Facebook explains policy on hate speech and other harmful content

safetyFacebook has shared an explanation of how it defines hate speech and harmful content, as well as its plans to address the issues of cruel and insensitive content on the site, following challenges from Women, Action and The Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and a number of activists and organizations calling on the social network to take action against groups, pages and images that condone or encourage rape or domestic violence.

In a note on the Facebook Safety page, Facebook explained that it prohibits content that is “directly harmful,” but it allows content that may be “offensive or controversial.” The company defines harmful content as “anything organizing real world violence, theft, or property destruction, or that directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual (e.g. bullying).” Facebook also prohibits “hate speech,” which it defines as “direct and serious attacks on any protected category of people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or disease.”

Facebook says it tries to remove this type of content as soon as possible, but other offensive and distasteful content might not qualify for removal. Still, the company acknowledged:

“In recent days, it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want.  In other cases, content that should be removed has not been or has been evaluated using outdated criteria.”

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Facebook changes cover photo policy: 20% text rule in effect but content less regulated

photosFacebook has updated its policy for pages’ cover photos, eliminating rules against calls to action, contact info or references to price or purchase information, while maintaining the 20 percent limit for text overlay.

The new guidelines give page owners more flexibility in the type of content they include in their covers. Many were unaware of these rules or simply ignored them knowing Facebook was unlikely to take action against them for their violations. The latest guidelines for pages regarding cover photos is:

All covers are public. This means that anyone who visits your Page will be able to see your cover. Covers can’t be deceptive, misleading, or infringe on anyone else’s copyright. You may not encourage people to upload your cover to their personal timelines. Covers may not include images with more than 20% text.

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Facebook explains how 20% text overlay policy for ads is enforced

ads logoSince Facebook changed its policy to limit text overlay in News Feed ads to no more than 20 percent of an image’s area, many advertisers have been scratching their heads over why some seemingly compliant ads are being rejected and why other text-heavy ads make it through.

We spoke to a member of Facebook’s policy team to get a better understanding of how this new rule is enforced and what the company is doing to improve consistency and clarity for advertisers, such as building a public-facing version of the tool it uses internally to review images.

The first thing to recognize is that Facebook uses a combination of manual and automated review to verify ads. All ads will go through the automated system, which includes a grid-based text overlay detection tool. Then only a percentage of ads will be reviewed by humans. This would explain why enforcement of the 20 percent rule is sometimes inconsistent.
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Facebook roundup: photo tags, privacy, Crunchies, Cleantech and more

Facebook re-enables photo tag suggestions – Facebook announced Thursday that it is re-enabling the photo tag suggestion feature in the U.S., which uses facial recognition to help users identify  friends in their photos. The controversial feature launched in late 2010, and was removed temporarily last year while Facebook made technical improvements and considered privacy matters. The feature uses algorithms to group photo uploads by those with similar faces, then it suggests friends those faces may belong to by matching them with previously tagged photos of friends. Users can adjust or approve those tags. The feature is on for users by default.

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privacyFacebook launches Ask Our CPO feature -  Facebook this week launched an Ask Our CPO feature, which allows users to submit questions, concerns and feedback about privacy issues to the company’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, who will respond to some questions each month. The feature works as an app on the Facebook Privacy page and is part of Facebook’s attempts to give users more opportunities to raise important matters and get responses from the company, especially after the social network eliminated the option for user votes on policy changes late last year.
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Facebook formalizes reciprocity policy and clearly prohibits replicating core features

platformFacebook today amended its platform policy to formalize its stance toward which types of apps can use its data and when. The company clarified two key points: developers may not use its platform if they replicate core functionality of Facebook or if they offer social experiences but do not enable people to share their activity back with people on Facebook.

The update comes in response to a number of situations in the past week where Facebook restricted developers’ access to certain data. Facebook previously had policies against “competing social networks” exporting its data, but the definition of social network could be up for debate, for instance in the case of Voxer, a voice messaging app that claims not to be a social network but was blocked from using Facebook’s friend finder feature last week.

