Facebook: Flagging Content Everywhere

Just recently I made a post about the strict censorship process the Chinese government adheres to. The Great Firewall blocks information left, right and centre in order to ‘protect’ its people. How would you feel if I told you that one of our – and in particular, my personal favourite – social media platforms similarly adhered to strict censorship rules and regulations? Well, get ready for it…


(Image Source)

It has been noted that “more than 1.4 billion people around the world use Facebook every month” (Al Jazeera, 2015), with users each having their own form of laws, cultures and accepted social norms and customs. With such a wide-reaching audience with the capacity to contribute to the global news platform, Facebook has been censoring the content users upload on a daily basis.

Facebook's Global Statistics

Facebook’s Global Statistics

(Image Source)

The rule book that Facebook moderators follow when deciding the fate of uploaded user content has been leaked online, and the definitions of ‘offensive material’ and ‘unacceptable content’ prove to be intriguing. According to Facebook’s Community Standards outline, the social networking conglomerate aims to keep individual users safe by “removing content, disabling accounts and working with law enforcement” and moreover urges respectful behaviour online (Facebook Community Standards, 2015). The Abuse Standards Violations handbook utilised by Facebook moderators depicted below includes but is not limited to censoring sexual content and nudity, hate speech, graphic content and self harm. Whilst it is the job of moderators to control the content accessible on this social network, Facebook “relies on users to identify breaches of the community standards. “If you see something on Facebook that you believe violates our terms,” the site implores, “you should report it to us” (The Economist, 2014). But does this warrant the use of strong regulative censorship that Facebook engages in?

Facebook's Censoring Cheat Sheet

Facebook’s Censoring Cheat Sheet

(Image Source)

In 2012, Facebook actively censored an image shared by a social media networker portraying a homosexual couple kissing. Whilst the original reason for removing the content from the site was based upon an infringement of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, Facebook later addressed the issue, apologising for its mistake.

Facebook Deleted This Image Before Issuing an Apology

Facebook Deleted This Image Before Issuing an Apology

(Image Source)

This is not the first case where Facebook’s confusing censorship guidelines have caused controversy in the social networking blogosphere. Ryan Tate reports that “technically, Facebook allows breastfeeding pictures. But such pictures still seem to get regularly banned on the social network” (Tate, 2015).

More recently in 2014, German photographer Peter Kaden went far enough as to blur out the genitalia on Louvre sculptures after the images he shared on the social networking site were removed due to their exposure of nudity. Keep in mind that whilst Facebook’s content is strictly monitored, it is okay to share images of blood, gore and cracked skulls, so “long as no insides are showing” (oDesk Abuse Standards Violation).

Peter Kaden's Censored Image

Peter Kaden’s Censored Image

(Image Source)

So what does this suggest about Facebook’s methods of censorship? The process by which Facebook declares an article, post or image to be offensive or unacceptable has proven to be a very confusing and somewhat contemptuous one. The extent to which Facebook sanitises its content is amazing, and there is no doubt that this form of control changes the way we perceive the online global media forum as a result.

Further Reading:
Much like Facebook, Instagram has recently been under fire for censoring and consequently removing images depicting menstruation. To follow the story of Rupi Kaur’s censorship struggle with the popular networking platform, I suggest you take a look at this.



7 thoughts on “Facebook: Flagging Content Everywhere

  1. Very interesting blog post! Many people fail to understand the strict terms and conditions of Facebook. The type of content that sometimes comes up on my newsfeed is disturbing! Its a very big double standard, the content that is removed and the content that is able to stay there. However, as you said it is largely the power of the people who are able to choose the fate of a post with that little “report” button. With the extraordinary amount of Facebook users, you are also right in saying they do an incredible job with their levels of control.

    • I couldn’t agree more Ashleigh, I hate when I am scrolling through and something awful pops up! When I signed up for Facebook quite some time ago I was no where near as aware as I am now of just how strict the community guidelines are, and I have become far more savvy when I make a post on my social networking accounts. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Great list! I was intrigued from start to finish.
    I loved how you had me from the get go.
    It is quite scary how oblivious we are when we are using Facebook. It is such a controlling force within our lives that we often forget the underlying rules!
    I hate that pictures of animals being tortured are acceptable, yet other things that are hardly harmful are removed. Despite that Facebook is quite quick to remove harmful images when they are reported.
    I believe that Facebook is an excellent platform for users to express themselves full heartedly and to have it removed, in the cases of the homosexual couple, is just besides the point of Facebook!

    • Thanks for your feedback Lauren! I definitely share your opinion, and think that people often unknowingly share content that might be offensive to others. I cannot stand the fact that animal cruelty is displayed with such carelessness yet Facebook removed a gay couple kissing. Personally I feel that far more people would be upset over the animals being hurt! Facebook certainly is a great platform for freedom of expression though, like you said.

  3. That’s really interesting! I had heard about this happening on Facebook before, but I was left wondering that maybe these images could have been flagged by other users and removed by a bot working on Facebook’s end? Not sure exactly how the technology works, but it might be possible. Either way, censoring on the Internet is always quite controversial.

  4. Pingback: Facebook’s Walled Garden: Controlling, Surveilling and Censoring All | A Blog in the Life of Melissa

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s