Report: Facebook Guidelines Allow ‘Calls for Death’ of Public Figures

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies via video conference, before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on "Online Platforms and Market Power" in the Rayburn House office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on July 29, 2020. (Photo by Graeme JENNINGS / POOL / AFP) …
GRAEME JENNINGS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

A recent report from the Guardian claims that Facebook’s bullying and harassment policies allow for “public figures” to be targeted in ways that are banned across the site such as “calls for [their] death,” according to internal moderator guidelines.

The Guardian reports that according to leaked internal moderator guidelines, Facebook’s bullying and harassment policies explicitly allow for “public figures” to be targeted in a manner that regular users are not, including allowing “calls for [their] death.”
Facebook defines public figures as everything from users with a large social media following or infrequent coverage in local newspapers to worldwide celebrities. Facebook reportedly believes that these figures are open to certain types of speech that other users are not because “we want to allow discussion, which often includes critical commentary of people who are featured in the news.”

The Guardian writes:

In the detailed guidelines seen by the Guardian, running to more than 300 pages and dating from December 2020, Facebook spells out how it differentiates between protections for private and public individuals.

“For public figures, we remove attacks that are severe as well as certain attacks where the public figure is directly tagged in the post or comment. For private individuals, our protection goes further: we remove content that’s meant to degrade or shame, including, for example, claims about someone’s sexual activity,” it says.

Private individuals cannot be targeted with “calls for death” on Facebook but public figures simply cannot be “purposefully exposed” to such calls: it is legitimate, under Facebook’s harassment policies, to call for the death of a minor local celebrity so long as the user does not tag them in to the post, for example.

Similarly, public figures cannot be “exposed” to content “that praises, celebrates or mocks their death or serious physical injury”.

According to the Guardian, Facebook believes that all politicians count as public figures regardless of the level of government and whether they have been elected or are standing office, as does any journalist who is employed to “write/speak publicly.”

Any user with more than 100,000 followers on one of their social media account is also reportedly fair game. being in the news is also enough to grant a user the status of “public figure.”

Imran Ahmed, founder of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, stated that the news was “flabbergasting” and added: “Highly visible abuse of public figures and celebrities acts as a warning – a proverbial head on a pike – to others. It is used by identity-based hate actors who target women and minorities to dissuade participation by the very groups that campaigners for tolerance and inclusion have worked so hard to bring into public life. Just because someone isn’t tagged doesn’t mean that the message isn’t heard loud and clear.”

Read more at the Guardian here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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