Facebook introduces new policies to protect public figures from targeted harassment

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Facebook is introducing new policies to safeguard users from online bullying and harassment. In a post attributed to Head of Safety Antigone Davis, the company said it will take down mass coordinated harassment campaigns targeted at individuals at heightened risk of offline harm. It will do so even if the content people post wouldn’t normally violate its safety guidelines. Additionally, Facebook says it will remove objectionable content in whatever form it takes, be that direct messages, comments or posts. As part of the same policy, the company will remove state-linked networks that work together to silence and harass people.

Had the above policy been in place in the past, one situation where Facebook may have enforced it was when Taylor Swift’s Instagram account was bombarded with snake emoji following a dramatic breakup with electronic producer Calvin Harris. Speaking of celebrities, the company has also put in place new protections to safeguard public figures from sexual harassment and appearance shaming. To that end, it plans to remove profiles, pages and groups dedicated to sexualizing those individuals. It will also target “severe sexualizing content,” including photoshopped images and drawings.

“We made these changes because attacks like these can weaponize a public figure’s appearance, which is unnecessary and often not related to the work these public figures represent,” the company said. Facebook will also provide additional protections for individuals who become famous involuntarily. Those may include individuals like journalists and human rights activists. 

Facebook has repeatedly faced pressure to do more to prevent bullying and harassment across all of its apps, but particularly on Instagram. In the aftermath of the Euro 2020 final, which saw three Black players on the English national team face a flood of harassment after England lost to Italy, Instagram Head Adam Mosseri promised the company would introduce new features to protect users. “Racism and hate speech have no place on Instagram,” he said at the time. “It is not only honestly fucked up to see people treated that way, but it breaks how Instagram works.”

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