In documents given to a third-party content-moderation firm, Facebook asks that all sexual activity be removed, but allows gore, ‘ironic’ racial slurs, and references to drugs (except marijuana).
A former employee who used to filter out offensive content on Facebook has leaked the website’s secret rulebook, which gives astonishingly detailed instructions that include blocking mild nudity but allowing images of death and disfigurement, as well as racially charged comments.
An aggrieved Moroccan worker who was paid a mere $1 an hour by oDesk – a third-party content-moderation firm used by Facebook – revealed it tells staff to delete all forms of sexual activity, even simulated activity where there was nothing explicit on show.
Yet deep wounds, excessive blood and ‘crushed heads, limbs etc’ are allowed – ‘as long as no insides are showing’.
The rules: An astonishingly detailed cheat sheet of what Facebook thinks is graphic content is handed to employees of content moderation firm oDesk. Disgruntled employee Amine Derkaoui leaked the document to Gawker.com
The staff working for oDesk are further instructed that Facebook will not condone ‘slurs or racial comments of any kind’, and that any such comments should be deleted as soon as possible. However, they should be allowed to stay online if the comments are made in a humorous or ironic way.
Moroccan-born Amine Derkaoui, 21, left oDesk and is clearly still very mad at his former employers and Facebook. He began training with oDesk as a moderator but missed a crucial test because of Ramadan and eventually left to become a content manager for a New York-based tech company.
In an interview with U.S. gossip website Gawker.com, Mr Derkaoui said: ‘It’s humiliating. They are just exploiting the third world.’
It didn’t make Mr Derkaoui feel any better that Facebook just recently posted a staggering $100 billion initial public offering (IPO).
Flagged and removed: Facebook has landed in hot water in the past, having to apologise for removing a gay kiss scene from British soap opera EastEnders, above left, and being left embarrassed when they took down a relatively innocuous line drawing of a topless woman from artist Steven Assael
The ‘cheat sheet’ of rules are part of a larger 17-page guidebook given to oDesk by Facebook, providing advice for employees on what to do when screening photographs, text and videos that have been ‘flagged’ for removal by one of Facebook’s 850 million users.
Facebook runs community guidelines on its own site, but they are perhaps purposefully vague when compared to the crystal clear instructions given to oDesk employees.
Online, Facebook says that it wants to share people’s lives, but draws the line at ‘inappropriately graphic content’ leaving the user to draw his or her conclusions as to what is considered too graphic.
At oDesk, nothing is left to the imagination. Urine, faeces, vomit, semen and – strangely – ear wax are not allowed.
‘Lactivists’: Mothers and supporters gathered outside the Facebook offices in Austin, Texas, to protest Facebook’s decision to persistently remove pictures of breastfeeding mothers from its site
‘Versus photos’ – where users are asked to rate photos of people set side-by-side – are also prohibited, as are pictures of unconscious or sleeping drunk people with ‘things drawn on their faces’.
Yet it is acceptable to leave up footage of children physically assaulting each other at school (unless ‘the video has been posted to continue tormenting the person targeted in the video’).
Showing perhaps that the Facebook HQ is in California, depictions or text of illegal drug use must be deleted – unless it’s about marijuana.
Even so, marijuana enthusiasts should be removed if it is ‘clear that the poster is selling/buying/growing’.
Facebook Content Policy Highlights
Facebook, it appears, will delete pretty tame stuff. For example, any of the following content will be deleted, according to the guidelines:
- Blatant (obvious) depiction of camel toes and moose knuckles.
- Mothers breastfeeding without clothes on.
- Sex toys or other objects, but only in the context of sexual activity.
- Depicting sexual fetishes in any form.
- ANY photoshopped images of people, whether negative, positive or neutral.
- Images of drunk and unconscious people , or sleeping people with things drawn on their face.
- Violent speech (Example: “I love hearing skulls crack.”).
- When it comes to sex and nudity, Facebook is strictly PG-13, according to the guidelines. Obvious sexual activity, even clothed, is deleted, as are “naked ‘private parts’ including female nipple bulges and naked butt cracks.” But “male nipples are OK.” Foreplay is allowed, “even for same sex (man-man/woman-woman)” Even the gays can grope each other on Facebook.
Facebook is more lenient when it comes to violence. Gory pictures are allowed, as long somebody’s guts aren’t spilling out.
“Crushed heads, limbs etc are OK as long as no insides are showing,” reads one guideline. “Deep flesh wounds are ok to show; excessive blood is ok to show.”
Drugs are a mixed bag. Pictures of marijuana are explicitly allowed though images of other illegal drugs “not in the context of medical, academic or scientific study” are deleted.As long as it doesn’t appear you’re a dealer, you can post as many pictures of your stash as you want.
As long as it doesn’t appear you’re a dealer, you can post as many pictures of your stash as you want.
Under “hate content,” the guidelines specifically ban “Versus photos… photos comparing two people side by side,” which is ironic considering Mark Zuckerberg‘s first hit, FaceSmash, ranked the attractiveness of female Harvard students.
Some types of content are judged highly on context. For example, school fight videos are deleted only if “the video has been posted to continue tormenting the person targeted in the video.”
Hate speech is allowed in the case of a joke, and animal abuse videos can stay only if it’s clear the user doesn’t approve of it.
Facebook has struggled with the issue of abortion, as it can encompass both sex and gore. Last month, a post offering DIY abortion instructions was ‘accidentally’ deleted from the page of a Dutch reproductive rights activist.Anti-abortion advocates sometimes complain that
Anti-abortion advocates sometimes complain that Facebook censors their graphic pictures of aborted fetuses.
While the guidelines don’t mention abortion, a discussion in a forum used by Facebook content moderators Derkaoui showed us sheds light on Facebook’s abortion policy. The lead content moderator writes:
abortion in all its forms is allowed to be depicted unless it violates the graphic violence or nudity standards. That means users can show images as well as talk about abortion, have discussions, etc.It’s only a violation if graphic content such as dismemberment or decapitation is shown, or if the insides are visible.
It’s only a violation if graphic content such as dismemberment or decapitation is shown, or if the insides are visible.
Certain content must be escalated to a higher level of review. This includes credible threats against people or public figures, suicidal content, and encouragements to commit crimes.
Perhaps most intriguing is the category dedicated to “international compliance.” Under this category, any holocaust denial which “focuses on hate speech,” all attacks on the founder of Turkey, Ataturk, and burning of Turkish flags must be escalated. This is likely to keep Facebook in line with international laws; in many European countries, holocaust denial is outlawed, as are attacks on Attaturk in Turkey.
This is likely to keep Facebook in line with international laws; in many European countries, holocaust denial is outlawed, as are attacks on Attaturk in Turkey.
Any holocaust denial which “focuses on hate speech,” all attacks on the founder of Turkey, Ataturk, and burning of Turkish flags must be escalated.