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‘Facebook Jail’ is getting reformed, Meta announces

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers his speech during the VivaTech trade fair on May 24, 2018 in Paris, France. (Eliot Blondet/Abaca Press/TNS)
February 24, 2023

Meta has announced reforms for so-called “Facebook Jail” that places more focus on improved policy and less on “timeouts” after independent Oversight Board recommendations.

“Facebook Jail” is the name that social media users call Facebook’s penalty violation system. The system determines whether posts and users violate guidelines and which penalties are to be incurred from such violations.

According to Tech Crunch, the Oversight Board had long raised its concerns about Facebook’s penalty system, describing it as “disproportionate and opaque.” The board also called for Facebook to be more transparent in its handling of violations with users and for users to be given a chance to give context about their posts in their appeals.

In most cases, the new system will now issue lighter sentences and only harsh ones – like a 30-day timeout from posting – with the seventh violation.

Monika Bickert, Meta vice president of Content Policy, stated, “We’re making this change in part because we know we don’t always get it right. So rather than potentially over-penalizing people with a lower number of strikes from low-severity violations and limiting their ability to express themselves, this new approach will lead to faster and more impactful actions for those that continuously violate our policies.”

The company noted that nothing is changing regarding its policy on content removal but that it was changing its policy on explanations and better transparency within its penalty system.

Meta acknowledged that Facebook’s prior responses to minor and ill-intended violations were harmful and unnecessary, such as getting banned for jokingly telling a friend, “I’m on my way to kidnap you,” when sharing plans about going out for dinner.

The company also talked about how the system wasn’t addressing bad actors and how it will continue to penalize repeat offenders while offering increased transparency. Meta also conducted an analysis of their penalty system and found that 80 percent of users with a low number of strikes did not commit another strike within 60 days, showing the effectiveness of context and transparency.

Serous violations such as posts containing “terrorism, child exploitation, human trafficking, suicide promotion, sexual exploitation, the sale of non-medical drugs or the promotion of dangerous individuals and organizations” will still be hit with the hardest of consequences, including immediate account removal.

According to Oversight Board, The Board praised Meta’s decision while noting the room for improvements, writing, “This is a welcome step in the right direction for Meta, and the Board will continue to push for further improvements to Meta’s content moderation policies and practices.”