A German newspaper this week obtained and published what it claims are excerpts from Facebook’s internal content moderation policy. While Facebook spells out some of the reasons it censors content in its public-facing guidelines, the rules that were allegedly leaked to the paper go into much greater detail — and they’re just as confusing as you might think.
In the document, the social media giant defines which users are protected under their hate speech policy by breaking them out into “protected categories.” Some of these “categories” include race, sexual orientation, age, disability and religious affiliation. Confusingly, some of these groups are further divided into sub-categories; for instance, young people and senior citizens receive extra protection in the “age” group.
In another mystifying example, the document said that calling Muslim users a swear word constituted hate speech, while calling migrants a swear word did not because migrant users are only considered a “quasi-protected” category. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, rest assured that some Facebook employees are just as confused as you are.
“The rules are almost impossible to understand,” one Facebook employee said. “I’ve said to my team leader: this is crazy! The picture is full of blood and brutality, no one should have to see that. But he said: that’s just your opinion. You have to try and think about what Facebook wants. We’re expected to think like machines.”
Facebook has not confirmed or denied if the document belongs to it, but one way or the other, these guidelines are unbelievably complicated and unfair.