Facebook’s ‘rules’ laid bare

Leaked documents reveal the social network site’s attitude towards sex, violence.

world Updated: Feb 24, 2012 02:32 IST

Facebook bans images of breastfeeding if nipples are exposed — but allows “graphic images” of animals if shown “in the context of food processing or hunting as it occurs in nature”.

Equally, pictures of bodily fluids — except semen — are allowed as long as no human is included in the picture. But “deep flesh wounds” and “crushed heads, limbs” are OK (“as long as no insides are showing”) — as are images of people using marijuana but not those of “drunk or unconscious” people.

The strange world of Facebook’s image and post approval system has been laid bare by a document leaked from the outsourcing company oDesk to the Gawker website, which indicates that the sometimes arbitrary nature of picture and post approval actually has a meticulous — if faintly gore-friendly and nipple-unfriendly — approach.

For the giant social network, which has 800 million users worldwide and recently set out plans for a stock market flotation which could value it at up to $100 billion, it is a glimpse of its inner workings — and odd prejudices about sex — that emphasise its American origins.

Facebook has previously faced an outcry from breastfeeding mothers over its treatment of images showing them with their babies. The issue has rumbled on, and now seems to have been embedded in its “Abuse Standards Violations”, which states that banned items include “breastfeeding photos showing other nudity, or nipple clearly exposed”. It also bans “naked private parts” including “female nipple bulges and naked butt cracks” — though “male nipples are OK”.

The 13-page manual, which is continually updated, is the bible for workers for oDesk who are deployed to police the posts and images that are sent to them any time somebody on the huge network clicks on a “Report” button. An early version was released by a disgruntled employee of Odesk, Amine Derkaoui, a 21-year-old Moroccan who told Gawker that he was paid $1 per hour to trawl through the reports and determine whether they should be removed from the site or not.

“It’s humiliating. They are just exploiting the third world,” he told Gawker.

It has had to contend with anger from art lovers over the removal of a nude drawing (the new guidelines say explicitly "Art nudity OK" — though "digital/cartoon nudity" is not) and in April 2011 censored a picture of a gay kiss.

The Guardian


First Published: Feb 23, 2012 23:36 IST