Facebook Plans to Reduce Censorship on Graphic But “Newsworthy” Content

Following feedback from members of the Facebook community and partners, the social network is now re-examining their general policies on nudity and violence as they relate to a piece of content’s “newsworthiness”.

Facebook reducing censorship on “objectionable” content is, as the company itself admits in this blog post, “complex”. For starters, Facebook is a global social network—not only are cultural implications potentially an issue, but legal ones are as well. Content that may just be a matter of subjective opinion in one country might be downright illegal to show in another. Then, there’s the issue of how Facebook prevents minors from viewing objectionable content; and, where to draw the line (is nudity OK but pornography not?).

In attempting to appease community desire for freedom of expression, Facebook is walking an ethical tightrope: relaxing their admittedly stringent (by comparison) Community Standards sets the company up for a host of headaches down the road, both from a legal & business standpoint as they continue global expansion efforts into China. Then again, without a modification of these policies, videos like the final moments of Philando Castile, which was taken down due to an algorithmic “miscategorization” before being manually restored, or this breast cancer awareness video from Sweden, will continue to technically violate Facebook’s policies—regardless of their newsworthiness.

Just how Facebook handles this delicate balance, particularly on an International scale, remains to be seen. Global VP of Policy at Facebook, Joel Kaplan, stated that the company will be working with “experts, publishers, journalists, photographers, law enforcement officials and safety advocates” to determine how to pull all of this off.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.