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Facebook Explains What It Bans And Why

The social network updates community guidelines on hate speech, revenge porn, and bullying.

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Facebook overhauled its Community Standards on Monday, clarifying how it identifies and handles contentious and abusive content.

The updated standards address a wide range of topics, touching on everything from bullying to regulated goods, with particularly stringent policies against hate speech, credible threats of physical violence, and terrorist or criminal activity. In each case, Facebook offers context and a rationale for removing and banning such content, citing a need to maintain an "open and safe environment for users" as its guiding principle.

With a vast user base that spans many countries and cultures, creating a single coherent standard for appropriate content is a daunting task for Facebook, and one the company continues to grapple with. Indeed, its new Community Standards document seems apologetic at times, acknowledging that policies can sometimes be "more blunt than we would like."

That said, the updated standards released today show more nuance than those that preceded it. Facebook, which in the past removed some photos of women breastfeeding, now explicitly permits them. "People sometimes share content containing nudity for reasons like awareness campaigns or artistic projects," the policy now reads. "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."

Also clarified: Facebook's stance on violent content. Rather than explicitly ban violent content, the company is turning to its community to help it determine what is appropriate and what is not. In a nod to free speech, the Facebook says it's permissible to share controversial content, as long as there is a responsible (and easily explained) motive for doing so — raising awareness about an atrocity or condemning it, for example.

To enforce these policies effectively, Facebook intends to hold its community of users accountable for their own actions. It committed, once again, to the requirement for its users to use their authentic identity on the site. This comes on the heels of some controversy last year, when Facebook began deleting the accounts of drag queens for not using their real names before backing down and allowing the profiles to stay up. Baked into this "authentic identity" clause is the promise that Facebook will not allow anyone to post anything without a subject's permission — the company instituted its first explicit banning of revenge porn, or images posted without a subject's consent — following Twitter's lead from last week.

Brendan Klinkenberg is a tech reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.

Contact Brendan Klinkenberg at brendan.klinkenberg@buzzfeed.com.

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