Tech & The Web

Facebook Guidelines to Reveal What You Specifically Can’t Do


A revised set of Facebook Community Standards reveals specific things the social media giant doesn’t want you doing on its service.

You can’t just say or do anything on Facebook. A massive update to the Facebook Community Standards spells out more clearly than ever what’s off limits.

Apparently, it’s no longer enough to ban things like “criminal activity.” Now we have to spell out specific criminal behaviors the service doesn’t want depicted or promoted. The new, more thorough guidelines, reportedly run 27 pages.

The rule prohibiting “hate speech,” for example, now divides it into tiers.

Tier 1 hate speech, according to Facebook, includes violent speech or support for death, disease or harm; dehumanizing speech that compares a person or group to “filth, bacteria, disease, or feces,” animals culturally perceived “as intellectually or physically inferior,” or subhumanity. It also includes mocking the concept, events or victims of hate crimes, even if the victim isn’t specifically depicted or other “designated” dehumanizing comparisons.

Tier 2, then, refers to statements of inferiority implying a person’s or a group’s physical, mental, or moral deficiency:

  • Physical (including but not limited to “deformed,” “undeveloped,” “hideous,” “ugly”)
  • Mental (including but not limited to “retarded,” “cretin,” “low IQ,” “stupid,” “idiot”)
  • Moral (including but not limited to “slutty,” “fraud,” “cheap,” “free riders”)

Tier 2 also covers “expressions of contempt,” which include statements like, “I hate,” “I don’t like,” and “X are the worst.” Expressions of disgust that use terms like “Gross, Vile, Disgusting” are also included, along with cursing at a person or group of people who share protected characteristics.

Tier 3 attacks call “to exclude or segregate” people or groups based on the above.

Something tells me comment threads on Facebook are bound to get a lot shorter. (That’s assuming, of course, anyone would actually read this now-mammoth document to determine what they’re allowed and not allowed to say.)

Too many people continue to operate under the illusion that because they live in America, they can say or do anything they like.  Some will read these guidelines while seething about restrictions on their “First Amendment rights.”

The problem is that Freedom of Speech is a concept that allows you to speak or protest legally in public places. Facebook and other social media platforms like it are not public places: they’re privately-owned spaces that you’re allowed to congregate in online. But you’re allowed to join and maintain a membership only after you check a little box that says you agree to their terms.

If you don’t agree, you don’t get in. But as soon as you do agree, you’re bound to that agreement.

Break their rules and you could find yourself kicked to the curb.

If we’re lucky, there are plenty of people who will be.

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.