Facebook will add ‘satire exception’ to its community standards

The change is in response to a recommendation from the Oversight Board.

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Karissa Bell
June 17th, 2021
INDIA - 2021/01/15: In this photo illustration a Facebook logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Avishek Das/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images via Getty Images

Facebook says it will update its community standards to clarify how it treats satirical content as a result of recommendations from the Oversight Board. The change stems from a case involving a user who posted a meme satirizing “the Turkish government’s efforts to deny the Armenian genocide.”

Facebook had originally taken down the post, citing its rules against hate speech, but reinstated it after the Oversight Board said the company was wrong to pull the post. In its decision, the Oversight Board noted that Facebook has previously indicated it makes exceptions to its rules for some satirical content, but that policy isn’t outlined in its official guidelines. Now, Facebook says it will do more to clarify how it handles satire.

“We’ll add information to the Community Standards that makes it clear where we consider satire as part of our assessment of context-specific decisions,” Facebook writes in an update. “This change will allow teams to consider satire when assessing potential Hate Speech violations.”

The promise to update the language of its community standards is the only firm commitment Facebook made as a result of this case. The board made several other recommendations, including that users should be able to cite exceptions to Facebook’s hate speech rules when appealing a moderation decision. Facebook said it’s “assessing feasibility” for this and other recommendations. The company said it's "developing a framework for assessing humor and satire," but that such a process may be difficult to scale to all its content moderators.

It’s not the first time Facebook has modified its rules in response to the Oversight Board. The company previously clarified its hate speech rules on the advice of the board. And the company agreed to walk back some aspects of its “newsworthiness” policy that allowed politicians to break its rules.

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