Social Media

Facebook issues content recommendation guidelines

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on September 01, 2020 Published on September 01, 2020

The new norms will apply to content on Facebook and Instagram

Facebook on Monday made public its content recommendation policies for Facebook and its photo-sharing app Instagram.

Facebook recommends content including Pages, Groups, Events, etc based on user interests and preferences.

For this personalised content recommendation, the social media giant has certain ‘recommendation guidelines’ which are now public and available on Facebook and Instagram’s Help Centre.

“We’re making these guidelines public in the Help Center to help people better understand the kinds of content we recommend, and provide context on why some types of content aren’t included in recommendations, and therefore may not be distributed as widely,” Guy Rosen, VP Integrity at Facebook, wrote in a blog post.

Rosen added that these guidelines were framed after consulting 50 “leading experts specialising in recommender systems, expression, safety and digital rights.”

Restricted content

Within the documentation, the social media major outlines five broad categories that it considers ineligible for recommendations.

“Those guidelines fit into a strategy we have used to manage problematic content on Facebook since 2016, called “remove, reduce, and inform.” This strategy involves removing content that violates our community standards, reducing the spread of problematic content that does not violate our standards, and informing people with additional information so they can choose what to click, read or share,” read the guidelines.

These categories include content that hinders Facebook’s ability to “foster a safe community.” As per the guidelines, the platform will not recommend content concerning self-harm, suicide, or eating disorders, sexually explicit or suggestive content and content that may depict violence, such as people fighting. It will also restrict content that promotes the use of certain regulated products, such as tobacco or vaping products, adult products and services, or pharmaceutical drugs.

Category restrictions

Facebook and Instagram will also restrict low-quality health and finance-related content such as content promoting “miracle cures” or depicting cosmetic procedures.

Other categories include content broadly disliked by users such as clickbait or engagement bait.

Lastly, the guidelines outline the ‘misleading content’ that Facebook refuses to recommend. This includes vaccine-related misinformation and other types of misinformation. It has been under the scanner especially during the Covid-19 pandemic due to the surge in misinformation on the platform.

It will also “try” not to recommend content from accounts and organisations that have previously violated its community standards, are associated with movements tied to violence, have shared vaccine-related misinformation, engaged in purchasing “Likes,” have been banned from running ads or have posted false information.

Past criticism

These guidelines seem like an attempt to increase transparency since the platform has faced major criticism for its regulatory policies in the past.

Most recently, Facebook took the heat when it failed to remove a militia group’s page calling for armed civilians to enter Kenosha, Wisconsin, amid violent protests in light of the police shooting a black man, Jacob Blake.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called the delay in removing the page an “operational mistake.” The company took down the page after an armed civilian was accused of killing two people and wounded one person amid protests. The Guardian reported that certain content including fundraising messages for such groups was still being shared on Facebook and Instagram.

In India, Facebook’s regulatory policies were criticised following a Wall Street Journal report that alleged that the platform did not pull down content by a BJP leader despite it being flagged as hate speech. The Opposition alleged a ‘BJP-Facebook nexus.’ Ajit Mohan, Vice-President and Managing Director, Facebook India, in a statement denied the allegations stating that the company has clear and very detailed policies against hate speech.

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Published on September 01, 2020
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