Meta's Oversight Board recommends stricter anti-doxxing policies

The company had previously asked for the feedback.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Meta and its Oversight Board are frequently at odds, but this time they're working in concert. The Oversight Board has recommended Meta implement stricter anti-doxxing policies on Facebook and Instagram after the social media giant requested the Board's advice on sharing private addresses and images. Most notably, the Board asked Meta to remove an exception letting people share private residence info when it's considered "publicly available." That data usually requires effort to obtain from public records, according to the Board, but its tendency to spread rapidly on social networks significantly increases the potential for real-world harm.

The Board also called for more consistent use of exceptions for newsworthiness, a "quick and effective" means to request removal of private info and clearer explanations of when sharing partial info (such as a city or name) is enough to warrant removal. The overseer also wanted a special communications channel for doxxing victims, more opportunities to provide context for privacy violation reports and opportunities for offenders to delete residential info to have a post restored. Privacy violations should be considered "severe," the Board added.

Some of the recommendations were for looser policies. External photos of private residences should be allowed when the location is the focus of a news story, and people should be allowed to hold protests at publicly owned official residences (such as the homes of some national leaders). Meta should allow people to share their own residences, or for others to publish those locations with consent. At the same time, though, the Board wanted Meta to share privacy violation enforcement data, be more specific when notifying offenders and provide more detail on government-related requests.

Provided Meta accepts the choices, the moves could do more to discourage doxxing campaigns on Facebook and Instagram. In some cases, harassers share technically public (if realistically unknown) and partial info knowing it will be enough to do serious damage. While the recommendations might not prevent the most determined doxxers (those willing to risk their accounts) from sharing addresses, they should close loopholes that suggest Meta tolerates this behavior.