Facebook adopts new policies to combat coordinated intimidation and harassment of public figures

Facebook adopts new policies to combat coordinated intimidation and harassment of public figures
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Drew Angerer / Getty
  • Facebook said the policy was created to prevent coordinated mass attacks against public figures.
  • New content violations like "severe sexualizing content" were added to Facebook's harassment policy.

A week after scathing congressional testimony from whistleblower Frances Haugen, Facebook announced on Wednesday it will expand its current harassment policies to better protect public figures, such as politicians, journalists, human-rights defenders, and celebrities.

According to Facebook, the policy expansion would remove any "objectionable content" targeted at public figures, including posts, direct messages, comments, networks of accounts, and private pages or groups coordinating mass posting.

"We're always trying to strike the right balance between protecting them from abuse and allowing open dialogue about them on our apps. Our bullying and harassment policy differentiates between public figures and private individuals to enable freedom of expression and legitimate public discourse around those in the public eye," Facebook said in a news release Wednesday.

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Feedback led the company to add several new content violations to its existing harassment policy, including:

  • Severe sexualizing content
  • Profiles, pages, groups, or events dedicated to sexualizing the public figure
  • Derogatory, sexualized photoshopped images and drawings
  • Attacks through negative physical descriptions that are tagged to, mention, or posted on the public figure's account
  • Degrading content depicting individuals in the process of bodily functions

Facebook said in its announcement that it consulted free speech advocates, human rights experts, women's safety groups, politicians, journalists, content creators, and other stakeholders while drafting the policy expansion. The platform's full list of protections for public figures is outlined in its community standards.