At the time, Facebook spokespeople told the press that the company didn’t want developers duplicating their functionality and taking data out of Facebook but not sharing any back. We critiqued the social network for regulating its platform this way without making this position explicit in its policies. Now Facebook has put this in writing in section I.10:

Reciprocity and Replicating core functionality: (a) Reciprocity: Facebook Platform enables developers to build personalized, social experiences via the Graph API and related APIs. If you use any Facebook APIs to build personalized or social experiences, you must also enable people to easily share their experiences back with people on Facebook. (b) Replicating core functionality: You may not use Facebook Platform to promote, or to export user data to, a product or service that replicates a core Facebook product or service without our permission.

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Facebook platform update: ad image policy, age requirements, developer alerts

platformFacebook reminded developers about its latest ad policy change and introduced new features related to gating age-sensitive content in apps and controlling alerts from the social network, according to the company’s developer blog.

Ad Image Policy - Last week Facebook implemented a new ad policy that limits text overlay to 20 percent of an image’s area for all ads in News Feed. This includes mobile app install ads, which developers use to drive downloads. Previously, Facebook restricted the use of ”calls to action” and “price and purchase information” in photos because it wanted to prevent advertisers from sharing images that looked like traditional banner ads. The policy was vague and not always followed or enforced. We’ve heard Facebook is developing a grid-based text overlay detection tool to identify non-compliant images.

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Facebook cuts off ‘find friends’ access for Voxer; policy vague on how other messaging apps will be treated

voxer-stackedFacebook is restricting access to friend data for Voxer, the mobile messenger and walkie-talkie app it now identifies as a competitor, a Facebook spokesperson confirms.

Voxer told AllThingsD today that it was given 48-hour notice that it would lose access to the feature that allows users to connect with Facebook and find friends to message with Voxer. Many apps use this feature to grow their user base and make it easy for users to find value in their services, however, Facebook has a policy against competing social networks using its data this way.

Voxer says it does not consider itself a social network, and Facebook likely didn’t view them as a competing service until recently. Facebook added voice messaging to its platform earlier this month.

A Facebook spokesperson, who could not offer an official statement and asked not to be quoted directly, told us that the company’s stance is that apps that duplicate a core functionality of Facebook should not be able to take data out of Facebook without sharing anything back. That justification is not laid out explicitly in the social network’s platform policy, which simply reads:

“Competing social networks: (a) You may not use Facebook Platform to export user data into a competing social network without our permission; (b) Apps on Facebook may not integrate, link to, promote, distribute, or redirect to any app on any other competing social network.”
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Instagram returns to original advertising terms of service in deft response to PR flak

Instagram revealed an update to its terms of service Thursday night after facing criticism for the policy it proposed earlier this week. The company decided to reinstate its original section on advertising and made a few other tweaks to clarify that it does not plan to sell user photos.

Instagram’s original language regarding ads is actually less specific and legally allows the same type of advertising that Instagram implied it might create under its new terms, but returning to its previous ad terms gives the company the appearance of concession and looks like a bigger win for users than if Instagram had simply rewritten that section.

On Monday, Instagram laid out a new privacy policy and terms of service to better reflect its status as an affiliate of Facebook and pave the way for some form of social advertising in the future. Many users were surprised and confused about what Instagram proposed regarding advertising, which said,

“…you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

Despite the fact that the description matches exactly what Facebook has done for years with Sponsored Stories and other social ads, some media outlets wrongly interpreted this clause as giving Instagram the right to sell photos to advertisers for use in print, web or TV ads. The photo sharing company was vilified as a result, and finally decided to go back to its original language about advertising.

“Some of the Service is supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Service or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you.”

Ultimately, Instagram could offer the same type of advertising under these terms as the other proposed terms, and in fact, this language allows advertising to put “on” a user’s photos. The company also left in a new clause, which similarly appears in Facebook’s terms:
“You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.”

