Facebook Moves Against Bullying Campaigns, Adds Celebrity Protection

After whistleblower's testimony, company takes certain internal chat groups private
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 13, 2021 7:35 PM CDT
Facebook Moves Against Bullying Campaigns, Adds Celebrity Protection
Scrutiny of Facebook has increased since former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen testified in Washington last week.   (Matt McClain/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

Mentioning that Wednesday was National Bullying Prevention and Awareness Day, Facebook announced a number of steps to protect people from harassment on its site. Antigone Davis, Facebook's global head of safety, posted the new policies, Engadget reports, saying they're intended to better protect users—"particularly those who may be vulnerable to online abuse." The changes cover:

  • Coordinated harassment campaigns. Even if the direct messages, comments, or posts targeting individuals wouldn't otherwise violate standards, they'll be taken down if they come from mass campaigns. That'll apply to networks tied to governments that coordinate to silence people, as well.
  • Celebrities. Profiles, pages, and groups set up to sexualize celebrities will be removed. "Severe sexualizing content," including photoshopped images and drawings, also will be taken down. "Attacks like these can weaponize a public figure's appearance, which is unnecessary and often not related to the work these public figures represent," Facebook said.
  • Public figures. The protections now are broadened to anyone who did not choose to be a public figure, such as journalists and human rights advocates, per CNET. Involuntary public figures will be able to ask that comments about them be taken down, and "degrading or sexualized attacks" will be removed. Many of the protections already apply to private individuals.

Also on Wednesday, COO Sheryl Sandberg promised to tighten enforcement of its rules governing hate speech and disinformation. Sandberg made the announcement at the International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance in Sweden. YouTube made a similar pledge.

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Facebook has faced increased scrutiny and criticism since a company whistleblower, Frances Haugen, testified on Capitol Hill last week, per the Hill, and released internal Facebook documents. The company also moved to stop leaks on Tuesday, per the New York Times. Certain internal online discussion groups for employees will now be private, workers were told. The leaks "are often taken out of context," the announcement said. (More Facebook stories.)

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