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Facebook Says It Will Do More To Prevent Hate And Harassment Online

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Facebook will expand its policies on harassment to remove more harmful content, the company said Wednesday in its latest change following testimony in Congress from a whistleblower who blamed the social media giant for not doing enough.

Under the new and more detailed harassment policy, Facebook says it will ban content that degrades or sexualizes public figures, including celebrities, elected officials and others in public view. Existing policies already prohibit similar content about individuals.

Another change will add more protections against harassment for government dissidents, journalists and human rights activists around the world. In many nations, social media harassment has been used in an effort to silence journalists and activists.

Lastly, the Menlo Park, California-based company announced that it will ban all coordinated harassment, in which a group of people work together to intimidate another user. That change will apply to all users.

Growing criticism

“We don’t allow bullying and harassment on our platform, but when it happens, we act,” wrote Antigone Davis, Facebook’s head of global security, in a blog post.

The changes come amid growing criticism of the company’s handling of hate speech, misinformation and negative content. Concerns about bullying range from teens bullying each other on Instagram to coordinated abuse of journalists and dissidents by groups linked to authoritarian governments.

Last week, former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen told Congress that the company has done little to address its responsibility for spreading harmful content and too often chooses profit over the best interests of its users.

Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen spoke publicly about Facebook’s failure to prevent what it knew to be harmful content from appearing on the site. (Alex Brandon / The Associated Press)

Days later, the company announced that it would introduce new features designed to protect children, including one that would encourage them to take a break from the platform.

Celebrities, even those who profit handsomely from Facebook and Instagram, have had no qualms about criticizing the company.

In an interview earlier this year with The Associated Press, singer-actress Selena Gomez said she began pressuring tech companies like Facebook to clean up their sites in 2017 after a 12-year-old boy commented on one of the Gomez’s Instagram posts: “Go kill yourself..”

“That was my turning point,” he said. “He couldn’t bear what he was seeing.”

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