The Washington Post

Facebook sets up review policy for pages, groups

Facebook announced its first earnings as a public company on July 26, 2012 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Facebook announced Friday that, starting Monday, it will begin reviewing all pages and groups to determine whether their content is too controversial or offensive to carry advertisements.

The social network said that the process allows for free expression but also ensures that businesses can be confident that their brands won’t be associated with graphic, violent or sexual content.

The announcement comes weeks after women’s rights activists and others highlighted several Facebook pages that glorified and encouraged violence against women. Not only that, they noted, in many cases the pages were carrying ads — meaning that some people were making money off of the graphic content.

In response, several advertisers including the British arms of Nissan and Nationwide said they would no longer advertise on Facebook unless the company could guarantee that ads for their companies wouldn’t appear alongside graphic or violent content.

“All of this will improve detection of what qualifies as questionable content, which means we’ll do a better job making sure advertising messages appear next to brand-appropriate Pages and Groups,” the company said in a statement posted to its media site. “While these changes won’t have a meaningful impact on Facebook’s business, they will result in benefits to people and marketers.”

Soraya Chemaly, a Washington-based activist and one of the leaders of last month’s protest, said that while Facebook’s decision makes “logical business sense,” she wants the company to offer more training to those who review its pages for controversial or offensive content. Chemaly said that she and representatives from women’s groups have been working with Facebook to set up policies on how best to train people looking at this content.

“We need clear steps in place,” Chemaly said. “In the last month, we’ve set up an exceptional system [with Facebook], where we’ve sent content to them and a human being that understands what we’re talking about reviews it.”

Ideally, she said, she’d like to see new, highly trained employees review material under the new policy rather than those already making judgement calls about what’s allowed under current guidelines prohibiting content that promotes violence, contains threats or includes hate speech.

“I think the core issues remain exactly the same,” Chemaly said. “Any advertiser placing an ad on something like Facebook is going to face the kind of content we’re talking about. It comes to down to who’s making the decision.”

A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed to The Washington Post that its reviewers will be undergoing additional training to help them manually identify content that runs afoul of the new policy. That process will then help the company work on setting principles for an automated, and more scalable, review process.

(Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

Related stories:

Activist discusses campaign to pressure Facebook on pages that denigrate women

Kickstarter: ‘We were wrong’ about controversial seduction guide campaign

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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