Facebook expands “involuntary” public figure option to journalists, activists. What it means

Facebook has decided to change its rules on attacking public figures on its platforms amid the global scrutiny over its content moderation practices.
Facebook has been under global scrutiny over its content moderation practices.(Reuters)
Facebook has been under global scrutiny over its content moderation practices.(Reuters)
Published on Oct 13, 2021 10:19 PM IST
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By hindustantimes.com | Written by Sharmita Kar | Edited by Poulomi Ghosh

Facebook has decided that it will now consider activists and journalists as "involuntary" public figures on its platform so as to increase protection against harassment and bullying targeted at these groups, Facebook's global safety chief said in an interview with Reuters this week.

Although it allows critical commentary of public figures and private individuals on the platform, Facebook, which has 2.8 billion monthly active users, went ahead and revamped its approach on the harassment of journalists and "human rights defenders", who it said are in the public eye due to their work rather than their public personas.

The social media giant has already been under wide-ranging scrutiny from global lawmakers and regulators for its content moderation practices and harms linked to its platforms, with internal documents leaked, forming the basis for a U.S. Senate hearing last week, as reported by Reuters.

Facebook's "cross check" system has been in the spotlight lately after the Wall Street Journal reported that it has the effect of exempting some high-profile users from usual Facebook rules.

The difference between public figures and private individuals in terms of the protections it affords them around online discussion, Reuters reported, is that users are generally allowed to call for the death of a celebrity on the platform.

Earlier this year, Facebook had announced it would remove content celebrating, praising or mocking George Floyd's death, deemed an “involuntary” public figure.

Facebook's Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis told Reuters that the company was expanding the types of attacks that would go against its policy for public figures on its platforms, in order to reduce any kind of violence disproportionately faced by women, people of color and the LGBTQ community.

Facebook will also no longer allow severe and unwanted sexualizing content, derogatory sexualized photoshopped images, drawings or direct negative attacks on a person's appearance, for example, in comments on a public figure's profile, the report said.

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