After years of pleas from activists and users, Facebook publicly released a version of its Community Guidelines on Tuesday—thousands of words that attempt to describe what you can’t say on the service.
A close reading of the text shows that this is a manual of adjudication, designed to provide guidance for humans who are trying to decide what to do with individual posts, comments, pictures, and videos. At times, the guidelines are remarkably broad, at others bizarrely precise; the document smells of high-minded ideals and sweaty-pitted compromise forged in reaction to news events.
For example, almost 20 percent (47 of 247 words) of the harassment section is dedicated to allegations about crisis actors:
[Do not] target victims or survivors of violent tragedies by name or by image, with claims that they are
- Lying about being a victim of an event
- Acting/pretending to be a victim of an event
- Otherwise paid or employed to mislead people about their role in the event.
Why spell all this out here? Perhaps the bad press generated quite recently around the Parkland shooting?
In the child-abuse section, the guidelines note specifically that videos depicting “tossing, rotating, or shaking of an infant (too young to stand) by their wrists/ankles, arms/legs, or neck” will be considered videos of child abuse. Why is the parenthetical “too young to stand” necessary? Wouldn’t doing the same thing to a 2-year-old qualify?