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What you can (and can't) post on Facebook

Jessie WingardMarch 16, 2015

Social networking website Facebook announced new guidelines for what can (and can't) be posted on its site. Rules for nudity, bullying and criminal behavior have also been clarified for its more than 1 billion users.

Symbolbild Facebook Ausfall 27.01.2015
Image: Reuters/D. Ruvic

Facebook released a new set of guidelines on Monday to help clarify for its users what is acceptable to share on the site - and what's not. The site's new "community standards" are meant to give Facebook’s more than 1 billion monthly users a more detailed rulebook for content that is controversial, offensive or violent.

Facebook's head of Global Policy Management, Monika Bickert and Deputy General Counsel, Chris Sonderby, announced the changes in an open letter on the site, adding that the company’s "policies and standards themselves are not changing."

So, if you’re a Facebook user, what do you need to know?

What's in a name?

Late last year Facebook came under fire for its policy requiring that individuals use their real names when using the social media platform. Users with pseudonyms, stage names, or any other name except their legal name, were told to change their profiles or face having their pages deactivated. Now Facebook has changed its mind. Users can now use what the site calls their "authentic identity," which does not necessarily have to be their legal name.

Supporting groups engaged in 'violent, criminal or hateful behavior'

Extremist groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State, as well as groups involved in organized crime have always been banned from the site. But Facebook's new community guidelines say that anyone supporting groups who undertake "violent, criminal or hateful behavior," will also be banned from the site. Supporters, people praising leaders of those organizations, or users who condone their violent activities will also be removed, Facebook said.


Facebook has always taken a tough stance on nudity. Images of people's genitals, or fully exposed buttocks will continue to be removed, according to the guidelines. But photographs of breasts, which do not include the nipple, or women actively engaging in breastfeeding or showing breasts "with post mastectomy scarring" will be allowed. So will photographs of paintings, sculptures and other artworks depicting nude figures. But, now Facebook says sexual content can cross the line even if there are no images involved. The new rule book explicitly bans verbal descriptions of "sexual acts that go into vivid detail."

Threatening physical, financial or harm to ones character

Bullying and harassment of any sort toward private persons are now officially not allowed on Facebook. This includes creating pages that identify or shame individuals, altering images that degrade people or posting content which shames an individual. Sharing personal information in order to blackmail people will also not be tolerated, the guidelines read.

Promoting or encouraging suicide or any other type of self-harm, including self-mutilation and eating disorders, are also not allowed. Content identifying survivors or victims of self-harm or suicide which in turn targets them for attack, either seriously or humorously will be removed. Facebook said on its site that it works with dozens of organizations around the world to "provide assistance for people in distress" if users require help.

Sexual violence and exploitation

Any content promoting sexual violence or exploitation, including revenge porn, will be deleted. So too will any sexual content involving minors, threats to share intimate images and offers of sexual services.

Facebook says it still does not automatically scan content for rule violations and it will still be up to Facebook users to police the site and report inappropriate content. Which means you may want to take a look at the new guidelines for yourself.