unless the content is posted for educational, humorous or satirical purposes. Explicit images of sexual intercourse are prohibited. Some verbal descriptions of sexual acts that go into vivid detail may also be removed.”

There is also a section on hate speech, with Facebook confirming it relies on users to report such cases.

The community standards page identifies prohibited content as anything that directly attacks people based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, disability or disease.

Facebook said it allows “humour, satire or social commentary related to these topics” if the user is posting under their real identity. The guidelines also cover violence and graphic content.

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