Alex Jones does it. So do Holocaust deniers. Yes, they all have committed the cardinal sin of what Mark Zuckerberg so generously calls "getting things wrong." And, yet, they still haven't gotten kicked off Facebook.
Recently, some people, including reporters invited to attend a Facebook event and Kara Swisher of Recode, have wondered why you're allowed to keep your page even if you're rampantly spewing misinformation (my words, not theirs).
Now we know why — internal Facebook guidelines recently acquired by Motherboard describe exactly what it would take to get kicked off Facebook.
The key takeaway: It takes a lot to get your account or page deleted by the admins.
Indeed, Zuckerberg seems committed to making Facebook a place to share your views, no matter how unsavory! In the Recode interview published on Wednesday, Zuck said that, instead of removing accounts or pages for the likes of InfoWars and Holocaust deniers, he would rather limit those pages’ reach and move them down on people’s news feeds.
So if you can get away with peddling dangerous and offensive misinformation on Facebook, what would it take to get your account shut down? To make it easy for you to go down in a blaze of glory, we've made you a checklist.
- Post some real hateful stuff, and lots of it. According to those internal documents that Motherboard uncovered, Facebook has a strangely-lenient “five strikes in a rapid succession and you’re out, buster!” rule for pages.
- Be an admin, or not. If you admin a page on Facebook, you won’t be deleted unless you get flagged for five separate instances of hate speech within 90 days. If you're not, that's cool too: as long as at least 30 percent of the posts to a group or page within 90 days are found to violate Facebook user guidelines, it can be taken down just the same.
- Spruce up your profile with photos and propaganda. If you’re trying to get Zuck’s attention, it might be time to change your profile pic with an identified leader of a hate group. Alternatively, you can also get your five strikes in by posting hateful misinformation or propaganda to your wall.
- Not a hateful person? Try soliciting sex. What’s a non-bigot to do? Pages and groups that do so are subject to the same five-strike policy for admin posts or 30 percent cap for user posts. Also, a page that provides two separate sources of information on meeting up for sex or submitting pornography (such as the page title and description but not just one of the two) can be removed by Facebook.
It goes without saying that we don’t recommend doing, you know, any of this. If you want to get off Facebook, we recommend simply logging off.
But these internal guidelines for page removal raise the question of what Facebook’s team considers hate speech or propaganda. If Facebook truly has teams dedicated to removing vile content from the web, how can your racist aunt possibly share so many thinly-veiled white supremacist memes every single day?
In a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Monika Bickert, Facebook's President for Global Policy Management, told the House Judiciary Committee that InfoWars' page would be taken down "if they posted sufficient content that violated [Facebook's] threshold," according to Engadget. But she added that "sufficient" is defined pretty loosely, and that some of these violations are more or less severe than others.
What remains puzzling, then, is exactly how Facebook defines propaganda and hate speech, versus what it thinks is just opinionated people getting it wrong. And while any platform would be understandably reluctant to draw a line that limits people's speech, no matter how loathsome, drawing a clear line in the sand right through all of these gray areas could keep a lot of people from getting hurt.
Update July 18, 2018 at 5:10 PM: In a follow up email to Swisher, Mark Zuckerberg clarified: "I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny that." Read the rest of Zuckerberg's statement here.
More about Facebook’s attempts to fight misinformation: Facebook Wants To Make Its News More Credible With New Hires And Partnerships