Facebook announced a major reversal of its content moderation policy on Friday, saying politicians’ posts are no longer exempt from the company’s rules that prevent users from making malicious speech.
The company also said Friday that former President Donald Trump will remain suspended from the platform for two years, effective from the original January 7th date of the suspension.
Specifically, Facebook said it will no longer treat content posted by politicians as inherently of public interest or newsworthy. This means that such posts are moderated like those of other users.
Facebook will, on rare occasions, continue to provide a newsworthiness exception for content posted by politicians and other users, the company said, but for the sake of transparency it will start posting regular updates on the cases where it has this exception applies.
The announcement marks a 180 degree change for Facebook, which had previously vowed to uphold freedom of expression and proclaimed that it should not be an arbiter of the truth. Especially in the run-up to the 2020 US elections, the company made the controversial decision to allow politicians to place ads on Facebook, even if they contained misinformation.
When it comes to suspending accounts for violating Facebook community standards in a manner that incites or celebrates violence, Facebook will consider the severity of the harm to a public figure, their impact on the public, and the severity of the violence. These factors are taken into account in determining the length of time their accounts will be suspended, which can range from one month to two years. In extreme cases, Facebook will permanently deactivate the account, the company said.
The new guidelines come after Facebook’s independent oversight body decided in May to uphold the company’s decision to suspend Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. However, in its decision, the board noted that Facebook needs to reassess the way it moderates speech from political leaders and clearly outlines these rules for the public to use.
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