Facebook will have an increasingly hard time navigating the ever-murky waters of being a major content distributor, if a quick read of the trove of documents published today by the Guardian is any guide. They reveal the giant social network’s internal guidelines on what types of posts should or shouldn’t be allowed on the site.
For those who feel the need to: You can say “fuck off and die,” as well as a surprisingly long list of other vile things.
The guidelines are sure to fuel the debate over whether Facebook is considered a publisher or simply a platform, since these editorial guidelines are similar to those news publishers have used for decades. Historically, the company has argued that it is not a publisher, but more of an agnostic platform simply hosting the news.
That said, Facebook does determine what news you do and don’t get thanks to its News Feed algorithm. And what makes up that News Feed has attracted a lot of scrutiny, with many disagreeing with the company’s stance over the years.
The most recent controversy around false news on Facebook and the role it played in last year’s presidential election has finally forced the company to at least acknowledge its role as a news publisher. After a lot of pressure, it’s been making all kinds of changes lately to weed out false news and other such clickbait in News Feed.
In the documents, the company noted that people use violent language on Facebook, because they feel like it won’t come back to them.
“We should say that violent language is most often not credible until specificity of language gives us a reasonable ground to accept that there is no longer simply an expression of emotion, but a transition to a plot or design,” the documents read. “From this perspective language such as ‘I’m going to kill you’ or ‘Fuck off and die’ is not credible and is a violent expression of dislike and frustration.”
For instance, the company has determined that posts that say someone should shoot President Donald Trump should be deleted, while remarks like “To snap a bitch’s neck, make sure to apply all your pressure to the middle of her throat,” can remain on the site, according to the Guardian.
In a statement to the Guardian, Facebook’s head of global policy management Monika Bickert said some offensive content will violate the site’s standards in some contexts and won’t in others.
“We have a really diverse global community and people are going to have very different ideas about what is okay to share,” she said. “No matter where you draw the line, there are always going to be some gray areas. For instance, the line between satire and humour and inappropriate content is sometimes very gray. It is very difficult to decide whether some things belong on the site or not.”
Here’s what Bickert had to say, according to a statement Facebook sent to Recode:
“Keeping people on Facebook safe is the most important thing we do. We work hard to make Facebook as safe as possible while allowing people freedom of speech. This requires a lot of thought into detailed and often difficult questions and getting it right is something we take very seriously. Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that over the next year, we'll be adding 3,000 people to our community operations team around the world — on top of the 4,500 we have today — to review the millions of reports we get every week, and improve the process for doing it quickly. In addition to investing in more people, we're also building better tools to keep our community safe. We’re going to make it simpler to report problems to us, faster for our reviewers to determine which posts violate our standards and easier for them to contact law enforcement if someone needs help.”
Well, you be the judge of how well Facebook pulls that off from just a small selection of things you can or can’t say or post on the site:
- You can say: “Fuck off and die.”
- You can say: “Unless you stop bitching, I’ll cut your tongue out.”
- You can say: “You assholes better pray to God that I keep my mind intact, because if I lose I will literally kill HUNDREDS of you.”
- You can say: “Kick a person with red hair.”
- You can say: “Let’s beat up fat kids.”
- You can say: “Little girl needs to keep to herself before daddy breaks her face,”
- You can say: “I hope someone kills you.”
- You can post videos of abortion so long as there is no nudity.
- You can post some videos of violent death, because it might help spread awareness of mental issues.
- You can post some images of non-sexual child abuse, if there is no element of celebration or sadism.
- You can livestream self-harm, because it “doesn’t want to censor or punish people in distress who are attempting suicide.” But it will remove the content “once there’s no longer an opportunity to help the person.” (Yes, really, this is the Facebook rule.)
- You can’t say: “Someone shoot Trump”
- You can’t say: “#stab and become the fear of the Zionist.”
- You can’t post digitally made art that shows sexual activity.
- You can’t post anything that encourages or promotes self-harm.
- You can’t say you want to hurt candidates or heads of state, journalists or activists, witnesses and informants, specific law enforcement officers, foreigners or homeless people.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.