Facebook head of global policy management Monika Bickert held a media roundtable at the social media’s Sydney headquarters on Tuesday to discuss the platform’s regulation.
Bickert spoke mainly about the measures Facebook was taking to make the platform safer, more inclusive and generally better managed, as announced in a report from Facebook last week.
The social media giant’s commitment to stamping out unsavoury content, bullying and harassment has been enacted by removing millions of fake accounts and taking action on 15.4 million pieces of violent and graphic content.
According to Facebook, the move was facilitated by the platform’s “continued improvements in our technology that allows us to automatically apply the same action on extremely similar or identical content.”
However, despite Facebook employing 15,000 reviewers worldwide who manually sieve through reported content, Bickert said defining the explicitness of certain content remains incredibly complex.
In particular, Bickert gave the example of images of women’s breasts.
She said: “We know that for topless images of women; there are safety risks.
“We’ve seen teenagers like Amanda Todd, a young woman from Canada, take her own life after people took a topless image of her and shared it around the internet.
“We know there are safety risks, we also know there are situations where women want to protest topless for a political purpose or share breastfeeding photos or for cancer awareness; how do we allow those but not create safety risks?” Bickert said.
She continued: “A few years ago we had less nuanced policies where we said we’re just going to take a hard line because we can’t do this well.
“Over time we have studied how protest photos look and there’s still a risk here, because people will sometimes share an image of a woman for instance that says something horrible on her chest like ‘slut’ and she’s being shamed and it’s a topless photo and we want to make sure were removing that.
“However, that doesn’t necessarily look that different to a woman who is protesting the way women are being treated and she’s standing out publicly with the same thing written on her chest.”
For Bickert, the challenge has been a huge learning curve, and policies specifically related to showing female breasts have been changed accordingly.
“We’ve got to the point now where we feel like we’re comfortable enough making that distinction so our policies now say ‘women engaged in political protest, cancer awareness and so-fourth; we allow those photos’.
“People will say to us it looks easy why don’t you just allow all content, we ask ourselves, could we write a rule that could be applied by 15,000 every day consistently, the answer is no it’s going to take some time,” Bickert added.