Facebook announced on Wednesday that it would increase protections against harassment and bullying against public figures. In a blog post, the company said the updates to its bullying and harassment policies will now include even “involuntary” public figures like activists and journalists, who have been the subject of recent coordinated harassment attacks on the platform.
“Public figures — whether they’re politicians, journalists, celebrities or creators — use Facebook and Instagram to engage directly with their followers,” explained Antigone Davis, global head of safety at Facebook. “We made these changes because attacks like these can weaponize a public figure’s appearance, which is unnecessary and often not related to the work these public figures represent.”
As part of its policy update, Facebook said that it would remove profiles, pages, groups or events dedicated to sexualizing public figures. This includes degrading content “in the process of bodily functions,” as well as sexualized photoshops and drawings.
In addition, Facebook said that it would remove “unwanted sexual commentary” and coordinated harassment attacks that target public figures sexually.
The embattled tech giant has been under scrutiny in recent weeks after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal research documents, which were used in a Wall Street Journal report and a Senate hearing on Instagram’s harm to teenage girls. (Read: Instagram’s new safety measures include “nudging” teens away from harmful content, telling them to “take a break”)
In response, Facebook’s oversight board said that it will meet with Haugen in the coming weeks. The former data scientist at the tech firms will also speak to Parliament this month on the draft Online Safety Bill.
The update also includes banning coordinated attacks on users that are at a “heightened risk” of offline harm—whether or not the posts or messages violate Facebook’s content policies.
Just last month, Twitch rolled out new tools to protect content creators against harassment, including phone number verification options for chat. In addition, the platform announced updates to its email verification system to give content creators more control over viewers using chat. The update allows users to link up to five accounts to a single phone number, effectively restricting the amount of accounts that can be used to harass a creator. (Read: Riot will disable League of Legends /all chat due to reduce verbal abuse)
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