Facebook will broaden reach of public figures, and improve security

Facebook will broaden reach of public figures, and improve security

In an interview this week, Facebook's global safety head indicated that activists and journalists will henceforth be counted as "involuntary" public figures, increasing safeguards against harassment and abuse directed against them.

The social media company, which allows more critical commentary of public figures than of private individuals, says it is changing its approach on the harassment of journalists and “human rights defenders,” who it says are in the public eye due to their work rather than their public personas.

Facebook is under wide-ranging scrutiny from global lawmakers and regulators over its content moderation practices and harms linked to its platforms, with internal documents leaked by a whistleblower forming the basis for a U.S. Senate hearing last week.

How Facebook, which has about 2.8 billion monthly active users, treats public figures and content posted by or about those figures has been an area of intense debate. In recent weeks, the company’s “cross check” system, which the Wall Street Journal reported has the effect of exempting some high-profile users from usual Facebook rules, has been in the spotlight.

Facebook also differentiates between public figures and private individuals in the protections it affords around online discussion: for instance, users are generally allowed to call for the death of a celebrity in discussions on the platform.

The company declined to share a list of other involuntary public figures but said they are assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Earlier this year, Facebook said it would remove content celebrating, praising or mocking George Floyd’s death, because he was deemed an involuntary public figure.

Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis said the company was also expanding the types of attacks that it would not allow on public figures on its sites, as part of an effort to reduce attacks disproportionately faced by women, people of colour and the LGBTQ community.

Severe and undesired sexualizing content, disparaging sexualized altered photographs or drawings, or direct negative attacks on a person's looks, such as in comments on a prominent figure's profile, will no longer be tolerated on Facebook.

ABC English