Facebook asks the Oversight Board to help shape its doxing policy

Facebook said it considers the policy 'significant and difficult.'

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A giant "like" icon made popular by Facebook is seen at the company's new headquarters in Menlo Park, California January 11, 2012. The 57-acre campus, which formerly housed Sun Microsystems, features open work spaces for nearly 2,000 employees on the one million square foot campus, with room for expansion. Picture taken January 11, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY MEDIA TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
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Facebook has asked the Oversight Board for help shaping its policy on doxing. The board has agreed to weigh in on the social networks rules around the “sharing of private residential information.” The case marks the first time Facebook has asked for the board’s help in defining a policy without a specific post attached.

In a statement, Facebook said it asked for help because it considers the policy “significant and difficult.”

Right now, Facebook’s rules prohibit users from sharing “personally identifiable information about yourself or others,” including photos of people’s houses. That may sound straightforward enough — Facebook, like other platforms, wants to prevent users from being doxed or otherwise targeted for harassment — but the company says it needs help defining what information is considered “publicly available.”

“Facebook asks for guidance on what should render private information ‘publicly available’, which means it could be posted on Facebook,” the Oversight Board explained. “The company requested the Board’s opinion on sources that are ‘not easily accessible or trustworthy,’ and if and why it should exclude any sources to determine if information has become public.”

In other words: Facebook wants clever guidance on how and why it should make exceptions to the rules. A policy that bars all personal information of any kind could potentially hinder activists or journalists, for example. While rules that are too broad could make some people more susceptible to harassment.

The Oversight Board is currently asking for public feedback on these questions, and will make a decision after it’s heard from the public. Public comment on the case is open until July 9. As with other cases the board takes on, Facebook isn’t required to implement its recommendations, though it must provide a detailed response.

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