I’ve heard many friends uprise to give Facebook encouragement to keep their advertising clean and family-friendly. This is good. When people speak, the organization hears, and changes are made, and good policies will stay intact. So-called adult content on the web is rampant from all sorts of web surfers, and it’s not difficult to stumble upon stuff you don’t want to see or think about. Well, Facebook is one online community that strives to honor your request to keep the web clean. Here’s the lowdown.
Out of a staff of 850, Facebook has a department of 150 people “policing” the contents for inappropriate advertising content. They click through flagged images on the site, judge them for cleanliness, remove them if need be, or let them pass if Facebook’s policies deem the content safe. An article on Newsweek puts it like this:
Facebook describes these staffers as an internal police force, charged with regulating users’ decorum, hunting spammers and working with actual law-enforcement agencies to help solve crimes. Part hall monitors, part vice cops, these employees are key weapons in Facebook’s efforts to maintain its image as a place that’s safe for corporate advertisers—more so than predecessor social networks like Friendster and MySpace.
Sample of Facebook advertising
In spite of what some conservatives fear, Facebook’s objective is to remain friendly and available to 100% of the public. This means they are interested in highschool dropouts and homeschool moms having accounts on Facebook and participating in the web community. To make this possible, they know that censoring R-rated content is necessary, but therein lies a balancing act.
Facebook wants 100% of the web community. They want the homeschool mom, and the highschool dropout. So, in defense of the content the average Joe wants in his account—pictures from his pool party, videos of hanging out with friends from a pajama party—Facebook evaluates the content users flag to decide whether it’s really “heathen” or just close to it. “Close to it” means it stays available on the site, because they can’t say a guy in swim trunks at the beach with his wife in a bikini and kids building a sand castle is “adult” content. Or could they? Would you classify the scene I just described as inappropriate?
Facebook seems to think it’s safe, but other social faux pas are not; like alcohol abuse, drug use, violence, forms of physical abuse…. Still, “soft porn” passes scrutiny. So if it’s “rated R” it isn’t accepted, but if it’s rated PG-13 it all okay. What about personal users’ questionable content—profile pics, videos, photo albums, etc.? Does this content that have to pass a filtration like the advertising?
This is not just a concern for Facebook. The issue lies before us on all fronts of social networking on the world-wide web. Twitter, Flickr, Digg, StumbleUpon, Picassa, MySpace, Google…. On and on the list goes of sites that are promoted for general public use with inappropriate content, and website managers have been taking
Just a few social networks
actions to govern the content more and more. In some respects, MySpace’s policies are more effective/conservative than Facebook’s, but on the flip side, MySpace is known in general as the watch-your-back-when-you’re-in-the-dark-alley version of social networks. Still, there are other sites that are much worse than MySpace and Facebook, and if the content is deemed inappropriate by anyones standards it brings up an important issue.
Who decides whether the content on a popular publicly used website is appropriate? Who sets the standards that “our site is safe” the rest of the web will emulate? Facebook is powerful, and has a growing number of admirers that would say “if it’s good enough for Facebook, then it’s good enough for me.” This is also true of Twitter and Google. Respectable networking sites are entering in critically important ethical issues and they are using what set of standards to approve their content?
The answer is they make the policies up as they go along. You didn’t figure a site like Facebook would use the Bible to define morality, would you? But since it is up to the site’s users to give feedback (and it’s usually very easy to do so), the community of Christians on the web have an opportunity for much needed influence. It’s high-time—conservatives and Christians alike—take their potential seriously and encourage online communities to keep the Internet a family-friendly environment. As much as possible, anyway.
What I want to suggest is that if you want to tell Facebook, or your other social networks, what you think about the content and the general understanding of a “PG-13 rating” of content, then you should politely and professionally make contact with the organizations that run these websites. A lot of conservative activism is viewed as irrational, impulsive, judgmental, and angry when we try to make a statement with a Facebook group named something like “HATE the Smut on Facebook—Stop the END of Civilization!” Impulsive statements of worldview like this make Christians look like whack-jobs. To make a positive influence, give specific feedback to the social networks via an email to their staff. Keeping the direct forms of communication is paramount to positive pressure.
On a light note, and for your enjoyment, here’s a bit of video advertising that had to say a lot with very little. Kudos to miquito (alias) the gifted creator of this light entertaining bit of advertising. I liked it.