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New Facebook Policy Sparks Fears of Sex Talk Crackdown | News & Opinion

The updated content policy specifically bans 'sexual slang,' hints of 'sexual roles, positions or fetish scenarios,' and erotic art when mentioned with a sex act. Facebook added the policy to stop sexual solicitation, but critics fear it'll censor legitimate content.

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New Facebook Policy Sparks Fears of Sex Talk Crackdown | News & Opinion

Looking for a good time? Well, don't post about it on Facebook.

The company has quietly updated its content-moderation policies to crack down on implicit requests for sex.

The expanded policy specifically bans "sexual slang," hints of "sexual roles, positions or fetish scenarios," and erotic art when mentioned with a sex act. Vague, but suggestive statements such as "looking for a good time tonight" when soliciting sex are also no longer allowed.

Facebook added the new "sexual solicitation" policy on Oct. 15. But it was only on Wednesday when internet users began to take notice. And many are not happy, fearing that the mere mention of sex will get their content taken down.

Facebook's new "sexual solicitation" policy is horrifying. It bans, among other things, erotic art (even non-explicit), talking about kink, talking about your boobs or butt, mentioning your preferences in sexual partners, "sexualized slang," and "vague suggestive statements."

— Uncanny Valley Girl (@alextemplemusic) December 5, 2018

Not cool. Now you can get kicked off of facebook for four simple characters. DTF? "Sexual Solicitation" is now against terms of service on facebook- even between enthusiastically consenting adults.

— Gillis Jones (@Gillis57) December 5, 2018

The news comes after Tumblr's recent decision to start banning pornography later this month. Many erotic artists and sex workers must now find a new platform to advertise their works at a time when some mainstream websites have been moving away from hosting adult content.

"First Tumblr bans NSFW imagery, now Facebook bans NSFW *words*!!" tweeted one user on Wednesday.

To be clear, Facebook already had a ban on porn and sexual solicitation on the platform; it was previously stated under the "Sexual Exploitation of Adults" and "Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity" section of Facebook's content rules. However, the social network decided to flesh out the anti-sexual solicitation policy to help Facebook better address the content on the platform, a company spokesperson told PCMag.

"This change was prompted, in large part, by conversations with our content reviewers, who told us that the sexual exploitation policy did not adequately distinguish between exploitation (e.g. 'My ex was a slut. Look at the photos she sent me.') and solicitation (e.g. 'Looking for swingers. Friday at 8 PM, [name of bar]. Wear pink.')," the spokesperson said in an email.

The company didn't directly comment on concerns the new policy was too broad and might prohibit people from engaging in dirty talk on the site. But Facebook said it crafted the new rules with input from third-party organizations that specialize in women's and children's safety issues.

Facebook's content moderation has a spotty track record; it's come under fire for failing to pull bad content, such as terrorist videos, propaganda, and fake news. Meanwhile, other critics have accused the social network of accidentially taking down legitimate posts from real users.

In response, the company is hiring more content reviewers and using computer algorithms to help it take down problematic content. It's also forming an independent body to help it judge what posts should be allowed. In addition, the company told PCMag it plans to open up the process of how it amends Facebook's rules on content moderation.

"We'll be putting out the minutes from our policy development meeting at which these changes are discussed and adopted, and we'll also publish updates to our Community Standards so that people can track changes over time," Facebook's spokesperson said.

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About the Author

New Facebook Policy Sparks Fears of Sex Talk Crackdown | News & Opinion

Michael has been a PCMag reporter since October 2017. He previously covered tech news in China from 2010 to 2015, before moving to San Francisco to write about cybersecurity. His Twitter is @Michael_Kan. Signal number: 415 696 5528

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