Facebook clarifies policies on acceptable content

Social network reports slight rise in government requests for data

Facebook recorded a slight increase in government requests for account data in the second half of 2014. Photo: Reuters

Facebook recorded a slight increase in government requests for account data in the second half of 2014. Photo: Reuters


Facebook has clarified its community standards to make clear what is considered acceptable content on the social network, providing guidance on policies related to self-injury, dangerous organisations, bullying and harassment, criminal activity, sexual violence and exploitation.

In a post on the social network, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the policies were not changing, but the company was providing more detail and examples of what was and was not acceptable to share on the site.

Facebook also revealed the number of government requests for information removal rose in the second half of last year, publishing the latest edition of its Global Government Requests Report.

“We work to create a safe and respectful environment where you always feel comfortable being and expressing yourself,” Mr Zuckerberg said. “ That’s why we have Community Standards to establish basic rules across our community, including that threats of violence and bullying will be taken down. These are examples where one person exercising their voice may unfairly limit the voices of many others. Therefore, in the spirit of giving the most voice to the most people, we choose not to permit this content.”

He also said the service would fight against “unnecessary or overreaching government intervention”, and dismissed calls for the service to ignore government orders to restrict content.

“Facebook is a new kind of service, so we often face regulations that have little precedent. We push back to make sure we only comply with government demands when they’re lawful and necessary,” he said.

“I believe we have a responsibility to the millions of people in these countries who rely on Facebook to stay in touch with their friends and family every day. If we ignored a lawful government order and then we were blocked, all of these people’s voices would be muted, and whatever content the government believed was illegal would be blocked anyway.”

Requests for account data increased to 35,051 in the second half of 2014 from 34,946 in the first half of the year. Although requests from the US and Germany fell, there was an increase in countries such as India.

More than 9,700 pieces of content were restricted for violating local laws, a rise of 11 per cent compared with the first six months of 2014. Access was restricted to 5,832 pieces in India and 3,624 in Turkey.

“We will continue to scrutinise each government request and push back when we find deficiencies. We will also continue to push governments around the world to reform their surveillance practices in a way that maintains the safety and security of their people while ensuring their rights and freedoms are protected,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management wrote in a blog post.

The technology industry has pushed for greater transparency on government data requests, seeking to shake off concerns about their involvement in vast, surreptitious surveillance programs revealed by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google last year began publishing details about the number of government requests for data they receive.

Facebook on Sunday also updated its community standards to tell users what types of posts are not allowed on the service,

Additional reporting: Reuters