Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Facebook Faces Up to Hate

Facebook has finally, under pressure, amended its policy on hate. As the company's officials admit, it's not easy to find the right balance between facilitating personal expression and outlawing unacceptable content on a site with a billion users:
"We prohibit content deemed to be directly harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial. We define harmful content as anything organizing real world violence, theft, or property destruction, or that directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual (e.g. bullying)."
Activists and users had complained that the social media giant was moving too slowly and not doing enough to remove gender-based hate content--specifically, comments and images that depict violence against women. More than 50,000 tweets about this issue added to the pressure on Facebook in the week leading up to the company's announcement of its policy change.

In addition, a few advertisers such as the Japanese automaker Nissan and the UK financial services firm Nationwide went so far as to drop their Facebook ad campaigns because of this issue, and took the next step by apologizing to their customers. Most, if not all, quickly reinstated their ads once Facebook faced up to the need for policy changes.

Now Facebook's users and advertisers will be watching to see how these changes are implemented and how transparent the social media giant's workings will be during this time of intense public scrutiny. Remember, Facebook is still trying to find its stride as a powerful, targeted medium for advertising. To build ad revenues, it must be a responsible medium, not just a popular medium.

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