In a blog post explaining Instagram’s plans, CEO Kevin Systrom apologized for the confusion and iterated, “Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos – you do.” Systrom said the company will continue to consider advertising opportunities, but won’t amend its terms of service until it has a more specific idea of what these ads will involve:

Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.

Instagram’s latest terms of service go into effect Jan. 19. Users can compare the new and old versions on the company’s site.

Facebook updates cover photo and News Feed ad policy, limits text to 20% of image

Facebook is changing its policy regarding text overlay on photos in pages’ cover photos and News Feed ads to limit text to no more than 20 percent of an image’s area.

Previously, Facebook restricted the use of ”calls to action” and “price and purchase information” in photos because it wanted to prevent advertisers from sharing images that looked like traditional banner ads. The policy was vague and not always followed or enforced. The new policy set to go into effect Jan. 15 is much clearer, and Facebook has told partners that it is preparing tools to help advertisers be compliant.

Ad Guidelines Section III.D now says:

“Ads and sponsored stories in News Feed may not include images with more than 20% text.”

News Feed ads may now use calls to action or purchase information in photos as long as the text makes up less than 20 percent of the image. Cover photos still have restrictions on the type of text that can be used.

Pages Terms Section III.B reads:

Covers may not include:

i.    images with more than 20% text;
ii.    price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it on socialmusic.com”;
iii.    contact information such as a website address, email, mailing address, or information that should go in your Page’s “About” section;
iv.    references to Facebook features or actions, such as “Like” or “Share” or an arrow pointing from the cover photo to any of these features; or
v.    calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.”
Starting Jan. 15, all images from page post ads that are eligible for News Feed will be reviewed for text overlay. The company is developing a grid-based text overlay detection tool to identify non-compliant images. A version of this tool will be available within Power Editor to help advertisers know in advance whether their images will be approved. Advertisers should keep in mind that text within logos will also count toward the 20 percent limit.
Pages are still allowed to post images with more than 20 percent text, as long as they don’t plan to pay to promote them in News Feed. These posts can be turned into page post ads that appear in the sidebar of Facebook, but they cannot be promoted in the feed unless the amount of text overlay is reduced. Even if page owners do not plan to turn their text-heavy image into an ad, they should consider how fans will respond to the post and take note of any negative feedback the image receives.

Instagram says it doesn’t intend to ‘sell’ user photos, plans to clarify terms of use

Instagram today responded to concerns raised by users and the press after it proposed updates to its terms of use and privacy policy on Monday. In a blog post from CEO Kevin Systrom, the company clarified it does not intend to sell users’ photos and it plans to update its new terms of service accordingly.

It was widely misreported that Instagram, now under ownership of Facebook, would “sell” users’ photos to advertisers. These stories went viral and users threatened to quit the service. The language in question was:

“Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

CNET went as far as to suggest, “That means that a hotel in Hawaii, for instance, could write a check to Facebook to license photos taken at its resort and use them on its Web site, in TV ads, in glossy brochures, and so on — without paying any money to the Instagram user who took the photo.”

That is false. Systrom clarified in his post today:

“Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos.”

As we wrote about on Monday, what Instagram has in mind is more like Facebook Sponsored Stories. For example, an advertiser might pay to promote stories about users following their brand or liking one of their photos. The legal disclaimer is necessary because Facebook was recently hit with a class action suit where users claimed they deserved compensation for having their name and photos included in ads this way. Facebook agreed to a $20-million settlement, which includes a cash payment of up to $10 to Facebook users who objected to this use of their information. It continues to use people’s names and images along with Sponsored Stories.

We suggested there might also be a way in the future for advertisers to pay Instagram to highlight user-generated photos to a user’s friends. Systrom explained today:

“We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question.”

The company will update its terms of service — which are set to go into effect on Jan. 16 — to address these points and make it clear that users’ privacy settings persist. Instagram only shares photos with the people users have approved to follow them. Its new terms of use and privacy policy do not change this.

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