Facebook says it will expand take downs of networks of pages that break its rules

Facebook has
announced changes
to how it handles and communicates
violations of its policies around the publishing of fake news
and misinformation, with the goal of preventing publishers that
operate large networks of pages and groups from skirting bans.
Starting today, Facebook says it will reserve the right to take
down existing pages and groups that are simply affiliated with
those that have violated the company’s community standards,
even if those pages or groups haven’t technically broken any
rules.

Facebook says this is specifically to prevent users from using
an adjacent or other existing page or group as a replacement
once another has been flagged and taken down. Prior to this
change, the page or group must have been made after
the initial removal to be potentially affected simply for
affiliation reasons. Now, Facebook says it can use this policy
to pull down an affiliated page or group even if it was made
before the takedown.

While it appears the change is focused on preventing people
from continuing to peddle fake or purposefully inflammatory
content, it also applies to violations of Facebook’s rules on
spam and clickbait, copyright-infringing material, hate speech,
graphic violence, harassment and bullying, and nudity. Not all
inaccurate or inflammatory content counts as a violation, but
the company now points to its extensive
community standards page
to help clarify how it makes these
distinctions.

Here’s the policy change in full:

We’ve long prohibited people from creating new
Pages, groups, events, or accounts that look similar to those
we’ve previously removed for violating our Community
Standards. However, we’ve seen people working to get around
our enforcement by using existing Pages that they
already manage for the same purpose as the Page we removed
for violating our standards.

To address this gap, when we remove a Page or group for
violating our policies, we may now also remove other Pages
and Groups even if that specific Page or Group has not met
the threshold to be unpublished on its own. To enforce this
updated policy, we’ll look at a broad set of information,
including whether the Page has the same people administering
it, or has a similar name, to one we’re removing.

In a seemingly good-faith effort to keep page owners better
informed about whether they’re continuously posting content
that violates its rules, Facebook says it’s updated the
administrative portal of its site to include a new “Page
Quality” tab.

There, page owners can get a breakdown of posts and other
shared material that has violated the community standards, as
well as posts judged to be false or misleading by the company’s
network of third-party fact-checkers. Facebook says it won’t be
including breakdowns of content that is taken down for reasons
related to “spam, clickbait, or IP violations,” although it’s a
bit unclear why those categories would be exempt from the new,
more transparent enforcement communication.

The move is yet another attempt from Facebook to proactively
police its users and take a more direct role in ensuring its
platform isn’t overrun with fake news and propaganda, as well
as content designed to stir tensions and direct hate at
specific groups. Over the last few years, the social media
company has become a central player in information warfare,
election interference, and even genocide, as foreign
governments and other malicious third parties have
found the website to be a par
ticularly
effective and lucrative tool in these efforts
.

While this change to page enforcement is just one small step,
it’s a recognition from the company that one of its few options
for recourse is to become more stringent and keep a closer eye
on the behavior of its users.

Update 1/23, 5:33PM ET: Clarified
that Facebook’s prior policy required a page or group be
created after a prior one was taken down to be potentially
affected purely for its affiliation to a previous page or
group.

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