Facebook and Twitter joined Google and Reddit in updating their community standards to ban certain images and clarify what is acceptable and what's not.
Facebook and Twitter joined Google and Reddit in updating their community standards to ban certain images and clarify what is acceptable and what's not.

Just a few days after Twitter announced it would ban revenge porn as part of its policy updates, Facebook revealed it had updated its community standards to further clarify what is publishable and what isn't.

Social media companies walk a thin line between what Facebook Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert and Deputy General Counsel Chris Sonderby called users “freely and openly” expressing themselves and what is unacceptable to share. But a rising tide of revenge porn, cyberbullying, hate speech and other questionable actions have put pressure on the social media giants, which have more recently drawn the ire of users and activists for allowing offensive content to be posted and prompted the companies to strengthen their stand against inappropriate and harmful behavior in their communities while at the same time vowing to protect their customers' private information from government intrusion.

Both Google and Reddit last month traced out tough guidelines regarding the posting of explicit photos and images. Google said it would ban all nude images on the public areas of its Blogger service while Reddit said it would take down images posted without the consent of the subject. Last week Twitter extended its Twitter Rules and banned “intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject's consent.”

Facebook's Bickert and Sonderby said the updated community rules offer "more guidance on policies related to self-injury, dangerous organizations, bullying and harassment, criminal activity, sexual violence and exploitation, nudity, hate speech, and violence and graphic content."

The company noted that “it's a challenge to maintain one set of standards that meets the needs of a diverse global community,” saying that it tried to tailor its rules in some geographic areas to accommodate local laws and standards. The Facebook duo explained that the government requests for data and content restrictions has been on the rise. “The amount of content restricted for violating local law increased by 11% over the previous half, to 9,707 pieces of content restricted, up from 8,774,” they said. At the same time, “the number of government requests for account data remained relatively flat, with a slight increase to 35,051 from 34,946,” the two wrote.

The modifications to policies and community rules raised questions as to how the companies expect to enforce them. Social media firms rely on their communities to report violations and governments clearly step in when they believe content has violated laws.

In addition, the companies are shoring up internal resources. Twitter has tripled its staff dedicated to handling reports of violations, which the company had said could result in account suspension or termination.