Facebook’s Internal Guidelines Allow Extreme Content, According to Leak

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By Kieran Corcoran | 6:44 am, May 22, 2017

A trove of how-to guides for Facebook moderators charged with censoring the social network has been revealed in a major document leak.

Handbooks for staff showing when to remove graphic, violent or otherwise disturbing images were published late Sunday night.

The manuals draw the lines for when content reported by users should be taken down, blurred, or otherwise acted upon.

They explain, for instance, that threats of violence against heads of state – such as the phrase “Someone shoot Trump” – should be taken down.

Meanwhile more generic statements of intent – like “let’s beat up fat kids” – are deemed permissible.

The documents shed extra light on Facebook’s policy towards live videos of suicide.

They said that people attempting to kill themselves should not have broadcasts immediately cut off because the network doesn’t want to “censor or punish people in distress who are attempting suicide.”

It said it will keep publishing their live video until “there’s no longer an opportunity to help the person” – i.e. once they have finished killing themselves.

Such videos have often proved contentious given how slowly the network takes them down, while stringently policing female nipples and Renaissance statues.

The leaked files also showed that Facebook operates a stringent policy towards photographs of firearms.

Users, it emerged, are banned from publishing photos saying they want to buy guns, even when the gun is legal to own and they express no ill intent, or even actively say they want to use them for a legal activity like hunting.

The documents were assembled by the Guardian newspaper, which published excerpts in a major report dubbed The Facebook Files.

A spokesman for the network stopped short of confirming the leaked files as genuine, but appeared to admit that they are similar to those currently in use.

Free speech advocates said that the revelations demonstrate the huge amount of control Facebook – with its user base of some 2 billion people – exerts through these policies.

The Open Rights Group told the BBC:  “Facebook’s decisions about what is and isn’t acceptable have huge implications for free speech… Facebook will probably never get it right but at the very least there should be more transparency about their processes.”