John Constine discusses Facebook’s recent changes in the content it will allow to be displayed. Recently, Facebook was criticized by the media and public for temporarily censoring a famous photo of “Napalm Girl,” a nude child from the Vietnam War. This was posted by a Norwegian journalist and by the newspaper he works for. Facebook also wrongly applied their censorship algorithm that led them to take down a video of Philando Castile in his final moments as he was shot by police.
New Censorship Policies
These instances and feedback from the community encouraged Facebook to re-evaluate its censorship policies. Facebook’s Vice President of Global Policy, Joel Kaplan, says “Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them…in the weeks ahead, we’re going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest – even if they might otherwise violate our standards.” Therefore, more graphic and potentially violent or nude content considered newsworthy will be displayed.
Graphic Content Warnings
These policy changes also bring several precautions. For example, content will be age-gated to prevent minors from seeing offensive content. In addition, graphic content warnings will pop-up that a user will have to click through in order to view graphic content. Also, users will be able to flag graphic, but newsworthy content to notify Facebook to display a warning.
Is Facebook a Media Company?
Facebook stands by the fact that it is a technology platform, not a media company. Therefore, they have different editorial responsibilities. They focus on giving the consumers what they want, not deciding what ideas readers should read about.
However, Facebook’s decision to relax censorship is controversial. Some see this decision as contradictory because Facebook is in fact deciding what is newsworthy, so they choose what their readers see. As consumers, it is important to think critically and analyze how social media influences our beliefs and what we view. Even though Facebook denies it, it may be more of a media site than owners want to admit and be responsible for. Some see Facebook as a dangerous, free-for-all content site. For journalists and news organizations, this gives them the opportunity to share more. We have to consider how graphic content will negatively impact children who are still able to click through the warnings. Facebook will need to utilize various safety measures, more than just a click of approval, to prevent this.