Social Media

Facebook to Ban Content that Sexually Harasses Celebrities

Facebook announced on Wednesday that it would start removing “severe sexualizing content” targeting public figures as part of a new update to its bullying and harassment policies. The policy changes also include coordinated harassment attacks against users. Facebook said that it would remove “unwanted sexualized commentary” and repetitive attacks harassing an individual sexually.

As part of this new policy update, Facebook said that it would remove any profiles, pages, groups, or events dedicated to sexualizing public figures, including celebrities, politicians, and content creators. The new policy bans sexualized photoshopped images and drawings and any degrading content “in the process of bodily functions,” Antigone Davis, global head of safety at Facebook, said in a blog post on Wednesday.

Davis wrote in the Wednesday blog post, “Public figures — whether they’re politicians, journalists, celebrities or creators — use Facebook and Instagram to engage directly with their followers. We made these changes because attacks like these can weaponize a public figure’s appearance, which is unnecessary and often not related to the work these public figures represent.”

The firm said it will also remove objectionable content that is considered mass harassment towards any individual on personal surfaces, such as direct messages in inbox or comments on personal profiles or posts.

Facebook’s policy announcement comes after whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Congress last week. Last Tuesday’s hearing focused on a series of reports from the Wall Street Journal that revealed Facebook executives were aware of the harms its platform could inflict on users, especially teenagers. Haugen is expected to testify before the UK Parliament later this month.

Wednesday’s update also includes new language banning large, coordinated attacks on users that are at a “heightened risk of offline harm,” even if the posts or messages don’t violate Facebook’s content policies. This update includes Facebook and Instagram posts and direct messages sent to individuals like government dissidents or victims of violent attacks.

In addition, Facebook said it will provide more protections to people who have become public figures “involuntarily,” like journalists and human-rights advocates. Facebook pulled down 1,259 accounts, Pages and Groups from its main app as well as Instagram in September for manipulating public debate. In Iran, it removed 93 Facebook accounts, 14 Pages, 15 Groups and 194 Instagram accounts that targeted primarily domestic audiences in that country, particularly in the Lorestan province.

Last month, Twitch added new tools to fight against creator harassment on its platform, including phone number verification options for chat. The streaming platform also announced changes to its email verification system to give creators more control over the viewers using chat. Users are allowed up to five accounts to a single phone number, limiting the number of accounts that could be made to harass a creator.

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