It looks like social media giant Facebook is getting serious at fighting off misinformation, especially the kind which would lead to violence. According to a statement issued by the company, Facebook is making changes in its policy to take down posts that would include “certain forms of misinformation” which may contribute “to physical harm.” The company went on to add that it will start implementing the policy in practice “in the coming months.” According to a report by The New York Times, it is likely that this change in policy is the result of violent incidents in India, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar.
To recap, a number of violent incidents have been reported in recent months where the rumors aiming ethnic minorities spread through Facebook. Tessa Lyons, a product manager for Facebook added in a statement, “We have identified that there is a type of misinformation that is shared in certain countries that can incite underlying tensions and lead to physical harm offline.” She went on to state, “We have a broader responsibility to not just reduce that type of content but remove it.” The report pointed out that these policy changes will apply to Instagram but they won’t result in any changes for WhatsApp.
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This decision comes hours after Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg stated that the company is trying to differentiate between offensive speech that is present on the platform while taking to Recode. He tried to point out that misinformation and offensive speech are not mutually exclusive and how Facebook is trying its best to ensure that it does not curb free speech and the rights of its users making things more complicated.
The report went on to point that the company will “create partnerships with local civil society groups” that will help the platform in identifying misinformation for the company to remove. Facebook has already applied the rules in Sri Lanka and it is hoping to introduce them soon to Myanmar before expanding into other countries. These rules will also apply to manipulated images in addition to text posts.