Facebook is one of the most popular social networks in the world. It’s used by more than one million people, meaning there’s a lot of activity on it every day. As a private enterprise, Facebook has their own rules about what can be posted on the network. They need to follow any laws in their respective countries. But apart from that, it’s up to them what they do and don’t want to be posted. There’s a lot of content to monitor in a number of different languages. So it takes a lot of work to tackle any complaints. But their ways of managing potential problems has resulted in many accusations of censorship. They come from a broad range of groups and individuals.
Many people have complained of being unfairly censored by Facebook. This happens in different countries and on a broad range of subjects. They include everything from discussions of atheism in India to breastfeeding photos. People have even started Facebook pages and groups complaining of unfair censorship. You can easily find out more about the reasons people believe they’re being censored. They range from Facebook’s political affiliations to plain old ineptitude. But is Facebook purposefully censoring things it doesn’t agree with? Or do they simply have an ineffective system for reporting and removing posts?
The way that Facebook decides whether to “ban” or delete a post or photo remains something of a mystery. It is largely based on people reporting something they find inappropriate. Only one person needs to submit a complaint for it to be reviewed to see if it breaks any rules. But many people have had content disallowed when it doesn’t appear to break any rules. Both text and photos posted to public pages and as ads have fallen victim of censorship.
Recently, pages for atheist groups in India have received bans and had content removed. No official reason has been given. There have also been complaints of censorship of breastfeeding. However, Facebook says such images are now permissible. A woman also struggled to have her Facebook advert approved when trying to promote a post about the history of menstruation. She couldn’t see where she had broken any rules.
In February 2015, The Independent reported on the workers whose job it is to assess potential abuse in Facebook’s Dublin office. The company emphasised that each complaint is assessed by a human and not by a computer. They also dismissed the idea that more people submitting reports increases the potential for a post to be removed.
Anyone hoping to avoid censorship might find a new website helpful. OnlineCensorship.org is tracking content taken down from social media. This data could help people to track patterns so they can understand why content is removed. If you think you’ve been censored, you can submit a report on the site. You can also use it for Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
There has been some insight into Facebook’s censorship rules. But there are still many complaints of inconsistency and unfairness. Perhaps using sophisticated algorithms might be an improvement on using real people.