You probably don't think much about the community standards on the sites you use, such as Facebook. But when things go sour -- you get harassed online, you post something controversial or you otherwise get the Internet mad at you -- those stated rules of community courtesy become some of your greatest tools.
So it makes sense, then, that you should actually be able to understand them, right?
Facebook on Monday took new steps to redesign its Community Standards page to make it easier to read at a glance and better explain how it handles tricky subjects such as nudity, the censorship of terrorist groups and other behavior that it would rather not see on its network. (To be clear: these are the baseline rules for all Facebook users. In other words, these are Facebook's rules for how you should act, rather than its legal obligations about how it will act.)
The makeover comes shortly after the company unveiled the design of its data use policy and privacy menus to be more friendly to its growing (and, often, aging) userbase.
This is almost entirely a cosmetic change, the company said. "We're not changing anything about the policies," said Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy management. "We're just trying to explain what we do more clearly."
Previously, Facebook's Community Standards page was serviceable -- a single page that you could scroll through to find the policy that you wanted to peruse. It wasn't hard to navigate, but it wasn't easy either.
Now, the baseline rules of conduct on Facebook are grouped into four categories -- such as "Keeping you safe" -- that aim to make it easier to find a policy on a particular subject and offer a little more about Facebook's policies.
The new design also includes descriptions of existing policy that Facebook hasn't put in its community standards before, but do explain how the company currently operates, Bickert said.
For example, there's a section now in the community standards that explains how the company deals with "Dangerous Organizations," which makes it clear that Facebook doesn't allow "terrorist activity" or "organized criminal activity" to have a place on its site. The company had broadly covered that prohibition in its previous standards, but decided it was worth explaining a little more deeply in the new format. Facebook has also broken out a section detailing "Attacks on Public Figures."
You can click through the policies by way of a menu on the right-hand side of the screen within each category, and Facebook has tried to group related policies together, as you can see below:
Bickert said that the company wanted to keep the language as simple as possible since the community standards are universal across the company's approximately 1.3 billion users -- covering Facebookers of all ages, on all platforms and in all of the countries where the network reaches. The new design rolled out, globally, on Monday.
There is some squishiness to the rules at Facebook -- though this would be true of any global social media company. A group fighting for free speech in Europe might be considered dangerous to a government such as China. Or, while there are many women advocacy groups in the United States, such organizations may not be welcomed in a country such as Saudi Arabia. On this front, Facebook simply states that it complies with local laws.
Facebook also released its latest global government requests report, which outlines how many government requests for information the company has fielded globally in the second half of 2014, and how many pieces of content it's had to take down in accordance with local laws around the world. The company reported that it's seen an overall increase in government requests for restrictions, up 11 percent over the past six months.
Government requests for account information, the company said, stayed flat overall, though spikes in some countries such as Turkey were offset by declines in other countries such as Pakistan.