Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Facebook has expanded its ban on racist writings and imagery, with new rules specifically prohibiting depictions of blackface and statements or images suggesting that Jewish people control the world or major institutions. Facebook already has a broad ban on hate speech, but the company also maintains a detailed list of prohibited language (like comparing a group of people to “insects”) and protected characteristics (like physical appearance) to tell users what isn’t allowed.
“This type of content has always gone against the spirit of our hate speech policies,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of policy management, said on a call with reporters this afternoon. But it can be difficult for reviewers around the world to identify hate speech without these explicit examples, Bickert said.
While Facebook has long banned hate speech, the company’s moderation rules have at times led to some troubling results. In 2017, ProPublica reported on how Facebook’s rules offered protections for “white men” but not “Black children” due to how the company interpreted subsets of protected classes. The company says it has now established teams inside both Instagram and Facebook to help the products feel “fair and inclusive.”
“We’ve made progress combating hate on our apps, but we know we have more to do to ensure everyone feels comfortable using our services,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s VP of integrity, writes in a blog post.
Today’s policy update came alongside the release of Facebook’s sixth Community Standards Enforcement Report. As part of the report, the company revealed that it removed more than 7 million pieces of “harmful” coronavirus misinformation on Facebook and Instagram between April and June. That includes posts about fake cures or preventive measures. The company also put warning labels on 98 million pieces of misinformation about coronavirus that didn’t rise to the level of a ban.