Facebook is moving forward with an updated policy when it comes to figuring out what to display users in their News Feed or what’s shared in general. After receiving feedback from users and partners over “recent weeks,” the social networking company will no longer put as great of emphasis on censorship than it had previously. Instead, it will show images and stories that are deemed “newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest — even if they might otherwise violate [Facebook’s] standards.”
This issue recently came to light following Facebook’s censorship of the iconic “Napalm Girl” image in September and a subsequent mea culpa where the company said it recognized “the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.” In the past few months, the social network had been a lightning rod of criticism over how it polices what’s on its site, which is now used by more than 1 billion people daily.
Other cases that come to mind include allegations levied against the company over a perceived bias against conservative ideas, which has led to CEO Mark Zuckerberg meeting with conservative activists to explain that his company does no such thing. Also, we mustn’t forget that people are also in arms over Facebook’s censorship against women’s nipples. Just this week, it blocked a cancer awareness video because it featured cartoon breasts.
Under this proposed policy change, the company could start displaying content based on its news value, even if it depicts otherwise questionable imagery.
Of course this may lead to a slippery slope, but it seems that Facebook aims to err on the side of free speech instead of relenting to the sometimes prudish opinions of everyone in the world.
It’s certainly not an easy task to make sure that only culturally appropriate images are seen. Facebook is used globally, and each region, country, state, city, and person has their own view about what’s appropriate, dictated by a variety of factors. Facebook acknowledged this quagmire, saying that “respecting local norms and upholding global practices often come into conflict. And people often disagree about what standards should be in place to ensure a community that is both safe and open to expression.”
That being said, Facebook said it will be working with its community and partners to figure out how to find the right balance. This effort will include new tools and approaches around enforcing this policy: “Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them.”