Facebook Unveils New Policies Against Online Harassment to Protect Activists, Journalists

Facebook announced on Oct. 13 that it is unveiling new policies to protect activists and journalists from online harassment, as it now deems as “involuntary public figures.”

Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis said that journalists and human rights defenders, who are attacked because of their work and have become famous involuntarily, will now have protections from harmful content.

“Becoming a public figure isn’t always a choice, and that this fame can increase the risk of bullying and harassment — particularly if the person comes from an underrepresented community, including women, people of color, or the LGBTQ community,” Davis said in the announcement.

Facebook expanded its range of harmful content based on feedback from global stakeholders, including content that severely sexualizes a public figure, sexualized photoshopped images and drawings, and accounts and events dedicated to sexualizing the public figure.

Davis further said that Facebook will also remove “unwanted sexualized commentary and repeated content which is sexually harassing,” but they will rely on additional context from the target of the abuse “because what is ‘unwanted’ can be subjective.”

Facebook will also remove “coordinated” efforts of mass harassment that target people who are considered at heightened risk of harm in the real world, such as victims of violent tragedies and government dissidents.

Facebook will also remove content considered mass harassment towards an individual on personal surfaces, such as direct inbox messages or comments on personal posts.

Additionally, Facebook will remove state-linked and “adversarial” pages and groups that “work together to harass or silence people.”

The new policies came after whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, leaked documents and testified before the United States Senate on the harmful effects of Facebook and that the social media giant was aware of it.

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