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Facebook Will Now Allow Explicit Content (If It’s Newsworthy)

Facebook is going to allow users to post explicit posts on its platform, if they are “newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest,” the company announced, even if they might otherwise violate its standards on offensive content. Those are tricky and subjective standards, but the move is meant to signal that the tech giant is trying to be more conscientious about its role in Media.

Facebook has had to do a lot of soul searching this past year since it was outed as an influential curator and editor of content. Earlier this year, the news platform came under withering criticism from journalistic organizations around the world for censoring an iconic Vietnam War photo of a naked child fleeing a napalm attack. It backpedaled eventually and acknowledged the photo’s “historic significance.”

Just yesterday, Facebook banned a Swedish breast cancer awareness video for displaying offensive imagery. After the director of the Swedish Cancer Society criticized the social platform for censoring “information that saves lives”, the company again had to apologize.

Today’s announcement reflects Facebook’s ambivalence and confusion about its dual role as a social platform that both depends on its users, and influences them. As Justin Osofsky, VP of Global Operations & Media Partnerships at Facebook, writes, “our goal is to channel our community’s values, and to make sure our policies reflect our community’s interests.”

That’s not going to be easy to accomplish– not only because it’s a global platform with a diverse user base whose views on issues differ significantly, but also because it’s an entity that has the power to shape and define those community values. Even as it struggles to come to terms with its tricky new role as the world’s most powerful editor and media platform, Facebook has come under extra public scrutiny and pressure because the stakes are high for everyone involved.

Dubbed the king of media, Facebook has become influential enough and been around for long enough that the vast media ecosystem that depends on it is reasonably demanding transparency and accountability. The company no longer has the luxury of passing itself off as passive, algorithmically-defined conduit of “what’s trending.” It’s not the brash, young disruptor it once was. It’s an established social institution.

Which explains why Facebook’s announcement was scant on detail, and tried instead to strike a tone somewhere between contrition and humility, closing by noting, “we’re grateful for the counsel of so many people who are helping us try to get this right.” Facebook’s crown must be starting to feel a little heavy.

What do you think about Facebook’s decision to censor less content, as long as it’s newsworthy?
Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image: Mygate /

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Facebook Will Now Allow Explicit Content (If It’s Newsworthy)


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