Facebook: Journos, activists to better protect themselves from harassment

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In this file photo illustration, a smartphone screen displays the Facebook logo on a Facebook website background on April 7, 2021, in Arlington, Virginia. AFP

Facebook Inc. will now count activists and journalists as “unwitting” public figures and thereby increase protections against harassment and intimidation targeting these groups, its head of global security said in an interview this week.

The social media company, which allows more critical comments on public figures than on individuals, changes its approach on harassment of journalists and “human rights defenders”, who it says are in the public eye by because of their work rather than their audience. characters.

Facebook is under close scrutiny by global lawmakers and regulators over its content moderation practices and harms related to its platforms, with internal documents leaked by a whistleblower forming the basis for a Senate hearing American last week.

How Facebook, which has approximately 2.8 billion monthly active users, treats public figures and the content posted by or about such figures has been the subject of intense debate. In recent weeks, the company’s “cross-check” system, which the Wall Street Journal reported has the effect of exempting some high-level users from Facebook’s usual rules, has been in the spotlight.

speech about “death”

Facebook also differentiates public figures from private individuals in the protections it offers around online chats: for example, users are generally allowed to call for the death of a celebrity in chats on the platform, as long as they do not tag or directly mention the celebrity. They cannot call for the death of an individual, or now a journalist, under Facebook policies.

The company declined to share a list of other unwitting public figures, but said they were assessed on a case-by-case basis. Earlier this year, Facebook said it would remove content celebrating, praising or mocking the death of George Floyd because he was seen as an unwitting public figure.

Facebook’s global security chief Antigone Davis said the company is also expanding the types of attacks it will not allow against public figures on its sites, as part of an effort to reduce attacks disproportionately faced by women, people of color and the LGBTQ community. .

Sexualized content

Facebook will no longer allow serious and unwanted sexualizing content, derogatory sexualized photoshopped images or drawings, or direct negative attacks on a person’s appearance, for example, in comments on a public figure’s profile.

Announcing the new protections, Davis also wrote, “We don’t allow bullying and harassment on our platform, but when it happens, we take action.”

“Antagonistic networks”

Facebook has added journalists and human rights defenders to the list of people considered public figures because of their work.

The new policies included the derailment of coordinated efforts to use multiple accounts to harass or intimidate people considered to be at increased risk of real-world harm, such as government dissidents and victims of violent tragedies.

Davis said Facebook will also start removing state-linked “accusatory networks” on the social network that “work together to harass or silence people” such as dissidents.

“We remove content that violates our policies and deactivate the accounts of people who repeatedly break our rules,” she wrote.

Mental Health

The company has faced a storm of criticism and a Senate panel hearing since a whistleblower disclosed internal studies showing Facebook knew its sites could be harmful to the mental health of young people.

Frances Haugen, a former employee of the company, said the main social network puts profits above the safety of its users.

The documents leaked by Haugen, which underpinned a series of scathing Wall Street Journal stories, fueled one of Facebook’s most serious crises to date.

Division, dissatisfaction

In her testimony, Haugen noted the risks of the social media giant’s platforms fueling the political divide and self-dissatisfaction that are particularly dangerous for young people.

She has not finished calling on the authorities to regulate the network frequented daily by nearly 3 billion people around the world.

EU lawmakers invited Haugen to a hearing and she was also due to meet with the supervisory board of Facebook, a semi-independent body responsible for evaluating the network’s content policies.

The leaked documents and Haugen’s testimony sparked strong reluctance from Facebook, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg has not publicly stated whether he will accept the invitation of a Senate panel to answer their questions.

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