Leaked documents have revealed exactly what is and is not allowed on Facebook photographs. The leak has also shown that Facebook uses cheap outsourced labor to police its rules.
There have been two separate leaks to the Gawker site. The first came from an employee of Odesk, the company engaged by Facebook to hire foreign workers to vet content to make sure it doesn’t violate the company’s “community standards.” Amine Derkaoui of Morocco appears to have leaked the document in frustration at being paid the equivalent of $1 an hour, which doesn’t appear to have left him looking at Facebook’s impending IPO very favorably.
Both leaks involved the guideline documents provided to staff working on the vetting. The second leak, published today, is the latest edition of the guidelines, including several recent changes. These include allowing previously banned images of bodily fluids, as long as no human being is “captured in the process.” (Semen remains banned completely.)
There’s also a change to one of the less predictable guidelines. Under the previous rules, “Photoshopped” images (other editing software is available) were banned completely. Now the ban only applies if the editing puts the subject in a negative light.
As for the rules that remain in place, some of the more notable items banned include any obvious sexual activity, however depicted. Foreplay is acceptable, which seems a very loose definition: thankfully Bill Clinton never uploaded a cameraphone recording of what he refused to define as sexual relations.
There’s a ban on nudity, including butt cracks plus “nipple bulges”, “camel toes” and “moose knuckles” (the latter being a dual-point visual effect created when men where particularly tight pants.) Sex toys can only be include for illustrative purposes rather than depicted in use. Confusingly, you are only allowed to describe sexual activity or arousal when it is “an attempt at humor or insult.”
Living up to the stereotype of America being queasy about sex but relaxed on gore, the rules allow deep flesh wounds, excessive blood and even crushed limbs and skulls. However, anything inside the body is banned, which might be worth remembering next time you get bored with a friend posting ultrasound pics of their baby-to-be. There’s also a ban on mutilation, dismemberment or decapitation, though it’s OK to show food processing or animals hunting one another “in nature.”
Illegal drugs (outside of scientific or medical study) are another no-no, though there’s an exception for marijuana which is fine to show unless the context involves buying, selling or growing it.
There are also several items which get immediate escalation, meaning the vetter must report it to a superior right away rather than investigating further. These are:
- suspected child porn;
- photos of bestiality, pedophilia or necrophilia (in any context);
- cartoons or digitally created images that promote bestiality, pedophilia or necrophilia;
- credible comments encouraging, organizing or promoting criminal acts;
- photos of poaching of endangered animals;
- Holocaust denial in a “hate speech context”
- self-harm imagery;
- content promoting self-harm, including eating disorders; and
- any threat of violence against a head of state or law enforcement officer, even if not credible.
The document also calls for immediate escalation for images of the Turkish flag being burned, attacks (visual or written) on the first President of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and, amazingly, maps depicting Kurdistan. It’s not clear if these restrictions are specific to Turkish users, or if they affect everyone.