As part of its efforts in protecting its users from online harassment, Facebook announced a new set of policies that focus on protecting journalists, activists, and celebrities against online attacks and other potential harms. This follows as the social media platform is facing a lot of criticism, leading to a Senate panel hearing in the US. In the said hearing, whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked an internal study revealing that Facebook is aware that its sites could be harmful to people’s mental health.
In its announcement, Facebook head of safety Antigone Davis said that “we do not allow bullying and harassment on our platform, but when it does happen, we act.” The ranged of banned forms of harassment include the following:
- Severe sexualizing content
- Profiles, Pages, groups, or events dedicated to sexualizing the public figure
- Derogatory, sexualized photoshopped images and drawings
- Attacks through negative physical descriptions that are tagged to, mention, or posted on the public figure’s account
- Degrading content depicting individuals in the process of bodily functions
“Attacks like these can weaponize a public figure’s appearance,” Davis adds. Facebook also explained in its announcement that journalists and activists are also considered public figures because of the scope of their work.
These new policies include derailing coordinated efforts to use multiple accounts to harass or intimidate people considered at heightened risk of harm in the real world, such as government dissidents and victims of violent tragedies. This means that Facebook will be on a crackdown against dubious accounts. In addition to that, Davis said Facebook will also start removing state-linked and “adversarial networks” of accounts at the social network that “work together to harass or silence people” such as dissidents.
“We remove content that violates our policies and disable the accounts of people who repeatedly break our rules,” she adds.